A simple A4 poster to help remind a child what to do

Don’t Panic! Here are three simple sentences which I have found to have positive impact on a child’s mind-set

Don’t Guess

Sometimes when a child reads a question in a SAT test or 11+ entrance exam, they panic. Then their brain starts to close down. Then they start to guess, which is just about the worst possible thing to do.

It is hugely important to not panic and the first thing to remember to help stay cool in an exam is to not guess.

Break it Down

Often on first reading, a question is difficult to understand. That’s why it is very important to break it down. That’s exactly what the examiners want the child to do – to extract the numbers and relationships from the text of the question. If there are ten red apples and fifteen green, the child should write down 10R and 15G – in part to engage their brains in breaking down the question.

Often there’s an “Ah-ha!” moment, when after breaking the question down, a child suddenly realises what the question is asking. By the “Ah-ha!” often doesn’t happen unless the break-down comes first.

Work it Out

Once a child has all the required information they can begin to work out the answer. But this short sentence isn’t just about working it out, it’s about SHOWING that you’re working it out.

Remember that if a question in a paper is worth 3 marks, you can bet that at least one of those and possibly two is for showing your working out.

Free A4 Poster

Ok, I’m not a professional poster designer, but click on this link for a simple A4 poster to print at home (opens a PDF). Stick it to the wall next to where your child does their homework:

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What’s the best way to keep up with Maths over the holidays?

Whether you’re staying at home or heading off somewhere on holiday, there are easy ways to keep up with Maths

It’s never easy persuading a child to get on with some maths whether you’re at home or away on holiday or with relatives.

The first and most important thing to do is manage expectation. Don’t spring a ten-minute maths paper on your child unexpectedly. Instead, agree and plan up front what will be done and when.

It is FAR BETTER to do a little each day than a lot once a week.

In that respect the ten-minute maths books are very useful – as are freely available maths worksheets such as Ninja Maths and Maths is Fun.

TRY THIS: Have a chat with your child making it clear that a reward such as screen-time can only happen once they’ve shown you a completed worksheet (e.g. from Ninja Maths).

Make it clear that they should do this every day – maybe with the exception of Sunday 😉

If you plan to have a mock exam at home, it is vitally important that you discuss this in advance with your child and agree a date and time in advance.

It is also important to make it clear that the marking process will take place after the mock-exam at which point the child is expected to re-try any questions which they did not answer correctly.

Also worth noting that bribery really works, so relating screen-time or some other reward works well up to a certain age.

If all this seems tough – remember this quote:

If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.

Attributed to Eppie Lederer, the woman who wrote under the “Ann Landers” pseudonym in 1975.

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Colouring-in shapes to understand fractions is a powerful way of learning

By far the best way for a child to learn fractions (and then decimals and percentages) is to actually draw then by colouring in shapes

Once a child has spent some DRAWING fractions they will have the confidence and ability to make the leap into numbers without the need to see shapes.

In an online tutorial I start with simple shapes and fractions – for example to colour in a half or a quarter of a rectangle broken down into four squares.

Once a child is used to this, they can SEE how to add 1/4 and 3/8.

Once a child has moved on from drawing fractions visually they can always go back to this method if they need to for more advanced geometry.

In an online tutorial a child has time to solve ten or more fractions by drawing them out, with which I will be assisting.

It can take as little as one or two sessions for the child to “click” how fractions work. You can almost hear it!

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How Often Should a Child Practice Maths after a Weekly Tutorial?

When possible, a child should practice their maths every day, feeding back to parents and the tutor any questions which they found difficult

Think of getting better at maths as getting better at playing an instrument.

If a child misses a day or so here and there it shouldn’t matter too much. But to not practice for a week (even through long holidays) is a mistake and will move a child’s abilities in the wrong direction.

Tutoring is a great way to target any questions which a child finds difficult – in a way that teachers simply can’t because they’re looking after so many children at school.

A child should try to practice maths every day, make a list of any questions they found difficult (e.g. from school homework or from home study workbooks). It is VITALLY IMPORTANT to let your tutor what your child found to be difficult so they can focus on that subject in a tutorial, practice more, understand it, and deliver results in the exams.

Please contact the Tutor Dragon if you need any help especially using homework to target weaknesses to fix:

Building confidence during online tutorials

A fantastic by-product of the online tutorial is the child gaining confidence to ask valuable questions as they learn

I have noticed over the years that when a child first starts being tutored, they are very reserved and often hesitant about either saying they don’t understand, or asking any further questions.

This is understandable and is a challenge for the online tutor.

This generally improves over time, but one excellent way to bring this forward asap is to get a child to ask ME a questions.

For example, I might ask a child to work out a percentage or a fraction division relating to money. After I think they’ve got the hang of it I ask them to ask me a question.

On the iPad they might write something like 1/4 divided by 3/7. I tell them in advance that I might get it wrong (on purpose hopefully) and they have to check my working out and let me know how many marks I deserve.

This is a great way to up the dialog and to make sure they can answer their own question. It is often a bit of fun and very engaging for the child.

Sometimes I like to make an obvious error to make sure they’re fully engaged.

The by-product of this is increased questioning from the child which anecdotally also transfers into the classroom which I see as a huge win for the child.

Bespoke Online Maths Tuition

Bespoke online maths tuition can significantly improve your child’s ability by focusing on the topics he or she needs to focus on the most

At school a maths teacher has to work with a lot of children across a broad range of abilities. This works in general, but if a child is struggling with one particular topic – e.g. fractions and percentages, the teacher may not be able to give the child all the help they need to master the topic.

This is were online maths tuition is so valuable.

The Tutor Dragon can focus on the one topic your child has been struggling with to make sure they master that topic.

The outcome is three-fold;

Firstly, your child will be much more confident in the classroom. It cannot be overstated how important this psychological aspect of learning is.

Secondly, by overcoming one topic, it raises your child’s numeracy in general. Learning how to work out percentages involves a lot of multiplication, division, addition and subtraction as well as relating maths to the real world.

Thirdly, higher scores in the exams. A high or low score in a few questions relating to fractions for example can make the difference between an A and a B, or a B and a C for example.

A Free Introductory Session with the Tutor Dragon

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Reminder: You’ll need an iPad or touch-screen and a stylus – free Tutor Dragon notepad and Dragon stylus when you sign up for your first paid tutorial.

Children learn more by doing than listening

During a tutorial a child learns a lot because they’re listening, learning and most importantly DOING…

In a classroom a child will listen, hopefully learn and then during homework recall.

In the classroom it is not possible to each each child to come up to the front and show whether or not they’ve understood how to work out perimeter and area of an irregular shape. Only when the teacher marks their homework will any lack of understanding become apparent.

In an online tutorial however, a child will be called upon continually to show they’ve understood and to recall this by solving a similar but different problem.

The aim of every online tutorial is for the child to be able to understand a topic more deeply and to use recall and experience to solve similar but different problems.

Fractions Tutorial Work Best Online

Learning fractions addition and subtraction visually is a great way to secure fractions numeracy

Fractions lend themselves to be taught online very well, enabling both tutor and tutee to colour in boxes, rub them out, add them up and simplify the answers.

Below is a screenshot from a recent tutorial I had with a Y3 child who has just begun to learn about fractions.

It is great to see a child suddenly understand that four eighths is the same as a half.

Often a couple of fractions tutorials BEFORE a child starts to learn fractions at school gives them a HUGE advantage in understanding the basics which will enable them to not only keep up with the class, but often to lead the class and the homework.

The benefits of aerobic exercise on children’s mental performance

Experiments and observations indicate that any kind of physical activity for a child has educational benefits including enhanced attention.

There’s a great new book called “Educational Neuroscience: Development Across the Life Span” which is:

“The first volume to bring together the latest knowledge on the development of educational neuroscience from a life-span perspective, this important text offers state of the art, authoritative research findings in educational neuroscience before providing evidence-based recommendations for classroom practice.”

One key take away is:

“Twenty minutes of moderate exercise improved planning but not attention in 9-10 year olds. But twelve minutes of intensive exercise such are running on a track boosted attention.”

What to do over the summer holiday before starting Secondary School

In the UK the beginning of Secondary School is Year 7 when children are typically 11 years old. Here are a few ideas on how to prepare over the summer holiday before starting.

Read a lot

A visit online or to your favourite book store is useful to start reading books which are a notch more difficult than what your child may have been used to. Of extra value are non-fiction books such as encyclopaedias covering subjects such as Geography and History.

Audio Books

Following on from the point above, listening to audio books (fiction and non-fiction) aimed at early teens is a useful way to help increase vocabulary and the complexity of sentence structure.

Workbooks

Yes I hate to say, but buying a few Year 7 / KS3 workbooks is a good idea – not to finish but at least to have a go and to understand some of the key concepts especially in Maths. Always useful is to start working on more complex algebra and geometry.

Writing

It almost doesn’t matter what a child wants to write about, but it is worth a child spending a good amount of time every week over the summer holiday writing about anything. It’s useful to mix this 50/50 writing by hand and writing on a computer. This is also a useful time to build vocabulary and practice more complex sentence structures.

Get Organised

Compared to Primary School there’ll be a lot more work at school and home work, so you’ll need to figure our what works best for your child in terms of keeping track of everything. I’m a fan of using post-it notes on the wall above a child’s desk to keep track of Mon-Fri and also Sat & Sun for the homework schedule. A whiteboard is also a great idea which enables the child to draw out their own organisation.