What I do
Most often, parents call on me when their children are close to some important exam and they notice that their child is not performing at the level that they expect.
My first task is to find out why. This is not as easy as just asking the child. They often don’t know. The answer reveals itself during conversations about his or her perception of maths and the way in which he or she approaches the subject.
Most of the time, the main obstacle is in the child’s negative beliefs about their own ability. Such beliefs can come from feedback from teachers, peers and even inadvertently, from parents.
These are the steps that I take towards empowering my students:
1. Assess current attitude towards mathematics
2. Assess current performance level
3. Identify the students’ stumbling blocks
4. Assess the student’s interests and aspirations
5. Begin to relate mathematical ideas to the child’s interests.
6. Begin to show the student that what appeared to be stumbling blocks are really stepping stones.
7. Begin with a series of easy exercises that are repeated so many times that the student feels that they really want to move onto greater challenges, confident that they are capable of handling it.
8. Move to the next level and continue with the repetition until the student wants to move to the next level.
9. Meanwhile, whilst the student feels that they are merely practicing what they know, they are being introduced to new ideas without being aware of them. The result is that when those ideas become the focus of the next level, he or she will already be familiar with them.
10. The above process is also important in developing my students’ examination techniques, since another stumbling block in ‘performance’ (not necessarily understanding) is that students who are confident that they can tackle the problems, often underperform in exams because answering examination questions requires an extra set of skills.
Habits, such as study habits are also major stumbling blocks to performance. I work with my students towards establishing good study habits. The ability to establish empowering habits and routines is a valuable skill, not just for passing examinations, but for achieving anything that one’s desires in life.
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