Improving Academic Performance

5 Keys to Effective Online Calculus Tutoring

Posted by Mark Skoskiewicz on Wed, Mar 27, 2013 @ 12:10 PM

online calculus tutoringSam Ribnick is an online MyGuru tutor for calculus and physics. He attended MIT where he received a Bachelor of Science in Physics, and is a high school physics teacher in Boston Public Schools. He has tutored students online and in person on subjects including AP calculus, AP and IB physics, multi-variable calculus and introductory college physics.

Last semester I worked with a student taking a college multi-variable calculus class, and it was one of the most successful and fulfilling tutoring relationships I have had. We “met” two times a week using MyGuru’s online meeting system, and I was able to help her understand the concepts behind double integrals, Green’s Theorem and partial derivatives.

Done right, online tutoring can be even more effective than face-to-face tutoring. The most important thing is finding an excellent tutor, but there is a lot you can do as the student to get the most out of your online tutoring.

Here are 5 keys for you to keep in mind:

  1. Send a link to the class website. First thing, send the tutor a link to any class websites or textbooks available online. You may need to send your login information. Remember to set the password to something different from your usual password (use something simple like “tutor123”). If the textbook is not available online, send the tutor the title, author and edition - sometimes the tutor will be able to find the book online or in a library nearby.
  2. Take notes! The tutor will be writing on the screen, but you will still need the old-fashioned pen, paper and calculator. Prepare for an online session the same way you would for face-to-face. Have your textbook, notebook and other materials handy. And when your tutor shows you how to calculate that tricky volume integral, make sure you write it down! 
  3. Try the problems and share your work. Just like with face-to-face tutoring, the amount you learn depends on how much effort you put in! If you struggled to understand partial derivatives in lecture, make sure that you attempt a few problems before you meet with the tutor. Then use your phone’s camera to snap a photo of the work and email it to the tutor before the session. The tutor will be able to give you more specific help after seeing what you’ve tried and where you got stuck.
  4. You talk, the tutor writes. The tutor can’t see what you write on your paper, so you will need to explain your steps out loud while she writes on the screen. It might sound complicated to explain how you did an integral, but it actually can be a huge boost to your learning. When you explain your steps out loud, you clarify your own understanding, and you give the tutor insight into your thinking so she can correct any misunderstandings.
  5. Stay focused! Are you easily distracted by facebook and online games? Keep them closed!! If you find you are getting lost or bored, tell your tutor or even request a different tutor. With a good tutor, calculus should be interesting and engaging, but it’s your job to stay focused!

Meeting online is not the same as meeting face-to-face, but I have found that online tutoring can have a lot of benefits over face-to-face. With online tutoring you can usually record the session, or have your tutor send you the notes after the session. This is a great way to get the most out of your tutoring time, giving you a chance to review that tricky triple integral one more time!

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