What do you imagine when you think of your child receiving math tutoring? Are student and tutor sitting alongside each other with a textbook open? Are both heads down, diligently working through the assigned problems? Perhaps, you envision a corporate chain where six to eight students are at a circular table around one tutor?

Kirk’s Tutoring is something different. In all honesty, it probably isn’t like anything you have ever seen before. Foremost, during our first session, I conduct an interview with each client to learn their interests, strengths, and challenges. We talk about the theory of multiple intelligences and compare memory to intelligence. Each client is told they can fire me at any time and I am alright with it. The goal is for them to be successful. If I am not helping them, they need to tell me so we can find someone else who can.

I use Mortensen Math and base ten blocks to provide multisensory math instruction. If you are expecting pages of problems to show progress, we will have to work something out, because I believe worksheets should be used very sparingly. Most of the written work my students do is on whiteboards and in their math notebooks. Frankly, there isn’t as much written down as most people expect.

Kirk’s Tutoring strives to provide a low-stress, high-fun, math experiences. Games are played frequently and there is a lot of movement. The reason for this is learning math is very similar to learning a foreign language. Like a foreign language, math requires repetition and practice. I believe the best way to do this is to make it fun.
Many of my students spend weeks going over the same concepts and learning their “math facts.” My goal is comprehension first, then memorization. If you are looking for rapid progress, Kirk’s Tutoring is not for you. I say this because memorizing (without understanding) algorithms, formulae, and facts is what has led to the “dumbing down” of math in America over the last three decades. Mortensen Math is a method which has a less steep learning curve earlier. However, as students understand math concepts and are able to apply them to new information, the learning curve rises at a much steeper rate than expected. This comes from a focus on concepts, not facts and formulae.

Parents have asked me to share the Mortensen Math curriculum. There isn’t one. Mortensen Math believes in “following the child.” I focus on areas where students have challenges. Jerry Mortensen believed in teaching five strands of math consecutively. There is an emphasis on compounding lessons. “Everything teaches everything else.” During an exercise on equivalent fractions, we may discuss addition, multiplication, ratios, division, area, and perimeter. Students need to see how those are all related. Why wait until students have mastered one skill before teaching another? Why not use coins to teach money, addition, subtraction, and multiplication? You could say Mortensen Math is a more holistic approach to math.

Another aspect of Kirk’s Tutoring which is unexpected is the fact I am completely comfortable teaching algebra to children as young as five. I can use algebra to teach addition and subtraction. Base ten blocks make it possible.
Also unexpected is the emphasis placed on language and vocabulary. I believe it is important for students to be able to relate math to things in their daily lives. The following quote is from “Best Practices” on dyscalculia.org, “When introducing a mathematical term or concept, a teacher must create a parallel English language equivalent. The new term must be related or made analogous to a familiar situation in the English language.” This is an aspect of math instruction to which I pay special attention.

All students can learn math, some just have to work harder at it than others. Base ten blocks make things visually obvious. Using a multisensory approach has been proven to remediate dyslexia and is recommended for students with dyscalculia. Kirk’s Tutoring might not be what you expect, but if you are looking for something different, give me a try.