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Tutor Training

Welcome to Thank you for volunteering to help others learn.

What You Need to Do

As a teacher, I have seen students with strong academics allow their friends who are weak in the subject to copy their answers. That does not help their friends learn the content. A better way to help is to guide their friends through how to approach the problem and solve the problem by themselves.

Don’t just offer the answer to your student. Break down the problem into multiple steps and guide the student through your thinking process.

Example: Zoe asks you how to solve 3x + 2 = 14.

Instead of telling her to subtract 2 on both sides of the equation, ask her: “What is the number, if you add 2 to it, you get 14?” If she can’t answer the question, then ask her: “Is that number 10, when you add 2 to 10, what do you get?”

Guide her to see that the number is 12, and 12 = 14-2. Then explain that the equation means 3x is a number that when you add 2 to it, you get 14. So how much is 3x? What is the number that when you multiply it by 3, you get 12? 

After you guide the student through the problem, enforce the lesson by discussing the general process.

Back to our example: 3x + 2 = 14

When you see an equation in this form, simplify it by moving the number term on the left to the right: -2 on both sides. The equation is now 3x = 12.

Get rid of the coefficient by dividing both sides by the coefficient: x = 12/3 = 4

You might need to explain that an equation is just an equal relationship. A coefficient is the number in front of the unknown number x.

To make sure she learns the lesson, follow up with a couple of questions of the same type. Ask Zoe to find the unknown number x that satisfy the equal relationship 4x + 3 = 11

If she is willing to try another one that is slightly different: 4x – 2 = 9

How about 5 – 2x = 1?

If Zoe is able to do all 3, she has learned how to solve equations in the form of ax + b = c. Encourage Zoe to find practice questions online:,,

Now, to practice, please write down a list of questions to guide Dan through the following problem: At Eastern Middle School, one half of the students go home on the school bus. One fourth go home by car. One tenth go home on their bikes. The rest walk home. What fraction of the students walk home?


Think of multiple ways to explain the same thing.

Some people learn best when they can envision a concept. Use pictures, diagrams, and graphs whenever it is possible.

Example: use a number line or a pizza to explain the EMS problem above.

Some people learn best through listening. Make sure you think aloud, so that your student can follow how you approach the problem.

Some people learn best through a story. You can make up a more concrete example to help students learn an abstract concept. Many people relate to food and money. 😊 For example, when you explain the relationship between fraction and decimal numbers, use money: a quarter is $0.25, a dime is $0.1 or 1/10 of a dollar, a nickel is $0.05 or 1/20 of a dollar, a penny is $0.01 or 1/100 of a dollar.

Make sure your student knows the terminology you use. For example, when you teach a student to compare two fractions 1/3 and 1/5. Do not assume that they know what denominator and numerator mean. Explain what they are. Use both numerator and “the top number” to reinforce the concept.


What You Should Not Do

Don’t say “This is easy.”

Sometimes we say it trying to make the student feel more comfortable, but it might do the opposite. It might make the student feel stupid if it is not easy for him.

Emphasize that math will become easier with more practice, just like sports or playing a music instrument.

You don’t have to know everything, and it is Okay to acknowledge that. No one knows everything. We are not here to tell students answers. We are here to help them find the answers. If a student asks you a question that you don’t know the answer immediately. Tell him/her that, then try to find the answer together. For example, if you know the problem needs to use the cosine law but do not remember the formula, you can say so and search for it on the internet. If the two of you cannot figure out how to approach it after working on it for a while, call a friend or an adult who is an expert in that area. If help is not immediately available, post the problem on the Forum and make an appointment with the kid to discuss it in another session.

Don’t exchange personal information with your students.

Do not ask for or tell your students your telephone number, email address, home address. Limit your exchange to answer their academic questions. You can tell them personal stories to help them feel comfortable, but don’t share personal information that someone can use to track you down.


Do not use inappropriate language or images. If you are not sure whether something is inappropriate or not, then it is inappropriate. Yes, you can tell jokes, just make sure they are something you can tell in a classroom to a young student.

Avoid talking about politics and religion, or any topics that are controversial. We are here to help people improve their academic skills, not to influence their thinking in other aspects. We would like all people to feel welcome, so please avoid controversial topics.


Presentation Skills

 Speak slowly and clearly.

Not only your students need to hear you clearly. They also need time to process the information you give them. Do not rush. Make sure at each step, your students are with you, and not lost.

Ask questions constantly.

Ask simple questions to make sure your students are paying attention and that they understand what you are saying.

Encourage your students to ask questions.

Many kids are afraid of asking questions because they don’t want to look stupid. Remind them that no one knows everything. We all learn by asking questions. Make sure you ask your students regularly if they understand what you are trying to teach them.

Encourage your students to challenge themselves

Encourage your students to challenge themselves, and not afraid of making mistakes. Tell them that we all make mistakes every day. It is okay to make mistakes as long as we learn from them.


Class Management Issues


 If the student keeps asking questions, and you know the main room has people waiting, you can limit each student’s time to 15 minutes or 3 questions. Say: “We have done 3 questions, and there are other people waiting, could you wait in the main room? I need to help the next person in line.”

If a student loses his or her focus and starts to chat about irrelevant topics, please bring him/her back on track by asking a question about the problem or his/her thoughts on the problem. 

During a session with multiple students, if someone starts to chat about irrelevant things, please remind them to focus. If they do not listen to you, you may consider mute their audio.

If a student acts out and makes inappropriate comments, please remind them that it is unacceptable. If they continue with the same behavior, you have to ask them to leave the Zoom session. After the class, email me what has happened and I will contact their parents if necessary.

Be kind and patient with your students, but also be firm. Some children may push for the boundary, so you need to be clear where the boundary is. We are here to answer their academic questions, and we don’t tolerate any disrespectful behaviors.

If an adult talks or behaves inappropriately in a live session, immediately end his connection and report the incident to an administrator. We will terminate the user account.

MSH Policies

Please read carefully the Tutor Agreement, Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy of MSH (the “MSH Policies”) on this website. If you have any questions, talk to our Director for tutor training. Please do not start tutoring on help sessions unless you have read and agreed to all the MSH Policies.

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