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.

How can I encourage my child to do their homework well?

At times it’s not easy to get your son or daughter to do all their homework on time and to a good level of quality. Here are some ideas:

Don’t shout

Don’t shout if they don’t understand something. There can be many reasons to shout but this isn’t one of them. No matter how loud you should it won’t help a child understand something, in fact it will just close up their brain.

Get help from a teacher

If your son is unable to do their homework, make sure they go to the teacher and ask for help. Try calling up the teacher a couple of days later to see if it has happened and if it hasn’t, it’s over to you to arrange it.

Work it out at home

Don’t worry if you don’t understand the questions. If your daughter is trying to work out a percentage, try working out the answer on a calculator and see if they can get to that answer, or try googling how to work out this problem. If you do it together it’s an intellectual and emotional win for both of you.

Think long term

A great way to give rewards to your child is not on every piece of homework or on every test, but at the end of each half-term results. Reward good results at the end of a half-term and issue reasonable consequences if grades have slipped. Consequences should always be discussed in advance so they’re not a sudden shock for the child. A popular consequence is loss of the Xbox or screen time for a month.

This allows for the occasional mistake or poor results in a test and puts focus on the overall progression.

Email the Tutor Dragon for advice

I’m happy to answer emails when I get time so please feel free to email me with any questions regarding homework, performance and rewards & consequences.

A Summary of the Singapore Maths Model of teaching

Concrete, Pictorial, Abstract (CPA) is a highly effective approach to teaching that develops a deep and sustainable understanding of maths in pupils. Often referred to as the concrete, representational, abstract framework, CPA was developed by American psychologist Jerome Bruner. It is an essential technique within the Singapore method of teaching maths for mastery.

The approach to maths education in Primary Schools used in Singapore since 1981 is based on the work of Jerome Bruner – an American psychologist.

Bruner developed a technique called “CPA” which stands for Concrete, Pictorial, Abstract”.


This means that children are first introduced to maths using concrete objects such as cubes, balls and the wonderful Cuisenaire rods developed in the 1950’s.


Once children have established a mathematical understanding of shapes, sizes and their relation with each other they can move on to Pictorial, which means drawings such as geometric shapes used in workbooks.

The pictorial phase also includes the ability to read charts and understand fractions and ratio’s visually.


The final stage is abstract, which means that maths is reduced to symbols which represent numbers, shapes and operators etc. This includes algebra but also includes things like degrees of a circle, fractions and percentages etc.

Visual Learning

All this reinforces the case for visual learning which is delivered very well by online tutoring.

Still not convinced?

In the fifteen years since Singapore adopted Concrete, Pictorial, Abstract approach it has topped the global Maths achievement tests in 1995, 1999, 2003 and 2007 and in all other years come very close to the top.

Free introductory maths tutorial session anywhere in the world

Email the Tutor Dragon to secure a free twenty minute maths tutorial session which will be online using a shared whiteboard.

Before the session you should email an example of school work or home study with which your child may be struggling and need help. This will give purpose to the free session and make it of use to you.

All you need is a touch-screen laptop, iPad or similar and ideally a stylus so the child can interact with the whiteboard.

Online maths tutorials start in Hong Kong

Very pleased to announce we’re starting online maths tutorials with clients in Hong Kong.

Sessions are run out of London starting at 6AM London time which is currently 1PM in Hong Kong.

We accept payment in HKD via a PayPal link.

Please get in contact if you are interested in booking a free introductory session, which will help check the technology works for you.

As a reminder, you need a touch-screen device like an iPad or laptop with a touch screen, and a stylus which is easier to use than trying to do maths with your finger.

Ideas on how to structure home study

As much as the content of home study is important, so is the way you structure it, allowing for change depending on the child’s feedback.

A hundred pages of maths given to a child on a Monday and asking them to finish by Friday is not a useful approach.

Structure is just as important to a child as is the content of the work they’re doing.

One way to approach this is to split the day into morning and afternoon. Each of these can then be split into two or three working periods allowing for breaks.

Giving a child two pages of maths and two pages of English will result in better focus for parent and child in terms of what has to be done, by when and to what level of quality.

Allow the child to offer feedback and make sure you listen to that feedback. A child may offer “Can I spend the afternoon doing English because I have to write a story, so I can do the maths half this morning and half tomorrow morning?”. Creative feedback and planning coming from the child is great and unless unreasonable should be worked into your daily plan.

It potentially means more work for the parent, but it will make everyones day easier if the days work is dividd into clearly defined chunks and times.

What should a child do between each tutorial?

Between each tutorial a child should practice what has been taught in the tutorial and try working on a new topic to be covered in the next tutorial.

A tutor should give two types of homework for a child to do between tutorial sessions. The first is a series of questions to make sure the child has secured what has been taught in the last tutorial session. This gives the tutor a good idea if that topic (e.g. percentages) needs any further work.

Secondly, the tutor can cover new work in the tutorial and give an example say on how to convert a percentage to a fraction, then give the child some questions covering that new work.

This gives the chid an opportunity to try out a little bit of learning over some new questions and prepares them for the next tutorial.

Only a few questions are required – I suggest a maximum of 5 to tests the previous subject has been secured, and 5 to test new territory.

Please contact me if you have any questions or are interested in an initial free session.

How to mix & match workbooks in preparation for the 11+

By far the best way to approach the 11+ and/or SATS and independent school entrance exams is to mix and match between ten minute tests and full exam paper simulations.

Ten Minute Maths Tests

Often there is no time for a child to sit a full simulated 11+ exam paper, especially during the week when other homework is at hand.

Ten minute tests are best done during the week, in the car, at a cafe or wherever you happen to be.

Three ten minute sessions spread over a day is generally a more effective strategy than one 30 minute session.

One further tip – a child should not go straight from doing a test to screen time. A period of relaxation and mental consolidation is best after a test, not stimulation via TV or the Xbox!

Eleven Plus Exam Simulation

In tandem with ten minute tests, one or two full exam simulations per weekend is a good idea.

Here are some useful strategies:

The child should tag any questions they found too hard. These are the ones you need to focus on.

Make sure you go through the paper and mark it immediately after the child has finished.

Do not berate the child for any questions they got wrong or did not attempt. Instead, see such questions as an opportunity to review how to approach this kind of question to gain more points in the future.

If the child shows a gap in their knowledge in a particular topic over a number of pages – e.g. algebra, then spend an hour to review that topic to strengthen the child’s ability in this area. Targeted tuition like this is invaluable.

For more ideas and information please contact me for a free trial session.

Python Tuition for Children Online

Schools are increasingly adopting Python as the programming language of choice. As well as online maths tuition, Tutor Dragon offers Python tutoring and support.

Python is called an “interpreted” language so you can run it over a browser if you don’t want to install a full IDE (Integrated Development Environment). For example:

print(“Hello World!”)

x = 1

print “x = ” + str(x)

x = x + 100

print “Now x = ” + str(x)

Python should work using a browser on Windows, Apple and Chrome – to get off the ground try pasting the above few lines of code into and click “Run”:

Python is a high-level language and is very easy to learn form scratch which is probably why many schools globally use it as the standard language to learn in the classroom rather than say Java, C++ or Visual Basic (VB).

If your child needs any help with python please contact us for a free introductory session: