A Guide To Implementing Math Tutoring In Your School As Part Of Your Math Intervention Strategy

Math tutoring is one of the most effective and most evidenced ways to improve academic achievement. In the past, the only children who benefited were those from affluent families who opted for private tutoring. Now, math tutoring is increasingly recognized by schools as an effective approach to tackling the achievement gap.

Looking to incorporate math tutoring into your math intervention strategy in your school? In this article, we guide you through the essential decisions you’ll need to make before the students’ first session and how to make math tutoring a success once it begins. We include insights from our own experience as a trusted provider of online one-on-one math tutoring for schools alongside evidence and research to help you make an informed decision about your school’s tutoring approach.

Why is math tutoring an effective intervention strategy for schools?

Math is one of the most popular subjects to be tutored in schools. Why is this?

It’s not because math is inherently ‘difficult’. It’s because, in math, unaddressed gaps are especially problematic. 

The nature of the subject is cumulative, meaning that concepts build on one another. If a child does not have a solid understanding of essential foundational concepts, they will struggle to keep up and fall further behind.

It’s for this reason that the link between earlier grades performance and later educational performance, such as at high school level, is stronger in math than in any other subject.

The perfect math tutors and math tutoring programs will identify, target and close gaps in students’ learning to allow them to progress. 

It has never been so important to address these gaps and address them early, than in the aftermath of the pandemic. Math has been one of the most affected subjects in terms of learning loss caused by school closures and students from disadvantaged backgrounds have been disproportionately affected. It is these students who are unable to access private math tutors and risk falling further behind without extra support.

Math skills have a profound long-term impact on both individuals and society, and early difficulties in math tend to be compounded as students move through their education. There is therefore an urgent need to tackle learning loss in math.

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How can I fund math tutoring in my school?

There are different funding options available that schools can use to implement math tutoring. 

While the main intent of these funding sources is to support students from disadvantaged backgrounds, they also have broader implications for enhancing overall educational quality, addressing equity in education concerns, and improving the educational experience for all students. Schools and districts are given some flexibility in how they allocate and utilize these funds to meet the specific needs of their students.

Title 1 Funding

 Title 1 is specifically designed for schools that have a high percentage of students from low-income families.

It aims to improve the academic achievement of students from disadvantaged backgrounds. 

These funds can be used for interventions like tutoring.

ESSA Funding

ESSA encourages the use of federal funding on programs with evidence of effectiveness. While ESSA prioritizes supporting students from disadvantaged backgrounds, the funds can be used to provide tutoring and other educational services to both disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged students. ESSA puts emphasis on the importance of providing high-quality education for all students and gives flexibility in how funds can be used to improve educational outcomes, giving district leaders and administrators the freedom to choose which programs fit their needs. 

Schools and districts can consult with their state education agency or relevant authorities to make sure that the tutoring program of their choice aligns with ESSA regulations and funding criteria.

ESSER Funding

Following lockdown and school closures during the coronavirus pandemic, the ESSER funding was created to provide emergency financial assistance to schools as they navigate the challenges the pandemic has brought and the learning disruption it has caused. ESSER funds focus on addressing the needs of all students, including disadvantaged students who may have been disproportionately affected by school closures and remote learning. 

The funds can also be used to provide additional support and interventions, including tutoring,  for students who have experienced learning loss or other challenges due to the pandemic.

Math tutoring: 7 essential decisions before the first session

Once you’ve decided that math tutoring is the right intervention for your school, there are several essential decisions you will need to make before the first session. 

1. Establish what you want to achieve

Start with the issue at hand. What is the problem you are trying to solve?

Establish the goals of your tutoring program using your knowledge of your school, students and context, whether it is to increase confidence in math, test-taking skills, academic achievement or something else. Ensure it is a measurable goal so you can reflect on its success. 

2. Choose who will receive math tutoring

When choosing which students will receive tutoring, reflect on the areas of need at every stage. 

Even if your aim is to improve test results, don’t focus only on your test grade levels. Due to the cumulative nature of math, it is crucial to address learning gaps at an early stage so that they don’t widen as students advance through school – and it risks becoming too late to make progress in time.

At Third Space Learning, we offer online math tutoring with tailored programs for grades 2-6 to support students at every stage.

Schools choose which students will receive tutoring. 

In our experience as a tutoring provider, most schools choose from the following students:

  • Disadvantaged students
  • At risk of not meeting expected standards
  • Most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Lacking confidence or motivation to learn in math lessons

3. Choose what will be taught in the math tutoring sessions

Math tutoring is effective but it can be costly, so it’s all the more important that it makes a real impact.

Here at Third Space Learning, all of our math intervention lessons are aligned to your state standards and designed by qualified US teachers and curriculum experts.

US lesson slide broken down into "follow me" and "your turn"
US lesson slide - "you do"
Third Space Learning online lessons are broken down into 4 stages, encouraging students to move from guided to independent practice

The most effective tutoring will be tailored to students’ specific needs and learning style, with lessons designed to close learning gaps and address misconceptions. This will ensure that either low or high-dosage tutoring is focused on the areas that will have the greatest impact on student outcomes from the first tutoring session.

If possible, conduct assessments throughout the math tutoring program to ensure that the content being delivered remains relevant to the student and their individual learning gaps.

Read more: Differentiated Instruction: 9 Strategies For Teachers

4. Choose how it will be taught

  • How will math be taught? 
  • How will tutors ensure students are engaging with and fully understanding the questions?
  • How will tutors help students understand the mathematical procedures but also the underlying concepts and relationships?

Math can be hard and it requires students to be reflective, to persevere and to draw on a range of other metacognitive strategies. The best math tutoring won’t ignore this – it will be embedded in their approach. 

Discussion and dialogue are very useful tools for developing metacognition. Math tutoring, especially one-on-one tutoring, should offer a unique opportunity for purposeful high-quality talk for math that is not always possible in whole-class settings.

Discuss with the tutoring provider their approach to learning and, if possible, request a trial session to see this approach in action.

During Third Space Learning’s one-on-one online tutoring sessions, students are encouraged to explain their problem-solving approach and how they arrived at their answers. They are also encouraged to ask questions throughout the session in a judgement-free environment. This develops their metacognitive skills alongside their understanding of math while also helping build their confidence.

6. Choose your approach (group or one-on-one)

Both one-on-one and group tutoring are effective interventions, however, one-on-one tutoring is the most impactful delivery method and low achievers are particularly likely to benefit. This is because lessons are tailored to meet the needs of the individual student and misconceptions can be addressed as they occur.

While group tutoring can also offer personalized learning, it requires complex student matching to ensure all students are working on things that they need extra support with. In addition to challenges in assessment and content planning, tutors of small groups typically require more training and tutoring experience to be effective as it is more challenging to deliver.

When it comes to choosing the best tutoring option for your school, you should consider the cost-effectiveness of a particular intervention. 

Looking for more guidance? Group Tutoring Vs One-on-one: How It Compares For Cost & Effectiveness

By recruiting and training high-quality STEM graduates and undergraduates in Sri Lanka, we’re helping solve three of the biggest barriers to traditional in-school tutoring: affordability, recruitment and scalability.
By taking tutoring online, schools choosing Third Space Learning benefit from personalized,  cost-effective one-on-one tutoring.

7. Choose your delivery method (online or in person)

Research has found that in-person tutoring offers no significant benefit over online teaching and the effects of both are similar. It, therefore, comes down to the needs and preferences of your school and students.

Here’s a summary of strengths and weaknesses for both to help you make a decision for your school’s needs.

In-person tutoring

Easier rapport building: face to face communication with a tutor can make it easier to build rapport.Cost: more expensive than online as it requires increased travel and time from the tutor.
No technology needed: not reliant on access to computers.Recruitment: it can be more challenging to recruit tutors as you are limited by availability in your local area.
Access to physical manipulatives: for students who need it, in-person tutoring allows for the use of manipulatives to help demonstrate concepts.Resources: each tutor and student will need a separate area to work as they will be communicating aloud – this limits the amount of sessions you can run at once.
Reporting: it can be more challenging as you have to keep records of who has had which sessions, whereas online providers often provide this data automatically.
Scheduling: restricted to the timeslot availability of local tutors so sessions may not fit the school schedule.

Online tutoring

Cost: more cost-effective as it saves on travel and time expenses for the tutor.Technology: reliant on access to internet and technology in the school.
Scale: easier integration with school schedule – you can run 20 tutoring sessions all at the same time and in the same room.Usability: make sure that the online classroom has been built with your subject in mind; for example, if teaching math, it should have adaptive tools for mathematical symbols.
Recruitment: much wider access to tutors as you are no longer limited to your local area.
Reported: automated capture of tutoring hours, impact and student experience for reporting purposes.
Scheduling: easier to schedule and reschedule sessions – typically online providers have more flexibility on timings.

7. Choose who will deliver 

There are benefits to both internal and external providers for in-school tutoring and, again, the decision will depend on the needs of your school context.

If you opt to use internal staff, consider which staff members will most effectively deliver math tutoring and what support they will need to do so. For example, when teacher assistants deliver math tutoring, it is most successful when it is structured and teacher assistants receive high-quality support and training from teachers with several years of experience. The level of oversight and guidance from classroom teachers or instructional leaders can influence the nature and effectiveness of the tutoring provided by teacher assistants.

Furthermore, consider the additional workload on existing staff and the implications of utilizing teachers’ planning periods for tutoring or the need to arrange substitutes for teachers’ regular lessons when they are utilized for tutoring sessions.

Advantages of using an external provider to deliver math tutoring include:

  • Less impact on staff workload: Using external providers frees up your teachers to do what they do best.
  • Easier to manage: A good external provider will take care of managing the intervention with minimal disruption to the school.
  • Better monitoring and reporting: It’s in an external provider’s interest to provide detailed progress reports to ensure you can see impact and continue to use them.

Our Third Space Learning online tutoring model is cost and time effective – multiple students can receive personalized, one-on-one online lessons at once and getting set up is quick and easy. We take care of the recruitment, training and ongoing development of our tutors.

Our Customer Support Team will guide schools through the set-up of the online math intervention and be on hand if any issues arise to guarantee its smooth running.

8. Choose when to schedule math tutoring sessions

You will need to decide how long you would like the tutoring program to run for and how long each session should be.

If the intervention is taking place during the school day, consider schedules that ensure students do not miss out on the core curriculum. Equally important is that students are not always being removed from lessons they usually enjoy as this will have a detrimental effect on motivation and engagement in lessons. 

Leaders will need to be flexible in their approach to avoid this, for example by rotating tutoring sessions times or holding sessions during a non academic time. If holding sessions before or after the school day, permission and buy in from parents is critical to ensure attendance!

As in-school tutoring specialists, we’ve designed our program with schools in mind. Time slots are available throughout the school day. When schools sign up, they can choose which slot works best for them and are able to change their regular slot at any time.

How to make your math tutoring budget go further

Tutoring is an effective use of your budget but it can be costly. You’ll want to make sure you’re getting maximum value for your money. Here are a few ideas to make your budget go further and to make the greatest impact on your students:

1. Go online
Online tutoring typically has lower costs so it is often cheaper than in-person tutoring. Research has found the effects are similar, so you can save on costs without affecting impact.

Traditionally, there have been concerns over the quality and engagement of online options but online tutoring is becoming the preferred approach by students and teachers, likely due to the considerable shift in the online learning landscape during the Covid-19 pandemic.

2. Provide support for multiple students at one time
The more students you can support at one time, the more cost-effective your intervention strategy will be.

Group tutoring will support this but once groups become larger than 3 students, impact reduces greatly. Although it can be more expensive, one-on-one tutoring allows for maximum impact on student progress. It enables multiple students to receive tailored support at the same time, in the same room.

3. Prioritize personalized learning
Tutoring is most effective when it is targeted on closing a student’s individual learning gaps. If tutoring is not doing this, you risk wasting budget and time on an intervention that will have little impact on student progress.

It is possible to provide personalized learning in group tutoring sessions but this will require careful grouping and planning to ensure students share the same learning gaps. One-on-one tutoring lends itself best to personalized learning.

4. Choose interventions that save time
Along with the actual delivery of sessions, tutoring requires time and resources spent on careful planning and organization, including:

  • Recruiting and training staff to deliver the intervention
  • Diagnostic assessment before students start
  • Designing and sourcing tutoring material tailored to the unique needs of the students being supported
  • Managing scheduling and attendance
  • Reviewing and assessing student progress
  • Communicating progress with class teachers
  • Reporting, for example on the impact on attainment

If these elements are taking up hours of your time, it is not a cost effective tutoring strategy

Online tutoring options can be time-effective as certain elements, including reporting, can be automated. 

Recruitment and training staff can be challenging. That’s why here at Third Space Learning, we combat difficulties in recruitment by tapping into the global talent market.
Our tutors are all STEM university level graduates and undergraduates based in Sri Lanka. We recruit and train subject experts who must successfully pass a rigorous training program designed by US curriculum specialists and former qualified teachers with experience working in US schools. Once tutors begin delivering sessions, they receive regular feedback, training and PD to continue developing as educators.

How to make tutoring a success in your school

Once you’ve decided on the essential elements of your tutoring strategy and decided how to best make it work in your context, you can move on to the next stage: ensuring its delivery is a success. 

Here are three key themes we’ve identified in schools with the most successful tutoring programs: 

  1. Focus on attendance
  2. Make math tutoring engaging
  3. Create a sustainable tutoring model

1. Focus on attendance
Student attendance is the most fundamental requirement for successful implementation of tutoring – there is no point spending time and budget on math tutoring that is poorly attended.
Here are some of the most successful measures implemented by us as providers and the schools we work with to promote good attendance to tutoring:

  • Prioritize relationships between tutors and their students: This is a low-cost approach that can have real impact on attendance. If a positive relationship and learning environment are established early, students are much more likely to attend.
  • Reminders to students: This is especially important for larger schools and higher grades. Reminders could be written in school agendas, sent as emails, delivered in-person – however it’s sent, make sure the message gets received!
  • Appoint a tutoring coordinator: This will raise the profile of tutoring in school and reduce stigma.

Learn more about how we improve attendance to our tutoring sessions: 7 Strategies To Drive Attendance And Engagement In Tutoring

2. Make math tutoring engaging

Even if students are attending sessions, if they are not engaging with the program, tutoring will have little impact on outcomes. 

Here are some ideas to drive engagement in your math tutoring sessions:

  • Select the right kind of tutoring for student needs: Many of the challenges with engagement can be addressed before the first lesson by identifying the needs of your students and selecting the best approach.
    For example, some students might need behavioral or socioemotional learning interventions before attempting academic interventions. Other students may be better suited to one-on-one over group tutoring, and vice versa.
  • Interaction and purposeful talk: All teachers wish they could give every student in their class individualized support and interaction, but in large classes this is often impossible.
    Math tutoring offers a unique opportunity to discuss mathematical concepts in a supported environment. Ensure tutors are trained in making the most of this and can draw out even the least engaged students’ ideas. 
  • Prioritize relationships between tutors and their students: As teachers, you will be well aware of the importance of positive relationships with learners. Each and every tutor will have their own strategies to establish this but ensure it is embedded and prioritized.

3. Create a sustainable tutoring model

For a tutoring program to be successful, it’s important for schools to consistently monitor and evaluate the impact of tutoring, and adapt as necessary in response to challenges that inevitably arise.
Monitoring can include:

  • Observations
  • Staff, student and parent feedback
  • Attendance data
  • Assessment data

Data gathered from this can then inform future planning and any changes that are needed to support the success and ongoing participation and engagement in tutoring.

Read more: 9 Math intervention strategies

Do you have students who need extra support in math?
Give your students more opportunities to consolidate learning and practice skills through personalized math tutoring with their own dedicated online math tutor.

Each student receives differentiated instruction designed to close their individual learning gaps, and scaffolded learning ensures every student learns at the right pace. Lessons are aligned with your state’s standards and assessments, plus you’ll receive regular reports every step of the way.

Personalized one-on-one math tutoring programs are available for:
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The content in this article was originally written by content writer and editor Meriel Willat and has since been revised and adapted for US schools by elementary and middle school teacher Kathleen Epperson.


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