I’m finding it hard to keep one of my primary students interested during tutoring. Her attention span is short, so even fun methods previously used are getting boring. Currently we are learning division – are there any fun games for this as I am trying to make it entertaining, but he is just not responding?
Sometimes it is a serious challenge to keep students engaged and interested. Expecting that a student will always be interested in maths tutoring is unrealistic but serves as a worthy goal. Helping a student manage their motivational peaks and troughs is part of the tutoring process.
What will certainly help is if the student has some awareness that they can perform better. You may want to ask the student if they have any ideas about how to make maths tutoring more interesting; perhaps consult with the parents if it is a serious issue. As long as you are nice and friendly about it, students usually respond reasonably well to confrontation – it makes them feel adult and respected. You could ask her why she is disinterested, what can she do to be more interested, what can you do to help etc?
Just be mindful not to make the student feel like they are “wrong” in some way but rather that it is normal to have variable interest levels. The important thing is to maximize her interest and achieve her goals. Establish a sense of co-operation and teamwork.
Also, if you really slow down and make sure the student really, really understands the ideas this usually serves to create interest. It may take way too long to do this always but when a student has that “aha” moment it makes them feel smart. Smartness is a good feeling and serves to maintain motivation and interest. Perhaps give extra credit to her and praise small successes to get her feeling this way?
Also, monitor how much time you spend talking and writing Vs how much time the student spends talking and writing. The student may be getting bored if they are not being sufficiently involved in the tutorial.
There are plenty of games to be found online. However, it is probably better to focus on the more global issue of creating interest for mathematics. A gimmick to make this particular topic more interesting may help but will only deal with the symptoms rather than cause of disinterest..