I’d say that my biggest achievement while being a tutor was taking a year 12 general math student from around 30 per cent up to and above 90 per cent within a few months. We began tuition a few months into the year, and from what I understood, this student, (we will call him D for the purpose of this article), was having a hard time with all of his subjects. I noticed the lack of confidence in his work straight away, he did not think he was a smart student and was expected to achieve low grades. He found math very challenging and was beginning to lose interest. It was a vicious cycle.
I was only 2 years older than D, and so we really had a lot to talk about after (and sometimes during) the tutoring lessons. It was great to get to know the student really well, it helped a lot to understand that his underlying flaw was simply his mind-set that to be intelligent, you had to be a “nerd”. He purposely didn’t do much work and self-sabotaged himself to be more aligned with peers. This created a lot of academic difficulties. I did my utmost to explain that this idea was simply wrong! I showed D that you can be both intelligent and good at math and still be popular with your friends. It’s a common belief amongst teenagers that showing off your intelligence results in less popularity, or being labelled a “geek”. This isn’t true. When D removed his self limitation, he allowed himself to learn a lot more and to do the required work. This was the start of his climb from 30 per cent to 90 per cent!
D never took notes or thought much of doing homework. I had to constantly check up on him to make sure he was taking notes about his math work and doing his homework. He began to understand math concepts a lot more, and slowly realised he was quite smart after all. The work became “heaps easy” for him and he began to improve rapidly.
One afternoon (close to the end of his tuition) his father spoke to me after our lesson together. He told me that D has been doing a lot more work with ALL of his subjects. His improvement in math had become the launching pad for his academic success in all subjects. He was using the learning techniques we practiced during tuition across all his works, and was succeeding!
D explained to me that once he removed his self-limitation about believing that being smart was ‘nerdy’, he felt he could actually do the work, and found out he could do most of the work correctly.
D had a lot of problems with exams. He was prone to getting very anxious and then he would forget a lot of what he had learnt, and the silly mistakes would flow. We spent a lot of times in a library doing practice HSC papers in a quiet room. I would sit across from him with a clock on the desk. We simulated the HSC as much as we could; an unfamiliar environment, with someone watching, and a race against the clock. D’s results were improving rapidly at this point. We had gone over the entire math course. I had taught him countless learning techniques and problem solving styles to make everything easier. His confidence had grown so much over the year since his grades had slowly and surely been getting higher and higher.
The day D finished his math HSC paper, he called me and said he felt he did really well. When the results actually came out a few weeks later, he found out he had achieved a band-6. D had gone from achieving 30 per cent in math and it being his least favourite subject to achieving 92 per cent and making it his best subject. D’s results for all his other subjects allowed him to study a university course he never thought he could have made. D is now happily studying medical-science and I’m sure is still using all the learning techniques he picked up once he gave himself the opportunity to succeed.
by Markus Curry – 27th January, 2011
Markus Curry has been with Ezy Math Tutoring for over two years, he has had over 110 hours of tuition practice.