Ask most people, adults and kids alike, and they will tell you, “I don’t love math.” It is almost become a social requirement not to enjoy mathematics.
But as a maths tutor you know that maths doesn’t have to be hard! Being a tutor means you have the opportunity to unlock a subject enmeshed in despondency and mental blocks. The key is finding approaches that will appeal to the student and make the process of learning fun. With the right approach, any student, whether primary school or even university level, can succeed.
It’s about moulding your student’s attitude and entire thought process when it comes to learning maths and retaining information. Not to mention helping them overcome any fear or anxiety in maths.
Invest some time just getting back to basics. Assessing a student’s knowledge of the basic principles of maths, such as addition and subtraction, multiplication and division, and rounding, is crucial. Without a confident understanding and strong foundation, mathematics will be completely overwhelming and an impossible task.
Falling behind in maths can cause students to feel helpless. If this cycle isn’t broken, the end result is a totally unmotivated student. Poor achievement in mathematics means many options in further education will be inhibited. This very dilemma was highlighted in a comprehensive article by IntechOpen, highlighting the flaws in the mathematics education system in South Africa.
“A good performance in mathematics at Grade 12 level allows students to follow careers of high stature in South Africa.”
Maths can come across as a very abstract subject when in truth it’s an integral element of our everyday lives! Put maths into context; demonstrate how it can be useful in various situations that the student can relate to.
By doing this you will have turned something dull and confusing into the comprehensible, fun and engaging subject that we know it is. Knowing how to make mathematics fun is one of the most important steps towards influencing your student to enjoy mathematics.
Everyone has a different learning style, and therefore each student should be treated individually. Paying attention to how your student comprehends new concepts and retains information will set you up for tutoring success.
Start out by getting to know your student and discovering what aspect of mathematics troubles them. Why do they struggle? Are there particular Mathematical concepts they find challenging, like determining square roots, adding and subtracting fractions, calculations involving negative numbers, linear equations, or multiplying and dividing exponents? Is it just the general battle of trying to keep up with mainstream teaching?
When you have figured this out, you’ll be set up for making maths fun again. The options are endless when it comes to implementing mathematics games:
Games can help children understand Maths concepts.⎢Source: Unsplash
Youngsters love to play, so be sure to play games with them to keep them interested. The main thing is to get your students excited and eager to interact.
Using interactive activities and helping students to play and learn at the same time will give them new motivation. Games, real-life scenarios, practical activities or whatever method your maths student might enjoy, keep focusing on highlighting that maths is fun and relevant.
Now you can really start to think out of the box and take home-tutoring to the next level. Try out different teaching techniques and approaches all in the name of fun. A unique and individualised tutoring strategy will develop organically just by noting what excites your student.
With younger students playing is integral in the learning process. This means that you can really go wild and try out all kinds of mathematics games. In the primary school years you have the greatest impact when children play and learn at the same time. Make the most of this and you will be teaching them how to make mathematics fun!
As a tutor, you love math and this is contagious, as long as you keep things relevant. Continue focusing on the practical aspect of mathematics in day-to-day life and really demonstrate how maths can make our lives easier.
Consider coming up with real-life scenarios and play them out with your student to reinforce any principles they may have recently learned.
When you’re in play-mode, keep it natural. Incorporate a money concept where you can, that’s a sure-fire way of keeping things relevant! Ask maths problems disguised as casual questions as you go along and do fun things that you enjoy too. Maybe play some cards or board games. And you can never run out of fun number puzzles!
The reason mathematics games are so effective is because they’re practical as opposed to the general abstract experience of numbers on a page. Simple examples like using a real clock when teaching a child to tell the time can make a huge difference.
Set up shop in the comfort of home and watch the penny drop as children play and learn with money. Show them how they can put the new skills they’ve learned into good use.
Let the students take control of creating scenarios too. Children excel at imaginary games and as they go along you can throw in extra challenges like budgeting or designing a menu with prices.
Add extra challenges to keep older students on their toes. Perhaps ask for a discount and help them work out percentages etc. Be sure to allow them to be both the business owner and the client, in turn, in order for them to fully understand the concept of exchanging money.
Use the Internet to help students solve Maths problems. ⎢Source: Unsplash
There is a plethora of wonderful teaching aids and printable Math worksheets on the internet. Make the most of this free library and explore the different ways you can create a fun Math experience for the student.
You may find it worthwhile to visit National Education Collaboration Trust to get an overview of what is expected from Grade 1 to Grade 12. This is especially useful if you find that a student is complaining about a particular aspect of his or her school Math practice.
Have a look at the many free online maths tools available if you want to branch away from the mainstream and just work on the basics while using fun games.
First off, really take the time to investigate and experiment with different options. Despite all the information out there, sometimes the best ideas are our own. After all, you are the one that really knows your student, and understands how they tick and which methods are most likely to keep them engaged.
Be sure to try out any apps or websites yourself before you recommend them to your students. As the tutor, it’s your responsibility to act as a quality controller.
Basically, you’ve got to do your homework before making use of online tools. And definitely make sure that they will encourage your students to love math. It is also important to assess if things are age-appropriate and enjoyable to use.
When using fun Math games, it is still always worth outlining a basic lesson plan just to be sure that you are attending to all the aspects that need work. Even if you deviate as the lesson goes on, the point is to be well prepared for both work and play.
Stay flexible and follow the pace of your student, even if it means you might not be covering all you intended to. The real focus should be on ensuring your students are learning to enjoy mathematics. Pay attention to what works and be willing to ditch the methods that do not.
Sometimes children learn better outside of the classroom. ⎢Source: Unsplash
Create a fun learning environment. Don’t put pressure on yourself or your students if something you planned does not seem to be working. When tutoring, it’s always a learning curve for all involved, that’s really the beauty of it. See what doesn’t work and try to figure out why. Each time you’ll be more prepared. Remember, it’s about helping the student improve his or her Math skills while, at the same time, cultivating a love for maths!
Ending off by leaving a student with an assignment for them to complete independently is not always a bad idea (as long as you know it’s something they are capable of doing on their own). And of course it still has to be fun. Try something as straightforward as a new math app on their phone and encourage them to get to the next level.
Working on their own can empower students to take control of their journey towards enjoying mathematics. The critical thing is that the tasks are not tedious or frustrating but leave the student with a sense of accomplishment, setting them up to truly love math.