Curiosity: Toddlers have got it right

Curiosity: Toddlers have got it right

Since the iPhone brought the internet out of cyber cafes and into our pockets, our worlds have grown smaller. We might think that increased access to Google means that we’ve become more curious, but curiosity is actually more about the questions we ask than the answers we reach.

Toddlers are the most curious people I know. Spend a day with any child who has learned the word ‘Why?’ and you know exactly what I mean.

‘Why can’t I have ice cream for dinner?’

‘Why do we have to hold hands?’

‘Why do fish need water?’

Any answer you give elicits another question, and another, and another.

When did we grow out of our curiosity?

We all want our students to develop open, inquiring minds, but what qualities are we actually looking for? What questions do we want them to ask? And what is the end goal of all this questioning that we’re asking them to do?

Adults are keenly aware that the nature of the workforce has changed and the days of 30-year service awards are disappearing Current statistics reveal that millennials change careers every few years in search of better pay, better conditions, and new ways to use their skills and pursue their passions. It’s highly likely that current school students will join this self-directed protean career path in search of fulfillment, reinventing their careers as their work environment and interests change. If they can’t find the job they want that supports their values, they’ll probably create it.

Organisations are now looking for T-shaped employees who have deep skills and expertise in an area (vertical) and proactively collaborate across different disciplines (horizontal) to contribute to their area of knowledge and others fields of expertise. T-shaped employees are curious about their own areas of interest, and genuinely desire to harness other people’s expertise and use that knowledge to contribute to the social knowledge community. Whether your child wants to be a politician, a brick layer, a musician, an accountant, a teacher, or a full-time parent, curiosity is an essential workplace skill.

But there is more to education than preparing for a career, and there is more to curiosity than gaining marketable skills. Curiosity is also an essential life skill.

In 2019, Associate Professor Mario Di Paolantonio wrote a study about curiosity in education where he made the case that education and learning helps us to achieve self-improvement and self-actualisation. By understanding ourselves and the world we live in, we are better equipped to contribute to social improvement, which is intimately linked to the careers we choose.

In other words, there is more to learning than brain work or intellect. Our learning informs and engages our passions, sense of purpose and meaning which in turn increases our learning and our capacity for meaningful contribution.

This corresponds with psychology’s concept of the four types of intelligence:

  • IQ (Intelligence Quotient): understanding and remembering information and being able to apply your knowledge to different situations.
  • EQ (Emotional Quotient): emotional intelligence, or the ability to understand and manage your own emotions and empathise with others.
  • SQ (Social Quotient): your ability to make and maintain relationships.
  • AQ (Adversity Quotient), also known as resilience.

Curiosity is fundamental to each of these. To grow in intelligence, academic talent is less important than willingness to learn. To have positive and fulfilling relationships with ourselves and others ,we need to be genuinely curious about or our own inner lives as well as those of others. To be resilient, we need problem solving skills which requires us to be curious about creative solutions.

So how to we encourage curiosity in our students? The rise of project-based learning and increased focus on independent learning in upper primary and high school is a positive trend, but since learning happens in all areas of life, not just in the classroom, we need to support our children’s curiosity at home too.

  1. Be a curiosity role model

Share your discoveries with your family. Admit when you don’t know an answer and find out together. The best way to encourage your child’s in-class participation is by encouraging them to ask questions at home and reminding them that there are no silly questions.

  1. Create space for wonder

Allow free time in your family schedules to give students time to think deeply instead of accepting the first answer. There is usually more than one way to get the answer in maths, more than one method to test an idea in science, and more than one meaning to an English text. Include space in your own schedule to be available for them to ask you questions too.

  1. Ask open-ended questions

Curiosity questions the status quo. Encourage the use of examples in family discussions and debates. Ask questions to guide your child to discovering the answer for themselves and respect their ideas, no matter their age or limited experience: they have potential.

  1. Utilise mistakes

Mistakes are excellent learning opportunities. As students get older, resist doing the problem-solving for them. Instead, guide them to acknowledge the mistake and brainstorm solutions. Likewise, reward learning as well as great marks.

  1. Encourage empathy

By being interested in other people’s experiences of nationality, gender, job, culture and belief systems, we develop empathy. Curiosity reduces stereotyping, increases community and team mindsets, and helps us to practise genuine listening skills.

At Nepean Tutoring, our tutors value and intentionally foster curiosity in their students. We know we can’t prepare the world for our students, but by helping them develop the knowledge, skills and confidence to solve problems, we prepare them for the world that awaits them. Are you interested in tutoring for your child? Contact us today to see how we can support your child’s curiosity and their future.


Di Paolantonio, M. The Malaise of the Soul at Work: The Drive for Creativity, Self-Actualization, and Curiosity in Education. Studies in Philosophy and Education 38, 601–617 (2019). DOI: 10.1007/s11217-019-09653-4.

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Science confirms multisensory learning enhances memory

Science confirms multisensory learning enhances memory

You might have heard the saying that people remember:

  • 10% of what they read
  • 20% of what they hear
  • 30% of what they see
  • 50% of what they hear and see
  • 70% of what they say
  • 90% of what they say and do.

These percentages, represented visually in D.G. Treichler’s Cone of Experience, illustrate that memory is most effective when more than one of our senses (sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch) are engaged in the learning process. While Treichler qualified that the statistics were not 100% scientific, his idea helpfully illustrates the importance of a multisensory approach to learning.

What is multisensory learning?

Multisensory refers to any teaching or revision method where more than one of the senses is engaged. Of course, more than one sense is always engaged in any of our daily experiences because our brains are always hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling and seeing even when we aren’t consciously aware of it. Adopting a multisensory approach to learning, however, requires intentionally teaching and studying in a way that appeals to more than one of the learner’s senses.

Suits all learning needs and styles

Multisensory learning is not just for kinaesthetic learners who learn best when they engage their sense of touch through movement (actions and gestures), performance (doing a task themselves), or tactile stimulation (such as feeling the differences between two shapes or textures). Multisensory learning is actually the best way for parents and educators to appeal to the variety of learning styles and learning needs in the classroom and the home.

Most of us rely on one or two senses more than the others or have a preferred learning style. However, that combination is different for everybody and even though we know what works best for us doesn’t mean we can’t benefit from multisensory learning. Similarly, for students with learning difficulties such as Dyslexia and ADHD, multisensory learning encourages concentration and helps these students to understand, recall and synthesise knowledge in the way that they learn best.

#Brain #Memory

Our brains are wired for multisensory learning. Studies using fMRI, which detects blood flow within the brain, have shown that students with the strongest literacy skills are those with the greatest interactivity between different parts of the brain. This tells us that several areas of our brains are involved in the acts of moving short-term memory to long-term memory. Likewise, multiple areas of the brain are used to help us retrieve memories so that we can apply that knowledge to new situations.In a 2008 study, Shams et. al. argued that multisensory learning helps our brains to categorise knowledge and file it in several places so that it can be retrieved easily. This is similar to taking a photo and adding #Paris #Romance #EiffelTower #Croissants #Picnic to your caption. When looking for that photo, you only need the vaguest notion that it was a picture of the Eiffel Tower and that you could smell croissants. Type those tags into the search bar, and voila!

So, does that mean that I should listen to music or burn a scented candle when I’m studying?

Well, it’s not quite that simple.

Distraction and sensory overload

As every learner knows, when too many of our senses are engaged, our senses become overloaded and our ability to concentrate and remember is compromised.

A recent study by Rau Pei-Luen Patrick et. al. affirmed that we receive information using multiple senses but when a task requires one sense more than others (such as reading relying mostly on sight), too much input from other senses (such as a noisy classroom or study space) becomes distracting.

The multisensory home

Walk into any classroom and you’ll notice that several senses are involved in each learning task. There are posters on the walls, a variety of digital and paper technologies, different coloured whiteboard or smartboard markers, and students can use coloured pens and highlighters. Even in high school, students alternate between reading in silence, reading aloud, taking notes, writing essays, doing experiments, making art, drawing flow charts or mind maps, and watching videos to involve multiple senses in the learning process.

But what about the place they do their homework?

How do we eliminate distractions as well as engage multiple senses?

Rau Pei-Luen Patrick et. al. noted that while there are undeniable trends in the data, what works for one student is quite different to the next. The key is to intentionally engage several senses while learning to assist memory. Here are some ideas to try at home:

  • Light a scented candle when studying. Recalling the scent can help you to remember what you learned.
  • Most people find that lyrics are distracting, so try playing soft instrumental music or white noise instead. If you don’t like instrumentals, try listening to music with lyrics in another language so you can’t recognise the words.
  • Colour-code concepts or subjects using coloured pens, textas, highlighters, or coloured paper. For example, highlight verbs in green and adjectives in blue, metaphors in pink and similes in yellow, or write names in red and dates in blue.
  • Get creative with illustrations, diagrams and models. This can work for maths and the sciences, as well as text-based subjects like English and History. Bonus tip: use paint or chalk to enhance the textures and colours.

How can a tutor help?

At Nepean Tutoring, our tutors are perceptive and understanding, and they target their tutoring methods according to each child’s unique learning styles and needs. Our client testimonials speak for themselves. If you would like to see how a tutor can help your child’s learning, we’d love to chat to you.

D.G. Treichler, “Are you missing the boat in training aids?” Accessed online.
Pei-Luen Patrick, Rau., et. al. “Distractive effect of multimodal information in multisensory learning.” Computers & Education, vol. 144, January 2020,
Shams, Ladan., et. al. “Benefits of multisensory learning.” Trends in Cognitive Sciences, vol. 12, no. 11, 2008, pp. 411-417,

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Is knowing your times tables overrated?

Is knowing your times tables overrated?

It is a common misconception that since calculators are used more often in schools and since calculators are freely accessible on our phones (and even our watches!) that learning multiplication times tables by heart is as outdated as an accountant using an abacus.

It may surprise you that knowing your times tables is still a relevant and essential skill for students to master. While times tables are taught in primary school, many students reach high school without an adequate understanding of multiplication. This unnecessarily increases the challenge of learning long division, equivalent fractions, ratios and percentages which are foundational mathematical skills used in everyday life.
Calculators are handy for checking big sums or making complex calculations but being reliant on them while learning the foundations of maths reduces a student’s ability to understand the logic behind the calculations they’re doing. Knowing their times tables by heart means that children understand the basic components of the more complex mathematical problems they will encounter. How many $1.00 cans of tomatoes can I buy for $5.00? How many ¼ cups of flour do I need to make 2 cups? If each banana weights 200g, how many bananas will I get in a kilogram?

When children know their times tables from memory, that brain space spent calculating simple multiplication is freed up to understand more complex calculations. Rote learning cops a lot of criticism, but for learning times tables repetition is the only way to go. Where rote learning falls down is when we memorise information without understanding it. However, by teaching and revising multiplication in a multitude of creative ways, repetition can be a fun and effective way to learn.

Mathematical study at home is equally as important as regular reading practise. It is essential that parents and carers spend time with their children revising these concepts to increase their children’s exposure with basic concepts which builds their confidence when tackling more complex ones in class.

So where do we start?

  1. Start where they’re at. If we bombard them with concepts they aren’t ready for or concepts they feel anxious about because they haven’t grasped simpler concepts, go back to basics and work up from there.
  2. Make it visual. Arrange pegs, LEGO, or plastic army soldiers in rows to demonstrate how 2 x 8 = 16 and 8 x 2 = 16. Once this is understood, show that 16 ÷ 2 = 8 and 16 ÷ 8 = 2. This method of physical arrangement is called an ‘array’. And it doesn’t just have to be 3D items, you can draw on paper too, but make it colourful.
  3. Regular revision. Use flash cards with the sum on one side and the answer on the other and run through a few each day. Use a deck of cards and for every two you place down, ask the student to multiply them. Say the full sum aloud each time to get all the components and patterns to stick. Play speed rounds to promote quicker recall and increase the challenge.
    If your child is struggling, the support of a tutor is incredibly valuable for helping them master mathematical ideas and grow their self-confidence. The wealth of life experience provided by parents, teachers and tutors also give students perspective on how vital mathematics is to real life and how it links to the things they’re passionate about. With enough encouragement and support, students can understand and even enjoy maths and will reap those benefits for the rest of their lives.

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Why Study Shakespeare?

Why Study Shakespeare?

February is the month of love, romance, and all things pink, red, rosey, and chocolatey. Love songs, classical poetry and cheesy greeting card rhymes abound even after Valentine’s Day is over. Here’s one you’ve probably heard of:

‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate.’

Those are the opening lines to William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18.

There are usually two responses when you ask school students if they like Shakespeare: the majority groan at the sound of his name and tell you how boring or confusing his plays are, and a minority, usually drama students, will express delight at your question, tell you their favourite play and ask for yours.

Did you know that Disney’s ‘The Lion King’ was inspired by Shakespeare’s Hamlet? Or that ’10 Things I Hate About You’ is a modern adaption of The Taming of the Shrew? Or that ‘She’s The Man’ is a re-telling of Twelfth Night? Most primary students have never heard of Shakespeare, though they could probably tell you that Romeo and Juliet is a love story. This tells us that Shakespeare’s stories are an integral part of our society and culture, whether or not we know or like his work.

The point of studying Shakespeare, like all literature studied at school, is to teach wisdom and knowledge though experience. Fiction is experiential knowledge as opposed to theoretical textbook knowledge. You might call fiction ‘heart knowledge’ compared to a textbook’s ‘head knowledge’. That’s not to say that textbooks aren’t helpful, but their purpose is informative compared to immersive.

Fiction, whether that be novels, plays, or films, develops our sense of empathy and our understanding of times, cultures and experiences which are not our own. As young adult novelist John Green said, ‘reading is always an act of empathy. It’s always an imagining of what it’s like to be someone else.’ To follow a plot, we necessarily have to imagine how character’s feel and understand why they do what they do. We learn to like or dislike characters by trying to empathise with them.

Fiction forces us to experience the lives of others, to encounter people and situations that we might never experience. When we read, we bring our own experiences to these new encounters and gain wisdom for how to deal with, or how not to deal with situations and people. Shakespeare’s tragic heroes and villains are a great example of what happens when we let pride or jealousy get the better of us or when we don’t surround ourselves with wise counsel.

Sure, Elizabethan verse can be hard to decode without Sparknotes, but once you become more familiar with the language, you’ll quickly understand how funny, compelling and thought-provoking his plays were and why they have come to be part of school syllabi around the world. To start, you might find it helpful to search a Royal Shakespeare Company production on YouTube or watch a movie adaptation to get your head around the story before diving into the original text. For younger students, Andrew Matthews’ A Shakespeare Story books are great chapter-book style summaries of Shakespeare’s more well-known dramas.
It takes practice to understand literary texts and often a guide can be helpful. Nepean Tutoring boasts a host of experienced English tutors who have worked with students of all ages, and across HSC and IB programmes.

To build your child’s confidence and literary analysis skills, look no further than the enthusiastic tutors at Nepean Tutoring. If you have any questions, simply Contact Us and we’ll take care of the rest.

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When you’re stressed and overwhelmed, make a list

When you’re stressed and overwhelmed, make a list

When you’re stressed out and you know it, and you really want to show it,
When you’re stressed and overwhelmed, make a list.

Did you catch the ‘If you’re happy and you know it’ children’s song reference there? When I was going though a tough time earlier this year, a good friend told me something similar. The song and her revised lyrics got stuck in my head and made me smile even when I was overwhelmed, underslept and trying to work out the next best thing to do.

With HSC, IB, and yearly exams completed, and the summer holidays approaching, you may think it’s a strange time to be talking about anxiety and overwhelm. However we all know that Christmas can be a chaotic time of year. For a student, add to that thoughts about their upcoming reports and thinking ahead about next year and it’s understandable they feel worried and don’t know what to do.

One of the best ways I know to deal with stress is to brain dump all those swirling, chaotic thoughts onto a piece of paper. Usually it’s a piece of scrap paper so I don’t feel pressured to try and structure my thoughts or write them neatly into a nice lined journal. Scrap paper gives me the freedom to write messy, underline key ideas, draw lines all over the page and, if I want, to scrunch it up when I’m done.

Once my thoughts are on paper, I have a visual idea of what’s making me anxious and from there I can triage. I like to sort my messy, unstructured list into the following categories which I first heard about reading Sean Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens. (If you haven’t read it, I’d highly recommend buying a copy for your high-schooler this Christmas!):

  • Urgent and important;
  • Important but not urgent;
  • Urgent but not important;
  • Not urgent and not important.

This matrix makes it easy to distinguish my priorities from those things that feel urgent but aren’t as important as other tasks. I can then add time limits to my tasks and break big tasks like exam revision, reading a novel, or beginning a Major Work, into small, manageable steps that I can use to track my progress.

When our thoughts and emotions are in turmoil it can be really hard to ask for help. Making lists helps to link our feelings to facts. Once I know what pressures I’m facing, I am better able to communicate them to those around me and ask for support. For example, if I’m worried that I’m a slow reader and know I’ll have to read a few books in English next year, once I put that feeling into words, I can ask my teacher for next year’s reading list so that I can get a start on it over the summer break.

Learning is not done in isolation but in families and communities. Parents often tell me that they recognise the signs of stress in their child but they don’t know how to help because their child won’t open up to them. If this is you, consider asking them to write or draw a list of what’s going on for them and volunteer to help them prioritise. Ask them to think of who they could ask for support and encourage them to be proactive. This also allows you to see the ways you might be able to relive some of the pressure they feel.

Nepean Tutoring is open throughout the summer holidays to support and guide your child towards achieving their learning goals, so don’t hesitate to let your tutor know if you’d like some additional sessions in the holidays. If you’re new to the Nepean Tutoring family, simply Contact Us and we’ll connect you with the best tutor to support your child’s education.

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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.

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