Finding a Math Tutor for A Child with ADD
The tutor needs to have the academic background and experience to teach the subject at the level that the child needs to learn it. A person with some background in math, and especially experience in teaching math to the special needs populations, might be just the right person to tutor up to the early stages of algebra. A familiarity with the subject matter and a love of teaching is important. While finding and hiring a subject level expert might be necessary in some cases, it is just as important that the person be able to make the subject matter come alive the child.
How can a tutor make the math user-friendly for the ADD child? This means breaking math concepts down to their understandable parts. The tutor needs to be able to put the math into terms that the student understands, and then relate it back to the academic math concept. One such idea is that of positive and negative numbers. For positive numbers, I use the idea of money that the child has. Negative numbers are the money that the child owes. Most kids understand this concept, because it is a part of their daily lives. So, when I say, "What is -11 + (-9) or -11 + (-9) = what?" Often I will get the answer "-2!" However, when I ask, "You owe John $11. Owing money is like a negative number." (The kid will start nodding, since this is so intuitive.) "So, you owe $11. Then, you borrow $9 more. How much do you owe John?" The child immediately knows that the answer is $20. I ask them, "What kind of 20 is that, positive or negative?" It is a rare child that does not say, "NEGATIVE!" Then, I can explain rules for positive and negative integers. At that point, the rules start to make sense for the kid.
A person who has a lot of successful experience in tutoring kids with Attention Deficit Disorder knows that the atmosphere in the tutoring environment must suit the student. In general, it should be low-threat. Kids with ADD can be hyper-critical of themselves, by themselves. They don't need tutoring in that subject! The tutor needs to be matter of fact when telling the child that a mistake was made. It needs to be stressed that math can be a difficult subject, but knowing how to work math problems is good practice for solving problems throughout their lives. People make mistakes when they are learning a subject, and "a mistake is just a learning tool." Praise for the attempt. Let them continue working on a problem that they find difficult. A good tutor doesn't just give answers. That person gives hints, so that the child can get the answer. Lessons should be positive. Research showing how people with Attention Deficit Disorder learn best shows that rewards work better than punishment. Our kids have enough punishment and humiliation in their lives! They don't need you to pay a tutor to give them some extra!
Many kids who need math tutors are math phobic, because the lessons moved along at a pace that was faster than they could follow, when they were in the lower grades. They often have basic skill deficits that slow them down in higher level math classes. These basic skills need to be re-taught in a way that is age-appropriate. That means the tutor does not use workbooks from lower grades! Relate the problems to things that children find relevant. In younger kids, candy often works. I carry Jolly Ranchers for math manipulatives to teach basic math facts. I never use flash cards, unless the child requests them. I'll ask the child to make 3 groups with 6 Jolly Ranchers in each. Then, they can tell me what 3 X 6 =. If they have problems figuring it out, they can always count the candy. Older kids relate to using the idea of money. "You know three kids from school. Each of them has $6. How much money does the group have?" Playful practice is important.
Don't forget that kids with ADD often need a fidget to help them concentrate. This includes their time with a tutor. Some people don't understand this concept. If your prospective tutor balks about fidgets, hire them at your own risk. I once had a student in my Algebra 2 class who drew cartoon characters for a game that he was developing. He drew constantly. That was his fidget. He answered most of the questions that I asked correctly. He always made over 90% on tests. However, almost any adult who came into the room and saw him drawing tried to make him put his cartoon up, so that he could "concentrate." I had him trained to refer the adult to me.
Finally, ask the child what he or she needs in a tutor. Each child will use their own words, but their needs have many things in common. Most will tell you that they want somebody who will respect them. This includes the tutor being patient and being able to explain things several different ways. They don't want somebody who explains things one way, and that tutor gets louder and louder each time that they explain it. They don't want sarcastic remarks. Kids often like a tutor with a sense of humor and a love of fun. They want somebody who can be clear and remove distractions, without making the child feel badly about having distractions being removed. Most of all, they want a tutor who will really listen to their needs. When you find that person, you have a good math tutor for a child with Attention Deficit Disorder.
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