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Learn Maths the Fun Way: Remove the Stress from Studying

From Imogen, published on 29/05/2017 We Love Prof - UK > Academia > Maths > Maths Help: Overcoming Mental Blocks in Mathematics

Maths is a best-seller in the market for private tuition.

Children often talk about being ‘stuck’ when they are struggling to work out how to solve a problem. This can leave them feeling sub-standard or left behind.

However, these children are not necessarily less intellectual than their classmates. In fact, they’re often bright and good at problem-solving in their day-to-day lives, meaning they’re perfectly capable of discovering their inner scholar.

For instance, when a child has a mental block when playing a video game, they look for Youtube tutorials and forums to help them get past the challenge.

When they have to travel from their home to their school or college, they are able to organise themselves to get there on time by working out which buses to take.

If they take up a new hobby such as skateboarding, they know they have to try and try again, because practice makes perfect!

Young people have no problem proving their determination when it comes to their lives outside of the education system, but for some reason, mental blocks in maths are too much and can even leave them with a fear of the subject.

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Why Younger Learners often Need Maths Help

Mental blocks in maths stem from many different places. Maybe the student doesn’t understand the objective of a certain maths concept, or they don’t see maths as anything but a way of assessing academic performance in school.

There are many theories and suggestions as to why this many be the case:

The Student feels Overwhelmed with Mathematical Vocabulary

A teacher or private maths tutor will introduce children to the language of maths, however, some of this involved redefining everyday words, which can be confusing. One such term is ‘square root’, which is different to the root of a tree, for example, or ‘translation’, which is usually used in the context of languages – not graphing.

Take your time and learn the language of maths by practising maths word problems It’s hard to understand what you’re being taught if you feel overwhelmed with jargon! ¦ source: Pixabay

Students are often surprised when asked, “what line are these points found on?” and the line is a parabola. In mathematics, a line is not always straight, which goes against the everyday idea of a line.

Since maths teachers don’t always realise these lexical ambiguities, they often forget to explain them, and so students can see mathematical vocabulary as a foreign language.

The Student has not Understood the Basics

Comprehensions issues with the basics of maths such as how to use different symbols can have a negative effect down the line.

Building a firm foundation of knowledge is critical to succeed in a maths education since all mathematical topics are linked and rely on each other to be explained.

So if a student is unsure of what is meant by ‘integer’, ‘decimal’ or ‘real number’, or the reason why you would replace a number with a letter (as in algebra and calculus), they get lost in confusion.

Some common misunderstandings include:

  • = means ‘is equal to’, whilst ≠ means ‘is not equal to’
  • why you change the direction of an inequality if it is multiplied by -2, but not when multiplying by 2
  • why -x can be a positive value
  • why x(y+z)=xy+xz but x(y+z)≠xy+z

Being expected to know all of these maths facts off the top of your head can be daunting and even cause anxiety related to maths, which leads to a ‘brain fog’.

The Student Doesn’t Realise that Feeling Unsure is Completely Normal

For some, the dizzying frustration of forgetting something they thought they knew can demoralise students and make them want to move onto another topic.

There is also the fear of ‘sounding silly’ in front of classmates when asking their educator a question. However, making mistakes and asking for clarification is key to truly understanding a notion.

To feel able to do this, you need help feeling at ease in your learning environment, which is often difficult in a class of 30 of your peers.

Individualised Approach with a Maths Tutor Helps Self-Esteem

Supplemental instruction with the help of a one on one maths tutor can rebuild a student’s confidence in their abilities by taking the strengths and weaknesses of the learner into account to create a tailored study plan.

The role of a private home maths tutor goes beyond teaching. Before becoming a tutor, educators must understand that one on one tutoring jobs involve mentoring and coaching as well as teaching the subject they are passionate about.

This means helping students prove their preconceptions about their abilities wrong before providing math homework help and assisting with trigonometry and geometry or advising for A level qualifications preparation or GCSE maths revision.

The best tutors make sure that their students are well equipped with personalised study skills that suit their pupils’ way of thinking.

Self-confidence and a positive mindset are crucial to making substantial progress in maths, both in private home tutoring and in school math.

Help your child find their inner mathematician and give them the confidence to speak up in class Find a tutor and see your child grow ¦ source: Pixabay

Private tutors provide a calm learning environment which is free from distractions but has plenty of math resources (such as maths games and math worksheets) and an encouraging attitude, so the tutee feels able to discuss course content and ask plenty of questions.

Feeling free to make mistakes and try again without judgement is key to helping the pupil prove their abilities to themselves.

The way lessons are delivered in schools is not always suitable for the various study strategies of each student. Teachers may move too quickly or go too slow – so one to one math tutoring services can be invaluable to students who need a bit of a boost to fit into the school system.

Using Games to Learn Maths

A common and effective method to help children overcome mental blocks in maths is to approach problems from a completely different angle by playing fun maths games!

Detaching maths from the realm of worksheets, test preparation and exams and using it in a playful context allows students to realise that maths is fun and can, therefore, motivate them to persevere in their studies.

There are hundreds of maths games on the market and online, each one helping players to get to grips with a particular maths concept.

Anti-Virus

The ‘bio-logical game’, Anti-Virus is a 1-player reasoning challenge where players must move the pieces in such a way that will get rid of the ‘virus’ piece. After arranging the pieces on the board according to one of the 60 game cards, the aim is to clear a path for the red virus.

Anti-Virus improves reasoning skills. Just like in maths problems, there is an objective to achieve and rules to follow.

To ‘win’ the game, you have to unblock the path by moving other pieces out of the way. So there is a sort of ‘sub-objective’ which is removing the obstacles before achieving the ‘real aim’ of removing the virus. This is similar to many aspects of maths, where you have to factorise a quadratic equation before solving for x, for example.

Depending on the level of difficulty you choose, you’ll have a different number of ‘sub-objectives’. This way of problem-solving can improve patience and persistence.

Students can develop their own learning strategies with games like this, as they can memorise a certain type of obstacle and remember how to overcome it, and apply these skills to maths problems.

Anti-Virus is all about using trial and error to develop academic skills that can be applied to maths and improve chances of academic success.

Set: The Family Game of Visual Perception

Set is a card game where the picture on each card has a colour, shape, shading and number of shapes. Each card is unique but shares features with other cards in the pack.

Out of 12 cards laid in front of them, players must identify sets of 3 cards having one quality in common, or a set of 3 cards sharing absolutely no qualities.

The first player to identify a ‘set’ wins the round and the game starts again.

This game develops association abilities (which is useful for coming up with solutions in maths). Set is also about quick-thinking abilities and fast reactions, which is useful for linking types of mathematical expressions.

24 Game: Single Digit/Double Digits

The aim of the 24 game is to use addition, subtraction, multiplication and division to make the number 24 from all four numbers given on a game card, but using each number only once.

For example, if a card has the numbers 1,2,3 and 4, you can do:

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

The number of dots on each card indicate difficulty levels, with 1 dot being an easy maths problem and a 3 dot being the most difficult.

This is obviously a brilliant game to get children thinking about how they can manipulate number to reach a solution.

Seeing the Playful Side of Maths Can Help Students Overcome their Fears

Each of these three games is entertaining and helps develop the useful problem-solving skills which are used in maths.

Reintroducing disengaged students to maths through games like these can save their academic career and inspire them to study it as a higher level.

Learning through alternative methods such as this one can help students discover their skills and encourage them to use them in the context of their education.

Course content can be adapted to the individual learning style of the child, and the learner feels free to invent their own methods or ‘games’ to get around problems – rather than giving up.

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