There is a concept in math called “one to one correspondence”, in which members of one set may be matched with members of another set, so that each member of one set is matched with exactly one member from the other set. I thought of this concept lately when I found myself working one-on-one with several of my students as they struggled to master some difficult concepts from the class they were taking.

One of the aspects that I love most about teaching, especially of teaching at a small, student-centered college, is that I get to spend quite a bit of time working one-on-one with my students. I love being able to explain concepts to them individually, answering their questions as they arise and giving them problems to work on that directly address their own questions. Of course, I try to do this in class, too, but in all but the smallest of classes, it is not as effective in a group as it is with only one student. In addition, a class always contains some students who are afraid to speak up when they are confused, so I find myself trying to guess who needs help from their facial expressions and the answers they do volunteer.

I especially love spending time with students individually, in office hours or appointments, often writing on the white board I had installed on my office wall. There I help them get a firm grasp of the concepts that may be perplexing them. One might actually call such time with students “tutoring”, but I think of it as an extension of my class time. Indeed, my enjoyment of this style of teaching is one of the reasons I am really enjoying teaching a “flipped” class of Linear Algebra this semester.

However, although I find that I can do a good job teaching my students one-to-one, there is one student that I am not very good at tutoring- my own daughter. To help her, I found a tutor who works with her on a regular basis, leading to grades that often land her on the honor roll. I recently spoke to another mother who is also a teacher about this. She said that she feels that she can teach anyone, except her own children. We lamented that is seemed silly to get a tutor to work with our children, when we are teachers ourselves. However, for my daughter, I know that this is the best approach.

I am wondering, readers who are teachers, are you able to tutor your own children, and if so, how do you manage to do this?