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What Kind of Maths Learner is Your Child?

Updated: Apr 16, 2023

Understanding how your child learns is the first step to helping them achieve their academic goals. Here are 4 common types and how we can help.

1. Shy. Reluctant to talk about homework, tests, teachers. Lacking self-confidence

Here is an example: A girl came to me assuming that she would never be able to understand maths. Bad grades, little benefit from her school lessons. Every time she tried to solve an equation; she would try to find her own way of solving it. I tried to convince her that maths has four basic operations: Addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

“What confuses you most with this equation”, I would ask.

“The fractions”, she would reply. So, I continued:

“What happens to X/2 if you multiply by 2?”

“It becomes X.”

“So, when you multiply with the denominator, it disappears, right? And that ALWAYS happens, so when you see an equation with one or more fractions, multiply the fractions with them.”

“But can I do that?”

“This is an equation. That means that the left-hand side is EQUAL to the right-hand side, and when you multiply to equal numbers or expressions by the same number, they are still equal, right?”

“But they change!”

“Yes, but by EQUAL amounts, so the equal sign is still correct. And you get an equation without fractions. A lot easier, agree?”

It took a while, but the more we worked, the more she came to realize that she didn’t have to re-invent the wheel every time she solved an equation.

Then there was the problem with self-confidence. She was convinced that she new nothing, but the more I kept digging, the more I realized that her background was not so bad after all. But the battle was only half won. I had to convince HER of that, and that was the trickiest part.

“I don’t know what to do” she would say. I looked her in the eye and said calmly but firmly:

“Yes, you do!”

When she finally started to believe that I knew more about her capabilities than she did, I knew the battle was won. Now, she is in her third year of university (yes, we still keep in touch), where she took some extra courses to get more credits. Her studies involve no maths whatsoever. Guess what she took? Maths! For two of them!

2. Hard working, but not getting the grades.

The one line answer is: Work smarter, not harder!

Easier said than done, Right?

No! Not if you have been in this business for 20 to 30 years.

The first step is to talk: Do you get enough sleep? If not, why? If the student and the parents are ok with it, all three of us cooperate to find better routines. For many students it is enough to get them to set up a list of their daily routines. Quite often they lose a lot of time without knowing it. Where did those 45 minutes between doing homework and having dinner go? Were they used for anything productive like packing the school bag? Or nice, like talking to a friend? Or were they just “lost”?

And again: Understand! There is a safety net in the formulas given to the student on their tests, but still: Understanding!

3. Speedy Gonzales

The student is smart but works so fast that it is packed with silly mistakes: Forgetting brackets. Forgetting a negative sign. Not simplifying the final answer.

This type of student also tends to work very unsystematic. Starting writing in the middle of the page. Doing a side calculation in a corner. Writing over mistakes so it is difficult to distinguish a 7 from a 1, or to see a little negative sign in front of a number. In the end, it is next to impossible to se what is going on.

“But we get so little time that I have to work this fast” is the common excuse.

We have managed to turn students like this around in a matter of weeks. And, lo and behold, they discover that the work goes FASTER not SLOWER when they approach a problem in a systematic and tidy manner.

4. The Genius

Don’t waste time and money on a tutor if it is not needed.

But we have had students with top grades coming to us just to get that extra confidence that comes from working through the trickiest exam papers with teachers who has been through every exam paper on the list for the past twenty years and knows exactly where to find the most challenging ones.

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