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.

Check the Marks and Plan the Answer

It is vitally important to know how many marks a question is worth and to think how to pick up all those marks

Some questions on an exam paper are worth one mark. For example an 11+ paper that might be a questions such as 1.5 x 3. For such questions it is fine to write down the answer.

If a question has two marks available that normally means the person doing the marking wants to see some working out or articulation of an intermediate result. For example if the question is how much change would you get from £10 when buying two pens at £2 each.

Most exam papers progress to longer and more complex questions as they go along. If a question has four marks available it is worth a child checking that first and then spending literally ten seconds working out what they need to articulate on the paper to secure all four marks.

Think of it as a game.

You’re driving Super Mario along the road and you want to drive over the coins as you go picking up as many points as you can.

I’ve seen very clever children lose marks on mock tests I’ve run because they’re sometimes “too” clever. They can work out the answer to a four step question (see the example below) in their head and just write down the answer. Unfortunately the answer is only worth one mark. It’s all the working out and sub-totals which score the other three marks.

As part of my tutoring I focus strongly on exam technique, including making sure you’re picking up all the points as you go.

Contact me using the form below for a free introductory online maths tutorial:

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.


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.


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.

Online maths tutorials for children moving to an English Speaking country

If your family is moving to an English speaking country we can help with online maths tutorials which will help with numeracy and English fluency.


The Tutor Dragon has experience tutoring children where English is not their first language.

The maths tutorials are mostly numerical using a shared whiteboard with the tutor and the child talking via WhatsApp (or similar application such as Skype of KakaoTalk).

Before or After Moving to an English Speaking Country

Whether you are about to, or have already moved to an English speaking country, the Tutor Dragon can help your child with mathematical numeracy and English fluency using the vocabulary your child will be using at school and with their homework.

The sessions are all online and you will ideally need an iPad or device with a touch-screen and a stylus.


Please contact the Tutor Dragon for a free introductory session.

London Maths Tutor

I deliver most of my maths tuition online using virtual whiteboards but I also run face-to-face sessions near where I live in London.

11+ Exam Simulation and Marking

I am happy to run 11+ exam simulations either individually or in groups. This includes Maths, English, Verbal and Non-Verbal papers.

I will also mark all the papers and revert not only with scores but also with recommended next steps for each of the children.

Grammar & Private School Entrance Exam Practice

As with the 11+ practice I run Grammar and Private School entrance exam practice.

Remember that the 11+ exams are typically at the beginning of September and the entrance exams are typically in January, four months later.

Contact the Tutor Dragon for a Quote

Contact me for a quote, including postcode and the number of children requiring tuition and/or exam simulation

The benefits to a child of studying in a noisy environment

Although noise in the classroom is a negative factor for learning, some level of noise and/or chaos in the home environment can be healthy.

We are not suggesting that constant noise and chaos at home are desirable, but anecdotal evidence suggests that when a child gets used to dealing with noise and unexpected events at home – e.g. someone at the front door or a crying younger sibling, it can help with a child’s ability to stay focussed during study.

This in turn can help a child during SAT’s, exams and even in a noisy classroom.


If a child can ONLY study and complete test papers in the silence and solitude of their room, this may not translate to good results in a real exam situation if the child has not built up some immunity from surrounding noise and unexpected events.

The best approach to practicing 11+ papers

Here are a few tips and ideas if your child is practicing 11+ papers

Make a Plan

Plan each exam session and agree with your child in advance where and when the exam will be. It is not so successful saying to your child “Right, we’re doing an exam now”. Much better to agree 24hrs in advance.

Simulate the test environment as best you can

The child should use the exact same pencil case with pencils, ruler, rubber, sharpener etc as they will use in the real exam. The child should be left alone for the duration of the exam simulation and of course they are not allowed to ask for any help whatsoever.

Go to the toilet first

An often overlooked step in the exam process. Get into the habit of going to the toilet before every exam.

Mark the paper with the child after a short break

Don’t mark the paper immediately after the test as the child will need a break, but don’t leave it until a week later or they would have forgotten the questions and what they specifically struggled with. Ideally you should have the exam after breakfast then mark the paper in the afternoon with the child.

Focus on the positive

As you mark each question, emphasise the positive. One of the most common mistakes is not showing enough working out. If a question was too hard for the child, continue marking then come back to it.

Identify areas requiring improvement

After marking the paper with the child, list out the questions which cause problems and where the child dropped points. It is not sufficient to work through the answer, the root gap in understanding has to be identified and addressed. For example was the underlying issue decoding text into numbers, or not understanding a percentage, or misunderstanding the units required in the answer (another common mistake).

Contact Neil at Tutor Dragon

Please contact me if you’d like a free introductory session.

How often should my child take a break while home schooling?

Working from home is not the same as being at school so it is generally a mistake to try and replicate the school-day at home.

Instead, find a new rhythm which works for you and your child / children.

For example breakfast may be later in the morning than usual, but it’s still a good idea to try and start work by 9am.

School normally ends at about 3:30pm, but at home study can continue to 5pm if there are more frequent breaks throughout the day.

In general it’s best to save any screen time until after the school work has been completed. It can be difficult for a child to re-focus on work having watched a movie after lunch.

If you child is working on maths, it might be a good idea to do this for up to 45 minutes and then take a break. If on the other hand the child is writing an essay or answering an English Comprehension it can be better to continue for over an hour until the comprehension has finished.

Year 6 Excel and Money Tutorials

We’re very pleased to announce our Excel and Money tutorials for Year 6.

The tutorials begin with a refresher about money – e.g. units, calculations etc which transfer into looking at saving, spending, discounts (percentages), as well as how to set saving goals and what interest is.

The tutorials also include some Excel work such as that shown in the picture above.

The tutorials are flexible so if the child wants to focus on the money or Excel aspects we can cater for that. For example if the child wants to focus entirely on Excel we can run tutorials for example on data, formulas and charts, up to and including Visual Basic (similar to Python).

No prior experience of Excel is required, although you should have it installed on your laptop at home (we recommend a Chromebook if your child does not already have a laptop).

Please contact us for a free introductory session: