Using Color to Enliven a Tutoring Session

February 11, 2014
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This is a guest post by Ishmael Brown, Jr., owner of InfiNeXt Educational Solutions:


What would the world look like without color, or just black and white? At some point long ago in the past, we had the fortune of viewing television shows in black- and‐white. It was a breakthrough at the time, but being born in the 1970’s as the metamorphosis to color TVs became commonplace, I can remember as a child viewing black-and-white shows on our color television thinking “How can people see in black and white?” and “How can you make out different things if everything is only in black and white?”

In the classroom, we have evolved from the blackboard (green in color) with yellow chalk to electronic devices with thousands of colors. Our teachers use various resources that encourage our students to learn, especially online services. In tutoring, we too are evolving with technologies; smart phones, tablets, and the like. However, when it is necessary to write, we should consider one basic luxury; writing notes in color.

Why is this important? Earlier, I mentioned distinguishable items on television. It is comparable to learning new concepts as well. Tutees understand better when demonstrations (letters, numbers, and characters) are distinguishable. The eyes will generally focus in on the “unusual” or “unique”. Stanford University’s Center for Teaching and Learning conveys this same idea in its explanation of the mapping method of note-taking, stating that it “is easy to edit notes by ... color coding.” (n.d.) Even in the title of this article, the colors are very noticeable and the eyes tend to float back to the top of the page. Here is an example to express my point:

2x - 5 = 23

2x - 5 + 5 = 23 + 5

2x = 28

2x / 2 = 28 / 2

x = 14

In this two‐step equation, we are solving for x. With no explanation of what is going on, it looks monotonous and boring. The tutee who has no clue on this concept would have a difficult time following and may have a litany of questions. Let’s take the same problem and give it color.

2x - 5 = 23

2x - 5 +5 = 23 +5

2x = 28

2x / 2 = 28 / 2

x = 14

When the color of the text is distributed correctly, tutees are more apt to follow what is going on, and less apt to ask repetitive questions. Notice that the same number is being added on both sides of the equal sign (line 2) and the same number is being divided by on both sides of the equal sign (line 4). The tutee can understand the cliché, “What you do to one side, you do to the other.”

Color also makes a difference in literacy as well. Using color coding when teaching sentence structure, reading comprehension, and other aspects help tutees to distinguish what concepts to focus on. If you are doing face‐to‐face tutoring, I would recommend tutors to invest in color pens and/or color pencils, and a dry erase board with colored markers. Color makes tutoring interesting and fun, plus it looks good too.

Glickman, A. (n.d.) Teaching and Learning; Taking Notes, Evaluate Your Present Note- Taking System. The Center for Teaching and Learning, Stanford University. Retrieved from


Author Bio:

Ishmael Brown, Jr., owner of InfiNeXt Educational Solutions, is a certified high school math teacher in South Carolina who has been teaching for 15 years. He is also a two-time nominee for "Who's Who Among America's Teachers."  His tutoring career began as a student at South Carolina State University in 1996 while obtaining a B.S. degree in Mathematics with a minor in Physics.  Presently, he holds certification through the National Tutoring Association (NTA) as an Advanced Level Tutor (with a Mathematics Endorsement) and Academic Coach and is in the process of earning a Tutor Trainer certification.  He holds memberships in the National Education Association, the National Council of Teaching of Mathematics, Toastmasters International, Concerned Black Men (mentor organization) of Columbia , Inc., and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.

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