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Student Wont Focus – Guessing Answers

Home > Maths Tutoring Blog > Student Wont Focus – Guessing Answers

Student Wont Focus – Guessing Answers

I have one student who is having trouble concentrating. I try my best to keep him focused but he is just so disinterested that I am finding it difficult to get him to focus. Silly questions like what is 7+6 he will say 10, and asking him to count up from 6 he will do incorrectly. He will say okay 6, 7, 9, 10, 12 – like the numbers just jumped out of his head. I tried going back to the basics of just addition and subtraction – on some days he is so good, and some days so poor.

Here are a few considerations and suggestions:

  • Try getting him to put pen to paper – this tends to structure their thinking process and streamline their ideas so they can’t jump around as much in their head. Even if the question is really simple – get him to write and work out his answer on paper, perhaps to write down the question also. This will also go a long way to establishing correct formatting skills which ultimately boost grades too.


  • Younger students can have trouble concentrating or sitting still for long. Making the lesson more engaging can help – perhaps even a 1-2 min break in the middle where he should get up and change his physical orientation before sitting back down and focussing on the maths.


  • Also, helping a student settle down and get into a “thinking” frame of mind BEFORE starting to learn can help – especially if the student was very physically active just before the lesson. Ideally, physical activity such as sport should be avoided immediately before the tutoring. How can a student be expected to focus when his heart is still pacing and he is out of breath?


  • The environment may also be playing a role here. When you are tutoring math what is the environment like? Where are you located? Are there noises and distractions from family members, television in the background, mobile phone vibrating with new messages etc?


  • It may be just a bad habit or laziness to guess instead of thinking the way you have described. Try to get him doing the question again, on his own, until he gets it right by himself (if you are certain that it is only a silly mistake). Only don’t be too aggressive with this approach or you risk breaking rapport and making him feel stupid. Sometimes this can help to break the habit since the student learns that “jumping” in too fast simply means they will have to do it again (usually takes a while for them to get conditioned to this realisation). Basically, force the habit of thinking about the question rather than trying to guess or otherwise arrive at an answer just for the sake of it and explain this concept repeatedly, he must know that math is about thinking!


  • One more possibility is that he has a bad attitude and is acting out. Was he forced into tutoring? Does he appreciate why it is important? This definitely seems like a possibility, especially because sometimes he is good as you say, sometime poor. Is he actually trying when he isn’t succeeding? Try to answer some of these questions and if it is an attitude problem then it can be dealt with accordingly.