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Back to School Tips for Math Students

Online Math Tutor Success Tips

Today is the first day back for students here in Portland, Oregon. Everybody is excited and dressed to perfection. Lots of new things happening, new schools, new teachers, new friends, new classes. So let’s start my tips for today.

The first thing you will probably get from your math teacher is a syllabus, a course outline and expectations. Many students and parents will maybe read the first paragraph, maybe not at all, or it might become kindling for the fire tonight. But, RESIST THAT URGE.

  1. Read the ENTIRE syllabus. There is important information here. Make sure you note the best way to get hold of the teacher if you have any concerns or questions. If it is an email, put it directly in your phone so you can ask a question any time. Many parents and students think this will drive teachers crazy, but most teachers really like being in communication with them. It shows you care. It shows your son/daughter cares too.

  2. Send an email to your math teacher and just introduce yourself. That way the teacher will have easy contact with you also. If you have any special requests or concerns, address them in this intro email. Maybe your son/daughter needs to sit in the front of the room to see or hear best. Perhaps the student has medical concerns the teacher should know about. Does your son/daughter have an IEP? Let the teacher know.

  3. Do you understand the grading system for the class? Not every teacher has the same grading policy or system. If you don’t understand something, better ask the teacher during the next class time to clarify. Know what your math teacher expects of you and you are halfway home to getting that good grade.

  4. Let the student take charge as much as possible on communication and questions. It is really important to let your son or daughter take ownership of the math class, the math teacher’s expectations, communications, and questions. The more the student gets comfortable with the teacher, the easier it will be to ask for help, get something corrected and ultimately become the master of this math business. That doesn’t mean the parents are off the hook. No, after you, the parent understand the setup of the class, double check with your kids and make sure they are staying on top of the assignments and understanding the material. I always recommend any meeting with the math teacher include the student. They are the ones that need to learn this.

  5. Check out what you need for this particular math class and get it. The school may have given you a list of materials to get for your kids, but usually a math class has extra things. Do you need a protractor? Do you need a compass? Do you know what these are? ASK! Most likely they will need a calculator. Make sure to find out exactly what kind of calculator is allowed and expected for this class and buy it. If you’re in an Algebra I class, you may not be able to use a graphing calculator. PreCalculus, you will most likely need a graphing calculator. Ask what type the teacher is using. That makes it much easier for students to learn how to use those bright, shiny new calculators quickly. If you are short on cash, I highly recommend GOODWILL. You can find all sorts of calculators there, including “cheap as chips” graphing calculators. Also, you can look at other online shopping sites, like craigslist.

  1. Get your materials organized. Have all the paper and pencils you can dream of with you. Don’t use pen unless you plan on being perfect. Those perfect students and teachers are a rare breed. Honestly, I’ve never met any. Just buy PENCILS. You probably better include rulers, compass, protractor and BIG erasers. Check the syllabus. It will be spelled out there. Math is a sport and requires lots of practice, just like shooting baskets, hitting the perfect serve, or playing the perfect Mozart solo. You’ll need a good eraser.

  1. Bring your textbook to class EVERYDAY. I know, it weighs a ton if it isn’t a digital textbook. But, you’ll always be able to find what you need in class without getting kinks in your neck trying to look at your neighbor’s book, plus you’ll build really big biceps. Your teacher will think you are so smart and full of common sense if you do. Just bring it every day, okay?

Well, I hope this has helped you out this first week of school. Don’t forget to have fun in that math class. Yes, FUN. Math can be really rewarding when you understand what’s going on and a lot less stressful. I’ll be continuing this blog to help students and parents be successful in conquering this math of yours.

You CAN do it!

If you found this blog useful, please share it with others. My name is Terri Grigsby. I’m an Online tutor in the Portland, Oregon. I tutor Algebra and Geometry Middle School and High School. If you have any comments or questions, please email me at If you are interested in getting your son or daughter tutoring, I’d love to help you out. Just drop me a note in the email or visit my website and sign up for a FREE CONSULTATION at

Have a great year everybody! Don’t forget to HAVE FUN in math!!

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