When it comes to private tuition, maths is the subject that’s in the highest demand.

So many children need help with math because they get stuck on particular math problems and feel like they’re being left behind.

Despair and a sense of inferiority can easily arise in situations like these and as a tutor it’s crucial to be aware of the varying math skills within a class group.

young boy alone
It's easy to feel isolated if you don’t understand the terminology. ⎢Source: Unsplash

While one learner could find fractions and word problems challenging, the next child could experience mental blocks when it comes to rounding-off, graphing or simply telling time.

We must, however, remember that having struggles with certain math concepts may have no bearing on intellectual ability. More often than not, these children are very sharp and capable of completing everyday activities and therefore have everything it takes to become excellent mathematicians. With the right methods and fun math activities you can get kids to love math!

Think about what kids do when they face challenges doing the things they love, like online gaming. They’ll scour YouTube for solutions and post questions on numerous forums until they get the answers.

If they want to meet up with friends after school or go to a party at the weekend, youngsters will make sure everything is arranged. Situations like these, display just how good kids' time management and organisational skills can actually be!

When it comes to extra-murals they love, children will happily practice and push themselves to be the best!

But why is it that when it comes to math practice, kids just give up?

Young people will dedicate hours to friendships and social gatherings, sports and hobbies, but arithmetic falls by the wayside. It seems there is a mental block when it comes to math activities, and it isn’t easily conquered independently.

Understanding How Mental Blocks Impact Youngsters Battling With Maths

The root of a mental block in maths can come from a variety of situations. Pin pointing the underlying cause of these blockages is a great starting point when it comes to re-igniting that spark for maths. Often mathematics is viewed as nothing but a tool to measure scholastic ability. It could also be that a learner doesn’t grasp the purpose in learning certain math principles.

There are a myriad of hypothesis explaining this phenomenon:

The Learner Is Baffled by Mathematical Terminology

The job of the educator is to present this new language of mathematical jargon to learners. Many children need help with math because they find the terminology bewildering due to the abstract nature of mathematics. “Mean and median” to a ten year old could sound like there’s a number that has a grumpy personality. It’s up to the math tutor to give these unusual words context.

Lines and points have baffled countless kids. In day-to-day life we understand lines to be straight and continuous, yet when dealing with a parabola, a line is curved. Learners are instructed to locate the points on the line and panic because they forget that lines can in fact be curved.

It’s easy for tutors and educators to take for granted that some of the most basic lingo in a maths lesson can be completely foreign to learners. By coming up with effective activities for kids, we can ensure that math facts are clarified and re-enforced.

What Happens When Learners Don’t Know the Fundamentals?

Not grasping the fundamental principles of maths can have a negative ripple effect over time. Something as simple as correct use of mathematics symbols is one such example.

The basis of a sound mathematical learning process is about learning the correct methods and math principles from the very beginning because each concept is so closely connected to the next.

Therefore if a learner has any uncertainty about one simple thing such as counting from zero instead of one, everything else that follows is a mystery. Never underestimate the power of a good foundation when teaching math.

These are a few of the frequent mix ups:

  • = means ‘is equal to’, but ≠ means the opposite
  • You can change the direction of an inequality if you multiply it by -2, but not if you multiply it by 2
  • -x isn’t always a negative value
  • why x(y+z)=xy+xz but x(y+z)≠xy+z

The feeling of having to remember so many mathematical concepts by heart can seem an impossible task and the stress of this often leads to a mental block.

Learners Assume They Are the Only Ones Who Are Confused and Overwhelmed

Often when a new math topic is really challenging, learners feel disheartened and decide to give up, hoping the next math worksheet will make more sense.

When it comes to school math no one wants to pipe up in class and ask a stupid question. But as a tutor you know that the journey to comprehension is dotted with mistakes. Everyone needs help with math at some stage. Encourage learners to embrace mistakes and voice questions because that is true interactive math learning.

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One-On-One Math Homework Assistance With a Personal Tutor Can Do Wonders for Self-Confidence

Additional teaching with a personal math tutor can be a platform to re-enforce a child’s confidence. Taking time to bolster their strengths and nurture their weak points with a unique learning strategy is an incredibly effective way of teaching math.

Tutoring in the privacy of someone’s home lends itself to a more holistic approach. It’s important to realise that the personal nature of this kind of work often demands stepping into the role of confidante, friend and even counsellor.

boy doing homework
A private tutor can do wonders for homework success. ⎢Source: Unsplash

The key to making a long-lasting impact is tackling mental blocks before tackling homework. Think of some warm up flashcards or math games that you know your student will excel in; this will take their minds off what they believe they can’t do and instead shift their focus onto success. It’s no good tackling multiplication tables or prepping for Matric finals if you don’t even believe you can do it.

Experienced tutors will ensure that their learners have sound study skills that are suited to their learning style. Kids learn in different ways and at different paces.

In order to succeed in their math education, learners must believe in themselves. A positive outlook and a confident attitude are the key to success in any private math lessons or even classroom instruction.

Personal tutoring creates a peaceful atmosphere where you can help kids feel secure and focused. It’s a wonderful space to explore problem areas without feeling threatened and an opportunity to do cool math and have fun.

When kids aren’t afraid to mess up an answer in front of classmates, they have the opportunity to realise their full potential.

Unfortunately in regular school there isn’t scope for focusing on all the learning styles which means some learners are left behind while others are bored and under-stimulated. Private tutoring is a brilliant tool for filling these gaps and cementing basic skills.

Use Fun Math Games to Overcome Mind Blocks

“Maths is hard!” or, “Maths is boring!” Turn these misconceptions around by playing cool math games.

Children love to play, so let them!

Separating mathematics from exercises in workbooks and making learning math fun and exciting is a sure way of getting kids keen to keep at it. We need to convince learners not to give up; we need to spark that love and appreciation of math education.

boys and girls playing
Channel kids' playful energy into fun math games.⎢Source: Unsplash

The supply of interesting math programs and logic games is endless. There are games suited to every kind of need, so why not make use of these great resources.

Smart Games

The Smart Games range is a fantastic place to start. There are a multitude of wonderful options for ages 0 – 99. This is a great starting point to stimulate problem solving and logic. The fact that these fun games are also tactile as opposed to screen based is a big plus and excellent for brain development and fine motor skill as well as being gentle on developing eyes.

The IQ Fit game is a popular choice in this range. According to the experts, this particular game stimulates concentration, logic, spatial insight, problem solving and planning. IQ Fit is a single player game and is a wonderful way to take a break and still practice math.

Another option with IQ Fit is to purchase two games so players can race each other on the same level. The object of the game is to use all the 3-D pieces following the pattern indicated on the booklet. It’s up to the player to figure out where the missing pieces fit in while making sure every single piece is used.

There are levels for every learner depending on their skill. Once the learner has completed a certain level, another alternative is to keep doing that level at a faster pace, thus stimulating the use of memory and illustrating an important lesson that practice makes perfect.

The beauty of IQ Fit is that it takes numerous mistakes and “do-overs” to obtain the ultimate goal. Tutors can use this as physical evidence that mistakes are valuable, thus erasing the mental blocks that so many children have.

BrainBox Maths, a Fun Game for All Ages

Developed by a primary school teacher with over 30 years of experience, the game is designed to stimulate mental math and visual perception abilities while re-enforcing basic math principles.

This is an enjoyable math game that will get everyone excited. The nice thing about interactive math activities like BrainBox is that they don’t drag out, meaning that it’s ideal for a pre-lesson warm up or post-lesson reward.

The way BrainBox Maths works is that each player takes a turn to choose a card and has ten seconds to study their card while being timed by a sand timer.

The card is passed to the next player, who will check the answers on the opposite side of the card. The player then rolls the dice and answers the question that corresponds to the number on the dice. If they get it right they keep the card. The player with the most cards at the end of ten minutes (or whatever time you decide) is the winner.

children raising hands in class
Use cool math games in your learning programme to motivate students. ⎢Source: Unsplash

The Classic 24 Game

The 24 Game is great because it makes use of adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing. The basic idea is that using the four numbers on the card, you must create an equation that equals to 24!

For instance, let’s say a card has the numbers 1,2,3 and 4, then you could do the following:

  • 4 x 3 = 12
  • 12 x 2 = 24
  • 24 x 1 = 24

There are three different levels of challenge. These are shown as a dot on the card: one, two or three dots, one being easiest.

It’s actually an empowering game to play because learners are shown that it’s up to them to decide how to juggle the numbers to get the result they’re looking for. This game will test your basic math knowledge on so many levels.

Conquer Mind Blocks by Making Maths Fun

What is wonderful about the games that have been mentioned is that they encourage children to solve problems, which is a rudimental mathematical skill.

Coaxing reluctant mathematicians out of their shells by means of fun and games could actually rescue their schooling experience and motivate them to pursue maths all the way to university.

Unorthodox tactics like learning through alternative methods, such as online math games and unconventional math challenges, can uncover abilities that will be useful to their learning experience.

Adjusting the learning program and tailoring it to the particular study methods that work best for the student, sets the stage for successful tutoring. This also demonstrates to a child that they can have the liberty to discover what works best for them instead of being defeated when things are difficult.

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