What to do about maths anxiety

What to do about maths anxiety

Many students suffer from maths anxiety. The Australian Council for Educational Research estimates that around 20% of students are ‘highly maths anxious’. Signs of a high level of maths anxiety include avoiding the subject, inhibited memory for mathematical concepts, inability to focus, disinterest, and an overall negative attitude towards maths. Ultimately students who are highly maths anxious will avoid all subjects that include maths, which ultimately inhibits their learning and career opportunities.

Maths anxiety is not a diagnosable condition like anxiety disorders or other mental health conditions, however it is important to notice how your child talks about and approaches maths in order to recognise where they need help. Like most health conditions, early intervention can make a decisive difference.

Maths is weighed down by generations of negative myths. You’ve probably heard yourself that ‘maths is difficult’, or ‘maths is for smart people’, or ‘I don’t have a maths brain’. However, these ideas forget that maths is a language of its own, replete with its own symbols, logic, and vocabulary. Just as humans are wired to communicate through language, so too, humans are wired to be mathematicians in various capacities.

In his TED Talk, Australian mathematician, Eddie Woo, said: ‘Mathematics isn’t just about crunching numbers but rather about finding new ways to see problems so we can solve them by combining insight and imagination.’

Learning to understand the beauty and necessity of mathematics is fundamental for reducing maths anxiety. Here are a few examples:

  • Cooking: How many ¼ cup measures make up 1 ½ cups of flour? How much sugar do we need to make a double batch of cookies?
  • Shopping: Why is cooking from home is cheaper than eating out? How many kilos of bananas would equal $5.00 worth?
  • Decorating: How many paint tins do you need to re-paint the living room according to the formula on the tin? Will your child’s bed fit in the space between the wall and the door frame or should it sit under the window instead?

By creatively demonstrating the practicality of maths, we can decrease maths anxiety through frequent, real-life problem solving practice.

Similarly, students tend to feel less anxious about topic quizzes compared to formal exams. The informality of a quiz helps students to focus on a specific area of their knowledge and target their revision accordingly. Small check-ins like quizzes make the process of testing their knowledge less overwhelming.

Regularly monitoring a student’s progress and giving specific, timely feedback is essential for improvement. Regular feedback in small doses, one topic at a time, is more easily understood, less intimidating, and is much easier for the student to apply, compared to receiving a large amount of feedback at once.

Each student learns at their own pace and it is true that some learn mathematical concepts faster than others. Tutoring provides a focused, one-to-one approach to meet your child where they’re at. Our friendly tutors work with your child to set individual learning goals and devise a realistic plan to achieve them, giving specific, relevant, and timely feedback along the way. Our tutors are patient and empathetic, encouraging resilience, self-confidence, and a growth mindset which is an essential trait of successful learners.

By combining everyday talk about applications of maths practicality of maths with tutoring to provide regular feedback and support, you can help to maximise your child’s learning opportunities and reduce their maths anxiety. Contact Us today to see how our team can support your child’s learning.

(Photo by Jessica Lewis on Unsplash)

Senior School Transitions

Senior School Transitions

For a student transitioning from Year 10 to Year 11 or from Year 11 to Year 12, their journey through senior school feels both exciting and intimidating.

  • Exciting because they have more opportunities for leadership, wider subject selections, and are closer to the end of their time at school.
  • Intimidating because of the responsibilities and expectations thrust upon them seemingly overnight. They know that previous years have been preparing them for senior school, yet they feel like they’re staring into the unknown with no idea what to expect or how to survive, let alone thrive.

In these transitions, students who are well-organised and self-motivated have a distinct advantage. Even more so, students who are proficient with reading comprehension, writing, and general maths skills. Students who have not found personal motivation for learning or feel behind their classmates often experience anxiety, which can appear to concerned parents and caregivers as worry, irritability, or apathy.
Qualities of successful students, such as diligence, curiosity, and self-motivation, take time to develop, so it is crucial that students feel encouraged and supported as they seek to cultivate a positive attitude to their education.

Some students in year 10 are completing their Preliminary HSC course amongst their other year 10 subjects. Students in Years 11 and 12 need to complete their Major Works (HSC) and Internal Assessments (IB) alongside exams and other assignments. For all students, organisational skills are crucial to managing the competing demands of senior years.

  • All students need an effective method of note-taking and revision.
  • All students need a reliable system for managing email inboxes and cloud-based file storage using Google, Microsoft Office, Canvas, or another online storage platform provided by their school.
  • All students need to allow adequate time for researching and referencing assignments to comply with academic honesty policies.
  • All students need to balance their studies with time for family and friends and getting adequate sleep and exercise. Some students also need to balance extra-curricular activities and part-time jobs with their studies.

Whether your child is academic, sporty, musical, arty, or just looking forward to life after school, all students need to feel supported through times of transition and encouraged to meet new expectations about workloads and responsibilities.

At Nepean Tutoring, each one of our tutors has been there. We know how it feels to juggle competing priorities and we’re well acquainted with the range of emotions that your child is feeling. Our tutors are patient listeners and passionate about sharing realistic advice and giving practical support to help your child reach their learning goals.
No matter what year your child is in, there is no better time to begin working on these essential skills. We have tutors with openings for Term 4 and for the summer holidays, but be quick! These slots are filling up fast, so contact us today. We’d love to welcome you into the Nepean Tutoring family and help your child on the road to successful life-long learning.

(Photo by Brad Neathery on Unsplash)

Down the Rabbit Hole

Down the Rabbit Hole

What exactly is curiosity? What do we mean when we say that curiosity is an attribute of successful learners?

‘Curiosity’ is a trait similar to inquisitiveness: it encompasses a desire to question, investigate, and explore how things work and why things are the way they are.

Indira Ghandi once said, “The power to question is the basis of all human progress.” If we want to change the world, or inspire our children to make a difference, we must first be curious about what is before we can imagine what could be.

But how can we curate curiosity in our children when there are a plethora of entertainment options to choose from? How do we inspire inquisitiveness when we have countless devices to occupy our eyes and our thoughts?

To my mind, nothing replaces a day trip to a museum.

  • If you love art, there is the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Art Gallery of NSW, or the National Portrait Gallery.
  • If you love science, there is the Powerhouse Museum or Questacon.
  • If you love books, the Mitchell Reading Room at State Library of NSW is awe-inspiring.
  • If natural history is your passion, there is the National Dinosaur Museum in Canberra or the Australian Museum in Sydney.
  • If you’re interested in ancient history, you can’t go past the Nicholson Museum at the University of Sydney.
  • If you want to know more about Australia’s national history, the Australian War Memorial and the National Museum of Australia are phenomenal.

I’ll always be a reader; trips to the library will always be as exciting to me as Nutella Fairy Bread. But I’ll also be the first to acknowledge that not everyone loves words as much as I do. The best thing about museums is that they suit every learning style.

There are interactive exhibits for energetic and kinaesthetic learners. Visual learners can behold artistic masterpieces, contemplate infographics, and marvel at architectural wonders. Many museums have audio guides and run tours for those who like to listen and ask questions. And of course, if there wasn’t enough to read during the exhibit, the gift shop will give you the opportunity to purchase a book for more information and as a souvenir to remember your adventure.

And if you’re self-isolating or stuck inside on a rainy day this school holidays, look no further than Google Arts and Culture (https://artsandculture.google.com/). We might not be able to travel physically, but you can virtually explore hundreds of renowned museums and galleries from Australia and all over the world including the Louvre, the Musee d’Orsay, the Van Gogh Museum, and all of the Smithsonian museums. All you need is an internet connection.

So go on! Incite your family’s imagination this holidays and encourage curiosity by physically or virtually exploring a museum together. Follow your interests and don’t be afraid to lose yourself down the rabbit hole of knowledge. You never know what you’ll discover!

(Photo by Reuben Teo on Unsplash)

Online Maths Games: The Results Add Up

Online Maths Games: The Results Add Up

Gamification of learning is the idea of applying game principles (e.g. scoring points, competing with others, leader boards) to education to increase interest and engagement in learning.

Physical (non-digital) games are routinely used by teachers, especially in primary school, to encourage team work, participation, cooperation, and expend energy. In both primary and early high school, online maths games are used, like physical games, as an additional learning tool to make maths fun and interesting, especially as concepts become more complex.

There are countless examples of online maths games including coolmathsgames.com, Mathletics, and mathsisfun.com, which are used to practice addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, telling the time, fractions, percentages, and more in an entertaining way.

But do online games produce results or are they a distraction from serious learning?

Online maths games are not a substitute for instruction and explanation and must be balanced with other approaches to teaching. Educators and parents must be aware that games:

  • can be a distraction from learning if the student does not know the learning outcome or purpose of the game
  • may encourage a reliance on extrinsic motivators (e.g. peer recognition, status, grades) rather than intrinsic motivators (e.g. personal satisfaction, improved self-confidence)
  • might lead to the assumption that recall speed equals success.

There are, however, many benefits of gamification in learning, especially maths, such as:

  • Developing problem solving skills through experimentation and strategic thinking
  • Encouraging resilience and persistence
  • Giving students the freedom to fail, using mistakes as a motivator to try another way
  • Tailoring challenges at a level and pace appropriate to the individual’s ability
  • Providing an immersive medium to encourage focus and attention to learning
  • Inspiring curiosity, particularly in theoretical subjects
  • Developing computer literacy and confidence
  • Increasing retention through interactivity
  • Enhancing pattern recognition and understanding of numbers
  • Giving instant feedback and visible progress (rewards, level-ups, badges) which increases the desire to learn and improve.

Games are an excellent way of demonstrating that learning can be enjoyable and rewarding. Online maths games are especially useful for bridging the gap between the classroom and home because they provide a meaningful way of practicing concepts in a way that doesn’t attract the usual groans when ‘homework’ is mentioned.

If your child uses online maths games, a great way to support your child’s learning is to talk to them about what they are learning from the game. Try using conversation starters such as:

  • What skill are you practising?
  • What strategy did you use?
  • How would you change your strategy next time?

Encourage your child to reflect upon their learning and to remember that learning takes place in all areas of life: within and outside of the classroom, and, like reading, in real and virtual worlds.

Photo by Alex Haney on Unsplash


What is the real purpose of tutoring?

What is the real purpose of tutoring?

During school holidays, and especially after the tumultuous term we’ve just had, no one would argue that our students need a rest. Time away from school brings with it the question of whether they should take a break from their studies, and if so, when school and tutoring should resume.

Whether we realise it or not, many students, parents, and even teachers, believe that tutoring is only necessary during the 9 or 10 weeks of term time, and that it’s only useful when the student has assignments or homework. But that’s not the whole picture. An understanding of the role of a tutor in your child’s education may be helpful at this time.

So what do tutors do?

The role of a ‘tutor’ has more in common with concepts such as ‘guard’, ‘guide’, ‘mentor’, and ‘coach’, compared to ‘teacher’ which is more synonymous with ‘instructor’, or someone who models a procedure or concept.

At Nepean Tutoring, we want to emphasise that tutors are far more than homework helpers. The role of a tutor is to guide students to the point where they become independent learners. Independent learning skills benefit the learner beyond an academic context, equipping them with critical thinking and problem solving skills to carry them into future decision making situations as they step out and live their own lives.

The purpose of tutoring is to guide students to become independent learners through individual attention and a structured approach to skills development. With consistent effort, over time, students are capable of:

  • Starting homework and assignments on their own
  • Knowing where to find reliable information and what to look for
  • Understanding texts and taking notes in their own words
  • Developing and articulating their own ideas

Habit coaches affirm that regular practice is fundamental to skill development, whether that be playing the guitar, achieving fluency in French, becoming a prize-winning novelist or a world-famous sportsperson, or learning to read and write.

The benefit of your commitment to a 10-week tutoring package is that scheduling in regular revision allows students to work on their weaknesses and fine-tune vital learning skills before the pressure of keeping up with the homework and assignments begins. It reinforces a habit of learning that is vital for success. The first week of tutoring, particularly for secondary students, should be dedicated to a combination of:

  • Goal setting and planning their schedule to balance study with extra-curricular activities
  • Revision of difficult concepts
  • Instruction on study skills, exam techniques and essay writing
  • Encouragement to maintain a positive mindset

When the student doesn’t have specific content from school, tutors use the student’s interests to make the sometimes tiresome work of practice and revision more engaging through activities that encourage curiosity and foster a desire to learn. This is particularly relevant for our younger students.

The skills and confidence to tackle life’s problems independently is the greatest gift that we as parents, tutors, and educators can give to future generations. A week or two of tutoring without the pressures of homework and assignments can make a huge difference in developing curiosity and persistence, which are essential characteristics of learners who successfully adapt knowledge and experiences to solve school and life problems.

Nepean Tutoring is dedicated to providing effective and dynamic educational support and developing foundational skills to equip and inspire the next generation of inquisitive, independent learners. Our 10-week packages ensure that we don’t lose important learning opportunities in that process.