I once taught a student who had no confidence in herself because she had been scoring less than 30% for her Mathematics exam since Primary 4. Let’s call her Kate (not her real name).
In speaking to Kate’s mother in a Face-to-face consultation, she revealed that Kate can’t seem to understand the modelling method and this made it very challenging for Kate to solve problem sums in Upper Primary.
After the consultation, we agreed on starting a class for Kate so we could observe how she solved her Problem Sums, and in particular, what was preventing her from understanding the modelling method.
To my surprise, just after one lesson, it became very obvious that Kate had an innate talent and interest in handicraft and artwork. She would go on and on about her knitting hobbies, and the many beautiful things she made for her family and friends through knitting.
Without brushing that aside, we took special note that knitting, which Kate is so good at, is a very kinaesthetic and tactile activity. Furthermore, it actually requires a lot of patience and attention to detail – which is a great asset for Math!
With this incredible insight into Kate’s learning style, I changed our teaching method to suit her abilities, interests, and talents.
So instead of drawing plain boxes on the worksheets, I gave her some colourful candies and lollipops to represent the units in the models.
I noticed her attention immediately spiked when she could touch and feel the candies. She also understood well how the candies represented a unit of the items in the problem sum.
By demonstrating how the items in the problem sums are being transferred, we would guide her to shift the candies to see for herself how it will affect the model. After helping her with a few questions, she was able to solve the rest without guidance! And she did so happily and willingly!
With just a little tweak in the teaching method, Kate was able to demonstrate a much stronger level of understanding in the Math concepts, and more importantly, started to gain more confidence in herself and her Math abilities.
In order to learn effectively, it is crucial to first identify the way that your child learns best. According to the VARK model, there are four primary types of learners: visual, auditory, reading/writing and kinaesthetic.
Kate was more of a kinaesthetic learner.
As such, she might not learn best in a typical classroom setting in which all the students are required to sit still and listen attentively to the teacher for long periods of time.
This led me to conclude that Kate was no less intelligent or able that her other classmates. She was simply made to sit in an environment that was using the WRONG teaching method for her.
When she finds a certain topic hard to understand, she would start to lose interest in the subject.
Mandatory homework and assessments that adopt a more drilling approach (i.e. practice, practice, practice!), rather than helping her understand the concepts in a way that suits her learning style, would result in more frustration and perhaps even hatred for the subject.
As there are around 30 to 40 children in a class, usually teachers have no choice but to adopt one teaching method that is suitable for the majority of children. And this may or may not be the most effective method for your child.
As clichéd as it may sound, I strongly believe that every child is special; they have their own learning styles and patterns. In order to maximise their potential, it is vital that we tap on their preferences to make it easier for them to understand and apply the knowledge they learn.
This is where personalised learning comes into play. Robert et al. (2016) states that individualised learning promotes a more efficient and active learning environment that meets the specific needs of each student.
Coaches can also evaluate the performance of student and design assignments that tailor to the weaknesses.
By allowing your child to learn at his/her own pace, it prevents him from falling behind and potentially losing interest in studying.
While writing this article, her mom called me and told me about her child’s score in her recent Math quiz.
She was so happy that she scored 75% (as her previous scores were always below 30%)!
She also mentioned that her child enjoys herself in the class and she feel much more satisfied and confident, now that she can solve more problem sums on her own.
To her, the decision to come down to our centre for the Face to Face consultation a few weeks ago became the turning point for her child in Maths. It was through the interactions we had during the short 45 minutes, I was able to better understand her child’s situation in Maths and thus devise a learning plan that will maximise her potential.
If you want to find out more about your child’s current learning style, and how it can be applied to the teaching of Math Problem Sums, do come for our FREE (for a limited time) Face to Face consultation with experienced Math Coaches.
The things that I found most useful: (1) The coach could explain my child’s weaknesses and strengths clearly. (2) She also proposed feasible solutions. (3) Going through the full set of exam paper to recognize the strength & weaknesses of the student.”
– Gillian Kan, Mother of P6 student, Leanne
Thank you coach. You’ve given us a very clear and detailed insight into what to expect as the years progress towards PSLE; and what steps we can take to help towards understanding concepts that will be useful in problem sums.
– Kavitha, Mother of P3 student, Sailesh
Alternatively you can contact us via any of the following methods..
Phone: +65 8797 5770
SMS/Whatsapp: +65 8797 5770
Math Consultant at Math Scholars Singapore
What did you learn from this post?
Has your child experienced similar confidence problems, like Kate?
Let us know in the comments below!
Vark-learn.com. (2017). The VARK Modalities | VARK. [online] Available at: http://vark-learn.com/introduction-to-vark/the-vark-modalities/ [Accessed 20 Jul. 2017].
Roberts-Mahoney, H., Means, A., & Garrison, M. (2016). Netflixing human capital development: personalized learning technology and the corporatization of K-12 education. Journal of Education Policy, 1-16. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02680939.2015.1132774