Unlocking the potential: The importance of high-impact summer math tutoring for students who need to improve their skills

Unlocking the Potential: The Importance of High-Impact Summer Math Tutoring for Students Who Need to Improve Their Skills

Posted by | May 17, 2023

In October 2022, Ontario released the provincial assessment results of the Education Quality and Accountability Office. Fewer than 50% of Grade 6 students met the provincial standard in math. It was the first time since the start of the pandemic that the tests were administered. The data also highlighted that the most recent provincial results are the same as student scores in 2018. In 2021, slightly more than half of Ontario students in Grade 9 math met the provincial testing standard. This decline is also reflected on international student assessments where Canadian high school student’s scores in mathematics have been falling over time. The agency that administers the tests attributes the lower scores to the impact of COVID-19.

The subject of math can pose difficulties for students of all ages. Whether it's struggling with basic arithmetic or grappling with advanced calculus, many students find themselves in need of additional support to strengthen their skills. One-to-one high-impact math tutoring has proven to be a valuable tool in helping students improve their math abilities, especially for those who need extra guidance.

The past few years of classroom disruptions, social isolation, and indirect teacher instruction have had a devastating effect on neurodiverse learners, many of whom have struggled continually to adapt to new formats, keep up with their peers, manage their time, maintain their mental health, and remain engaged. Studies examining the detrimental effects of COVID-19 policies on academic achievement have been conducted in countries around the world. In Canada, the pandemic led to significant changes in education that halted progress for many students. Undesirable outcomes included mass and localized school closures, multiple models of education delivery, and severe gaps in support for students with disabilities.

Why students struggle

Many students find math challenging and struggle with learning it for different reasons. Some may lack confidence, have trouble focusing or staying on task, or have a negative attitude toward math. Others may have difficulty processing information as quickly as their classmates or have trouble with things like remembering information. The absence of direct math instruction during the pandemic has also had a detrimental effect. When students don’t get enough practice with math concepts and skills, it can also make it harder for them to learn. Research has shown that if students don’t understand basic math concepts taught in elementary school, they may have trouble with math in high school. At Evoke Learning, our math programs help students who are behind in math by giving them extra time to learn and addressing their learning challenges. This helps bridge the gap and ensures that they don’t fall further behind.

What is high-impact tutoring?

Evoke’s high-impact tutoring program begins with a diagnostic assessment that enables us to pinpoint the specific concepts and curriculum expectations with which a student is struggling and specifically what has been creating a barrier to their understanding of current grade content. The information collected from the math diagnostic is helpful in guiding our tutors so they may effectively and efficiently develop a student’s skills and build fluency. The information also helps in monitoring the progress made from the intervention program so that instruction is strategic and can be adjusted as needed. The diagnostic identifies specific concepts, skills, and curriculum expectations that require learning acceleration. While ensuring the student understands current grade concepts, the tutor strategically builds in key prior math units and/or grade concepts that the student may need in order to develop grade-level proficiency. The tutor connects unfinished learning within the context of new learning.

Our high-impact math tutoring program ensures that the student works with the same practitioner consistently and can develop a strong rapport with their tutor. The program is time-intensive—three hours a week for 30 minutes—and provides adequate practice to develop proficiency in math concepts and skills. In addition to building math fluency to reduce cognitive load for the student, the program teaches strategies for solving word problems, helps students develop number sense, and cultivates test and exam preparation skills.

Why summer is the perfect time for high-impact math tutoring

Summer offers a unique opportunity for students to invest time in math tutoring and improve their skills. With the academic year ending, students have more flexibility in their schedules, allowing them to focus on areas where they may have struggled during the school year. Summer math tutoring delivered online can provide a supportive environment without the added pressure of regular school assignments, exams, or other commitments. This can help students to focus better, make significant progress, and build a solid foundation in math skills.

Additionally, many students experience learning loss or the "summer slide" during the long break, when they have little opportunity to practice the skills they gained during the previous school year. Engaging in high-impact math tutoring during the summer can help prevent this decline and ensure that students are better prepared for the upcoming school year. It also gives them a head start, as they may have covered topics in advance, which can boost their confidence and motivation for the new academic year.

During the school year, teachers may not have enough time to provide individual support to every student. In contrast, online summer high-impact math tutoring can provide students with more focused attention from a tutor who can tailor the instruction to their individual needs.

Math tutoring during the summer can also be a more relaxed and enjoyable experience for students, who can work at their own pace, with less stress and fewer distractions. This can help them develop a positive attitude toward math and build their self-esteem as they see improvement in their skills. Online summer tutoring can also provide a change of environment, making learning more engaging and exciting for students.

Award-winning math educator and author Marilyn Burns writes that “summer is a great time for students to catch up or get ahead in math. Math skills don’t just disappear when the school year ends, but students’ opportunity to use and practice those skills often decreases. Summer math programs provide that practice and give students a chance to stay connected with math, which can be especially important for students who struggle with the subject."

A recent meta-analysis of the impact of summer programs on student mathematics achievement by investigators at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education and the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut found that students from families across all income groups who participated in summer programs that included math activities experienced significantly better achievement outcomes, compared to their control group counterparts (Lynch, An, and Mancenido, 2022).

Additionally, a discussion paper published in early 2023 by the Centre for Economic Performance in the U.K. showed that an intensive, eight-week-long, online math tutoring program delivered by qualified math teachers in groups of two students outside of school hours significantly increased their test scores and final math grades while reducing the probability of repeating the school year. According to the study, this approach also raised student aspirations and self-reported effort in the classroom.

One-to-one teaching is one of the oldest and most effective forms of instruction. Online personal tutoring offers many benefits and opportunities that make it ideal for strengthening math skills:

Customized Instruction: Students are unique, and math tutoring can be tailored to their individual needs. Skilled math tutors assess a student's strengths and weaknesses, and develop a customized plan to address their specific requirements. This can include identifying knowledge gaps, focusing on areas of difficulty, and building on existing skills. Customized instruction allows students to progress at their own pace, with targeted guidance and support.

Clear Explanation: Math concepts can be complex, and students may struggle to understand them in a classroom setting. A math tutor can provide clear and concise explanations, breaking down concepts into simple steps and using visual aids or real-life examples to make them relatable. This helps students grasp the underlying principles and develop a solid foundation of understanding.

Foundation-Building: Math concepts build upon each other, so it's essential to ensure that the student has a strong foundation in the basics. Math tutors ensure that the student understands fundamental concepts before moving on to more advanced topics.

Safe and Supportive Environments: Students may feel intimidated, overwhelmed, or frustrated by math, especially if they've struggled with the subject in the past. An effective math tutor can create a safe and supportive environment where the student feels comfortable asking questions, admitting they are having difficulty, and making mistakes. Tutors can provide regular ongoing motivation and encouragement that students won’t receive in a regular classroom.

A Focus on Problem-Solving Skills: Math tutors can help the student develop stronger problem-solving skills, such as identifying the necessary information, breaking down the problem, and applying appropriate strategies.

Practice and Reinforcement: Practice makes perfect, and math tutoring includes ample opportunities for students to practice their skills. This can involve solving math problems, completing worksheets, engaging in interactive online activities, or playing math games. Regular practice helps students reinforce their learning, build confidence, and improve their problem-solving skills.

Feedback and Assessment: Feedback is crucial for students to understand their progress and areas that need improvement. Math tutors can provide timely and constructive feedback on a student's work, pointing out strengths and areas for improvement. Regular assessments can also help track progress and identify areas that may need further attention. This allows students to continually refine their skills and build on their successes.

Online high-impact math tutoring allows for greater flexibility in scheduling, time, and location. Students can receive tutoring from anywhere in any location with an internet connection, and tutors can more easily accommodate varying schedules—no driving or parking required. Online tutoring also offers more individualized attention than traditional tutoring, as the tutor can easily focus on the student's specific needs and adjust the pace and level of instruction accordingly. It gives students access to a wider pool of tutors, including those who may be in different regions or countries. This can increase the likelihood of finding a tutor who is the right fit for the student's needs. Online high-impact math tutoring also makes use of technology to enhance the learning experience, incorporating virtual whiteboards, online tools and resources, and screen sharing to facilitate interactive and engaging learning sessions. Students who feel embarrassed by their need for academic support can enjoy complete privacy online.

Contact us to find out more about Evoke’s online summer math programs, including Academic Recovery (Grades 3-12) and Math Booster (Grades 5-12), and help your student close the gap between ability and achievement.