I’ve had to face similar dilemmas, and my usual response is to survey the research. So, here’s what I have observed that I believe is pertinent to your question.
While most people focus on Bloom’s “Mastery Learning” as the best method for class learning, it is easy to lose sight that tutoring is the most effective teaching method for achieving the highest achievement scores.
Mastery learning maintains that students must achieve a level of mastery (e.g., 90% on a knowledge test) in prerequisite knowledge before moving forward to learn subsequent information. If a student does not achieve mastery on the test, they are given additional support in learning and reviewing the information and then tested again. This cycle continues until the learner accomplishes mastery, and they may then move on to the next stage.
Mastery learning (which Bloom proposed in 1968) is the next best alternative to one-to-one tutoring. Bloom demonstrated an 84th percentile equivalent on achievement scores for Mastery Learning (compared to a 98th percentile equivalent from one-to-one tutoring).
Incidentally, one-to-one tutoring is assumed to integrate the methods of Mastery Learning. Also, it is interesting to note that Khan Academy math (and some other online math programs) also incorporate mastery learning principles, by requiring the student to demonstrate mastery before proceeding to the next level.
Beyond mastery learning and one-to-one tutoring, there is research indicating that teaming can be very effective. Project-Based Learning (PBL) is one of the strategies to utilize this approach. The work of Jo Boaler emphasizes PBL in the approach to teaching math.
In summary, the best approaches, for learning math (in any learning environment) appear to be:
- One-to-one tutoring
- Mastery Learning
- Active team learning