A student came to me this past spring with an unusual proposition. She wanted tutoring because she felt that she’d lost her love of math and she wanted to regain it. (Also, she was already earning Bs in school, but she wanted to learn math without so much stress.) What a really cool reason to seek tutoring! Plus, I was excited to work with a student who was already intrinsically motivated.
Since every student is different, I wasn’t sure until we started working together what would help her regain her love of math. She was already very organized and would come to each session with a plan for what she wanted to discuss.
It quickly became apparent that she really just needed some time one-on-one to go over the things she had questions about. The way that her classroom teacher explained things wasn’t always the way that made the most intuitive sense to her. (This isn’t unusual, considering that every single human has a unique way of approaching their own learning).
Another thing that worked was introducing alternative ways of thinking about particular math concepts. This student was great at evaluating what options worked best for her. She’d explain which approaches made total sense and which ones really didn’t help her. She’d also use her synaesthesia to create her own mnemonic devices.
This student would tackle tough problems with gusto. Once, after she cracked a particularly challenging problem, I drew a star with shining rays next to her final answer to show how proud I was. We jokingly named it “The Star of Vanquishment”—vanquishing seemingly impossible problems! This became a running joke. We’d draw it when we felt like we needed inspiration to get through something unfamiliar, or to celebrate when we solved a tough problem.
My student’s school year ended later than any other schools in the area. I was concerned because before I’d committed to working with her, I’d made plans to be out of town for a music festival during her final exams. So she was one of the first students to test-drive my online tutoring technology with me.
During our final session online, she told me that her past three quiz grades had been an 100, an 103, and a 93—“but the 93 was the highest grade in the class on that quiz.” I was so proud of her!
Most importantly, it seemed from her confident and enthusiastic attitude that she had regained her love of math, or at least was well on her way. Overall, I think the “secret ingredient” here was just supporting her and personalizing her instruction in a relaxed and encouraging environment.