”I have a plus here, so I need to subtract this.

Here it says divide so to counteract that, we will multiply.

It says to square here, so we need to square root.

If 10x = 56, that means 1x =”

Panic. What they have just been explaining makes no sense what-so-ever!

They repeat themselves: “I have a plus here, so I need to subtract this.

Here it says divide so to counteract that, we will multiply.

It says to square here, so we need to square root.

If 10x = 56, that means 1x =

Do you have an answer for me now?”

“I have a plus here, so I need to subtract this.

Here it says divide so to counteract that, we will multiply.

It says to square here, so we need to square root.

If 10x = 56, that means 1x =”

Sadly, I think many of us have been in this scenario. For some reason the person explaining it seems to think that by repeating what they have been saying will suddenly make it crystal clear. However, most of the time it just gives the fear more time to wrap itself confidently around you.

“Imagine I have a set of scales. I need to keep both sides balanced, but my goal is to keep all my ‘x’s and nothing else in this side, and when I finish have nothing but numbers in this side. Ok? So, now I have a +5 in this side. To remove that so I only have x’s on this side I will need to take 5 out from here. Then to keep my scales balanced, I need to take 5 from that side as well. Does that make sense so far?”

A new explanation taken one step at a time. This is so much easier to achieve when you are working in a smaller group and the student/child is less concerned about making a fool of themselves in front of their peers.

We all learn differently. However, what is unanimous is that if we just keep relying on worksheets, we are only placing the working out within one place in our brain. We need to offer a variety of resources so that we can cater for different learning styles.

Additionally, many people have a deep fear of the subject, so by making the lesson more interactive we can hopefully encourage the learner to relax and be in a better position to recognise and retain the relevant information.

This might be done by initially creating a bold, colourful mind-map or poster explaining the steps involved with easy-to-follow examples. By using 5 or more colours we are opening more neuropathways making recall more attainable.

Next you might run through a few examples, this might take the form of a worksheet, a code breaker, a game. The games might include a memory game or a game of bingo which requires you to match the corresponding questions and answers, or a board game which will requires you to answer the questions presented as you move around the board.

By offering the information like this you are getting the practice, but at the same time you are helping the child to relax, putting them in a better state of mind to learn.

We need to talk to them and understand how they learn best. I have learned that some children/students will never want to do a worksheet, even with their exams just days away. Others will never want to do anything but worksheets. That is their choice. We are there to guide, to encourage knowledge and hopefully a confidence in the subject.

I am a firm believer that the more we can boost someone’s confidence in a subject, the more willing they will be to have a go. With having a go comes practice and with practice comes confidence. With confidence comes a willingness to have a go. It become a positive spiral of success.

Obviously, every tutor, every child is different, and the lessons will need to reflect that even down to the learning environment that we provide for them: sitting at a desk, laying on our stomachs on the floor, a beanbag or a sofa. Sitting in the garden or at a desk. A tidy desk with minimal distractions, or the reassurance that we have everything we will need to hand with every spread around you.

If you have any questions or you, or your child is looking for a maths tutor, we can help. Get in touch at [email protected] and we can arrange to have a chat.