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Tutor Of The Month: Mark Bessinger

 

Mark is our May 2017 Tutor of the Month!

Mark matriculated in 2011 with outstanding results, including 2 distinctions. He is currently a 6th year Mechanical Engineering student at the University of Pretoria, and after having been awarded a bursary, he plans to work for Eskom once he has completed his studies. He is one of our one of our highly recommended tutors, having worked with many learners. Mark has a passion for teaching and it is still something he considers as a possible career, having thoroughly enjoyed his experience in tutoring so far.

His advice for students is to “work hard and work smart while keeping a positive attitude”.

To get your own amazing tutor, click here.

Before You Break! Why Study Breaks Are Important

The Benefits of Study Breaks and How to Use Them Effectively

When faced with looming exams, it can often be a student’s first instinct to cram, pull all-nighters, or study for long periods of time uninterrupted. While this may work for a few students, studies find that studying without regular breaks can actually decrease academic performance and results. In addition, it can lead to anxiety, depression and insomnia! Research suggests that short mental breaks, doing something completely different, will actually help you to focus. Study breaks can improve retention and understanding over longer periods, as well as relax your mind.

Making study breaks successful

• Make a note of where you are stopping
• Set a time limit to your break, and stick to it
• Change your scenery
• Know yourself, and don’t start any activity that you could easily get lost in
• Get back to work as soon as your break ends, without stressing about how much there is left to do or procrastinating

What not to do in a study break

• Update your Facebook
• Phone or message a friend
• Anything to do with the subject you’re studying
• Start a new series
• The same thing you did in your last break!

What to do instead

• Exercise: take a walk, kick a ball around, or dance to your favourite song
• Meditate
• Nap for 10-20 minutes (any longer and you’ll just feel drowsy!)
• Make a (healthy) snack
• Read a book or magazine

How can BrightSparkz help?

Ask your tutor to help you plan your study timetable, as well as advice on what study methods you should use based on your Learning Styles Assessment. If you need extra lessons to help cement in some of the concepts you need to know for your exams, either contact your tutor, or get in touch with your BrightSparkz office to book extra lessons today (email Cape Town or Joburg). If you’re totally at a loss for how to study, book a Study Skills Crash Course with our Educoach! Click here to find out more.

Written By: Tessa Cooper, BrightSparkz Blog Writer

Surviving the NBTs: What you need to know

What you need to know about the National Benchmark Tests

The National Benchmark Tests (NBTs) are South Africa’s version of the SAT’s. These tests determine your academic readiness to enter university. The NBTs are necessary because of the variety of school curricula in South Africa, as well as the differences in the level of education provided country-wide. These tests therefore provide an even playing field – a national benchmark against which to score students. University admission and placement are determined by the NBTs.

There are two types of NBTs, and which test/s you need to take is determined by the university course you are applying for (most universities have this information available on their websites). The Academic and Quantitative Literacy (AQL) Test needs to be written by all applicants. The AQL tests language and mathematical literacy skills, and may be taken in both English and Afrikaans. The Mathematics (MAT) Test tests only mathematical skills. Both tests are multiple choice, and you will have 3 hours to write each test.

The National Benchmark Tests test your ability to apply prior knowledge in a way designed to test problem-solving and lateral thinking. The results will indicate your likelihood of being able to succeed academically at tertiary level. These results are sent directly to the university/universities you have applied to. As a result, you will only need to write one set of tests, even for multiple applications. For more information on what is in the tests, click here.

When do I need to write?

This will be determined by the date that the course you are applying for needs the results by (this will be on the university’s website). The NBT test schedule provides the date that each test’s results will be sent to the various universities. This normally takes about a month, so make sure you plan ahead!

Where can I write?

There are a variety of venues in each province that host the tests, as well as in most countries neighbouring South Africa. For a full list, please see venues. If you live in a remote location, you will need to apply to the NBT Project to have a venue set up near you, or you can apply to be a remote writer.

What are the costs involved?

To write one NBT costs R80. To write both (must be written on the same day) will cost R160. You can pay on the EasyPay website, or you can visit an EasyPay Paypoint (like Pick N Pay, Shoprite or Checkers). You will need to register for the NBTs before you can pay.

How can BrightSparkz Tutors help?

While no past or sample papers are available for the NBTs, and specific course material is not available, extra tutoring lessons in maths and languages can help you! If you want lessons specifically for this reason, please let your BrightSparkz client consultant know, so that they can find the best tutor for your needs. Find a tutor here.

If you live in a remote location, and need to write a remote test, BrightSparkz can also help you to find an invigilator to oversee your NBTs. Find an invigilator here.

 

Written By: Tessa Cooper, BrightSparkz Blog Writer

The Brains Behind BrightSparkz

“Purpose is the reason you journey. Passion is the fire that lights your way.” 

It’s been 10 years since the humble beginnings of a few flyer handouts and informal tutor recruitment. As we celebrate our decade milestone, the brains behind BrightSparkz get personal – sharing some insights into running a business, their various challenges and achievements, as well as a snippet of what we can expect from BrightSparkz in the future. 


Amy Stockwell (Johannesburg)
“I completed a BSc. Physiotherapy degree before moving from Cape Town to Johannesburg at the end of 2006 to do my year of community service, while also planning the expansion of our Cape Town tutoring business to Gauteng. In 2009 I completed a Post Graduate Diploma in Business Management through the Wits Business School, and quickly realised that business was my passion. In 2011, I stopped practicing physiotherapy, got married and started dedicating all my time to BrightSparkz Tutors. Our family grew in May 2015 when we were blessed with our baby boy, so my time is currently best spent on being a mom and supportive wife to my husband, who is a competitive cyclist and mountain biker. When I get time of my own, I enjoy running 10km and 21km races.”


Dominique Oebell (Cape Town)
“I completed a BSc. Physiotherapy at UCT in 2006, and worked part-time as a physiotherapist while we were establishing BrightSparkz Tutors. In 2013, I obtained a Post-Graduate Diploma in Business Administration at the UCT Graduate School of Business, and while it was initially Physiotherapy that developed a lot of empathy in me and a passion to make a difference, I believe that its entrepreneurship and education that can really improve people’s lives. In my free time I love spending time at the beach, walking my dogs, and reading books that inspire me to be a better person. My faith life is also really important to me, and that keeps me centered when things get stressful!”


Q1: Where did you get the idea from to start a tutoring company and what took it from an idea to an actual business? (What was your greatest motivation to get started?)

I started tutoring in primary school and continued into my university years. In third year I was unable to take on more learners, but still tried to help to find suitable tutors for parents who contacted me. This is where the idea was born. After some research, we realised that there wasn’t much out there in terms of home based one-on-one tutoring, and that parents really needed this type of service.  AS

Q2: What would you say to people who aren’t fired up about what they’re doing or studying?

I would advise them to not settle on that career (although sometimes it is wise to learn what you can from a field and to use it to your advantage in a transition period), and to keep exposing themselves to different job environments or fields, to discover what makes them tick. Once they have discovered this, to start meeting people and growing their network of individuals who operate in these fields or environments. This is a great way to learn more about a field, but also to be made aware of new job or business opportunities that arise within those fields.  DO

Q3: What advice would you give people who have or are thinking about starting a business?

Starting a business is the easy part. Maintaining it and “finishing” well is the hard part! Knowing why you want to start a business is key. Many experts in a field assume the logical next step is to start their own company but what they don’t realise is that the skills that make them a great employee are not the same skills that will make them a great entrepreneur. They start with great enthusiasm, with ideas of being their own boss and having their own time, only to realise that often the initial investment of time and energy (and money) can be much greater than expected.

Knowing what your customers needs are, as well as how many players are already in the market, is also critical. It doesn’t matter how well you bake bread – if no one is needing home-baked bread, or there are already 5 people baking bread in your community, your business will fail (unless you can provide something that no one else is, that your customers are needing, of course!).  DO

Q4: The world has changed a lot in the last 10 years, particularly in the area of technology. What is BS doing to leverage the technology we have available to us to better serve and educate learners?

It definitely has! BrightSparkz started using a very manual system until we knew exactly what our needs were, and had our first custom system built in 2011. This is something we are in the process of upgrading, and have also been developing a mobile responsive system that we are currently rolling out with our tutors, and will extend to clients later in the year.

We also introduced BrightSparkz Mobile Maths and Science in 2014, which is a platform that allows learners to access user friendly resources via their PC, tablet, or smartphone. The program caters for both CAPS and IEB learners, by dividing the Maths, Physical Science, and Natural Sciences curricula into comprehensive sections. It’s a great tool to help children and their tutor work through and consolidate the Maths and / or Science syllabus for the year, especially in preparation for tests and exams.

One of our missions is to automate as much as we can without taking away the personal touch from our service, as this is something that is still extremely important to us.  AS

Q5: Do you think the gradual move to online education and self-education is a positive one? Is BS responding to this transition is any way?

There are pro’s and con’s to every change in society, but we have never before had access to so much information as we do in the digital era, and that opens up opportunities for learning to many more people. One can learn anything without traditional limitations of space, time, and money. That said, there is still incredible value in face-to-face time with a tutor/teacher/facilitator, and there seems to be a higher level of accountability in face-to-face or blending learning environments. I think the challenge for online education service providers still lies in how to motivate individuals effectively, specifically children and teenagers. 

We are currently positioning ourselves in such a way that we are able to grow with the changes that are changing the landscape of extra-curricular educational services. Online tutoring via Skype is something we already offer, as well as additional tools such as online whiteboards and learning platforms are just a few of our tech plans for future. However, we believe strongly in a blended learning approach, and will always incorporate the human element into our service offerings regardless of how the tech landscape changes, as we believe this is still what our customers are wanting.  DO

Q6: What have been some of the greatest challenges, and greatest achievements over the past 10 years?

Persevering with this business has probably been the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life! There have been so many times when I’ve wanted to throw in the towel and trade it in for a job! But after a good cry and a pep-talk from my family, I determine what needs to change and I keep at it. Being able to celebrate our 10-year anniversary is a huge milestone for us! We have learnt many lessons and have experienced many setbacks, yet I’m proud of the excellent service standards we maintain and of our current team of staff who work really hard to attain this. We’ve had many challenges in the areas of staffing, navigating company restructuring, and in getting our business processes up to speed with competitors who use more sophisticated technology. In some areas, we’ve had to work really hard to catch up and although we have not yet “arrived”, our hard work is paying off and we’ve been able to secure contracts with larger educational institutions, publishers and even film production companies.  DO

Q7: How is BS trying to intentionally deal with the challenges faced by South African learners?

One of our primary goals is to eventually make tutoring accessible to as many South African learners as possible, regardless of their socioeconomic backgrounds. Part of our planning this year is to officially launch our corporate sponsorship program, in order to extend our reach in this regard. We have previously worked with numerous foundations who assist in identifying learners showing potential and who would otherwise not be able to afford assistance. This is something we are extremely excited and passionate about, and look forward to partnering with organizations who value education as the key to the future, as much as we do.  AS

 

“No one can be sure of what changes, big or small, lie ahead. One thing is certain, our journey is not over.”

 

Interested in one-on-one tutoring in the comfort of your own home? We can make that happen for you! Feel free to get in touch with us here.

 

Written By: Ashleigh de Jager, BrightSparkz Blog Writer

Matric Rewrites (Supplementary Exams)

All is not lost…

If you’re a 2016 Matriculant looking to be accepted into a tertiary institution or hoping to become employed, passing Matric and receiving your certificate is one of the essentials. However, due to various circumstances, Matric exams may have been an overwhelming struggle for you, resulting in you not meeting the minimum requirements to pass Grade 12 and step into your planned future.

But all is not lost – you may qualify for a supplementary examination (i.e. a Matric rewrite), allowing you a second chance to pass your failed subject/s.

 

Do I qualify?

According to the Department of Education you qualify for a supplementary exam:

  • If you did not pass Grade 12 but need to pass 2 subjects to obtain your NSC. You can register a maximum of 2 subjects for your supplementary exam. However, the candidate needs to have written these subjects during their final year exam.
  • If the candidate is medically unfit or other special reasons for the candidate’s absence, he or she may register for the supplementary examination.
  • If there is a death in the immediate family of the candidate, or other special reasons for the candidate’s absence, he or she may register for the supplementary examination.
  • If the candidate provides evidence that they qualify for admission to a higher education institution but do not satisfy the higher education faculty requirements or for an occupation, as well as candidates who are one requirement short in meeting the minimum admission requirements for higher certificate, diploma and bachelor degree programs, can register for supplementary exams. However, a candidate is only allowed to register for a maximum of 2 subjects.
  • In a case where an irregularity is being investigated, provisional enrolment for supplementary examination may be granted to the candidate concerned, pending the outcome of the investigation.
  • A candidate who was unable to write or complete one or more of the National Senior Certificate examination question papers for reasons other than illness or injury may apply to write the supplementary examination, provided that a written report is submitted by the principal of the school to the Head of the assessment body.

If you meet the above criteria, and would like to register for a rewrite, please contact the Department of Education, via your school. The closing date for applications is the 19 January 2017. But avoid any further stress and register as soon as possible, after receiving your results.

The supplementary examinations usually take place in February and March, however, the 2016 dates have not yet been finalised so keep an eye on the media releases posted on the Department of Education website, as well as updates posted via our BrightSparkzSA Twitter page.

 

2016 NCS EXAMINATION RESULTS WILL BE BROADCAST LIVE

04 JANUARY 2017  I  18H00  I  SABC 1  I  eNCA  I

Individual results available at schools and www.education.gov.za

05 JANUARY 2017

If you’d like to receive an instant E-mail or SMS as soon as your results are released, sign up via the eNCA website – the official partners of the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and the Independent Examinations Board (IEB) for 2016 Matric results.

 

*For more information on qualifying rewrite conditions, dates, pricing etc. visit: http://www.education.gov.za/Curriculum/NationalSeniorCertificate(NSC)Examinations/Releaseof2016NSCResults.aspx

*For answers to other frequently asked questions about rewrites, visit: http://www.education.gov.za/Curriculum/NationalSeniorCertificate(NSC)Examinations/tabid/338/Default.aspx

 

How do I prepare?

  • Past Exam Papers

Past exam papers are some of the best form of revision. Get access to a number of papers for various subjects via YOU Online or directly from the Department of Education’s examinations page.

  • Tutoring

This is also an excellent time to consider tutoring. Our tutors will assist you with those difficult sections of work you just can’t seem to grasp on your own, and will help ensure you cover all the material needed before your rewrite. By getting support systems in place well in advance, you will improve your chances of improving your marks and passing your failed subject/s.

Get in touch with us via our rewrite page and we’ll set you up with a tutor who will be there with you every step of the way.

We want to see you succeed, and assist you in achieving the marks that you not only need, but are capable of.

 

Written By: Ashleigh de Jager, BrightSparkz Blog Writer (containing inserts from the DoE website)

Managing the New School Term

“What I learn today doesn’t make yesterday wrong, it makes tomorrow better”.

Just as the stress of the exam season has subsided, the stress and anxiety that comes with a new school term starts to arise. We understand that a new school term can be daunting for both children and their parents, and while it cannot be avoided, there are those unnecessary stresses that can be combated.

 

How to combat unnecessary stress and make the most of the home-stretch:

  1. Keep a routine

Keeping a routine is one of the most promoted yet underestimated and underused pieces of advice. Having a routine makes many of the things in our lives that would otherwise be unpredictable, completely predictable – which then puts them in our control and minimizes the stress potentially attached to them. We also often underestimate how much time we waste during a day that can quite easily be spent on a productive and beneficial activity, had we had a thought out schedule and anticipated it. For example, packing a book and reading in the car in early morning traffic or on the way home is a great time to get your reading done when you would otherwise be doing nothing anyway. This also frees up the time you would have spent reading, and can now be spent on other things – allowing you to achieve a lot more, in less time. Where are you wasting time that could possibly be better spent if you had a schedule and planned for it?

  1. Set goals and daily tasks

How would you like to finish this year? What would you like your report to look like when you hand it to your parents? If you aren’t proud of where you are academically, then it’s time to start deciding where you would like to be, and what you need to do in order to get there. Set some long-term goals for yourself, and then determine what steps need to be taken each day that will get you closer towards your long-terms goals. This requires discipline, and sometimes saying no to other activities that a probably way more fun, but I can promise that you won’t regret it when you receive that report card at the end of the term.

  1. Prepare in advance

If you are anything like I was at school, you probably wait until the very last minute to do everything: to get out of bed in the morning, to do your homework, to start assignments. And as I’m sure you’ve already discovered, this inevitably always ends in a last minute rush that sends your stress levels through the roof! Let’s try getting out of procrastination station this term and start preparing for what will be coming, and keep coming, whether we prepare for it or not. Something as simple as packing your bag the night before can do wonders for a good start to the day, and will even help you to sleep better.

  1. Don’t fall behind

Having to catch-up a day or two’s work may sound like no big deal, but what happens when a day or two rolls over into a week or two? We understand that getting home after a full day of school to sit down and spend more hours on homework can be exhausting, and quite frankly, entirely unnecessary. But homework is here to stay whether we like it or not, and fortunately, has not killed anyone yet. The best way to avoid homework stress is to get it out of the way as soon as possible. After you’ve arrived home from school and had something to eat, dedicate the next hour or two (depending on your Grade and workload), to complete that day’s homework. If you’re able to, you can even move ahead with certain tasks or exercises if you know there will be some days where you might have less time to do homework due to sports etc. This leaves the evening free to do things that you enjoy, without having the guilt and anxiety of what’s still waiting for you in your school bag hanging over your head.

  1. Go over your work each day

One of the best ways to ensure that you’re able to keep up with your workload is by spending some time each day (+- 30 minutes) becoming familiar with what is new. This allows everything you learnt during the day to be processed and reinforced in your brain, which not only increases your ability to recall the information (memory), but also helps you to identify parts of your work you don’t fully understand. You can then spend some time making sense of the work you don’t understand, or make a note to have your teacher or tutor explain it to you. Making sure you understand your work daily also helps ensure that you don’t fall behind as previously mentioned.

  1. Still make time for the things you enjoys most

Have you ever heard that saying: “Too much of anything is a bad thing”? You may assume that cutting out sports and any other extra curricular activities will give you more time for academics, and therefore improve your marks, but truthfully, it’s going to end up costing you far more than is necessary. Creating a balance in your life is very important and cutting out the things you enjoy most will most likely result in resenting what’s left – school and homework. While academics are incredibly important, so is your health and fitness, and it has actually been proven that keeping active and making time for the things you enjoy will positively impact other areas of your life as you develop increased energy and better concentration. But remember, in order to make time for the things you enjoy, you’ll have to have a routine to determine what amount of free time you do and don’t have.

 

How BrightSparkz can help:

  • Private tutoring

BrightSparkz Tutors offers one-on-one, subject specific tutoring that takes place in the comfort of your own home or a venue of your choice. Tutors aim to identify the gaps in knowledge, while simultaneously facilitating learning through lots of practice, revision of theory, and interactive discussion of the subject matter.

Our tutors are unique individuals, who are selected carefully based on their specific strengths in their chosen subjects.  They not only have excellent knowledge of the subjects they tutor, but also a passion for tutoring and helping learners reach their potential.

  • Online Platforms

BrightSparkz Online is an award-winning online Maths and Science App tailored to South African learners from Grade 8 – 12. It covers all content for Maths, Natural Science, Physical Science and Chemistry, and is suitable for both CAPS and IEB learners. The app provides top quality resources, breaks up these curriculums into manageable sections, and is an excellent way to supplement your child’s one-on-one lessons.

  • Study Skills Workshops

BrightSparkz Tutors has partnered with an outstanding Educational Psychologist who offers insightful study skills workshops, designed to benefit Grades 8 – 12 in particular, in order to help your child make the most of their education and tutoring. For more information on when and where our holiday workshops will take place, please contact us on edupsych@brightsparkz.co.za.

 

It’s never too late for your child to start combating stressful habits and taking control of their education. But neither you nor your child have to do it alone – BrightSparkz Tutors are ready to help. Just click here, provide us with your details, and we’ll get right onto looking for the most suitable tutor for your learner’s needs.

 

Written By: Ashleigh de Jager, BrightSparkz Blog Writer

So You Think You Failed a Matric Subject: What Next?

Passing Matric is essential; it is the culmination of twelve years of education, and a basic requirement to access tertiary education. Many employers are reluctant to hire those without a Matric certificate, and if you have failed your Matric, things may seem pretty bleak.

Fortunately, you may qualify for a supplementary examination (i.e. a Matric re-write), allowing you to have a second go at the subjects you failed. According to the Department of Basic Education website, you may qualify for a supplementary exam if you:

  • Were medically unfit on the day of the exam;
  • Do not meet admission requirements for Higher Education;
  • Experienced personal problems such as a death in the family; or
  • Failed a maximum of two subjects

If you meet these criteria, and want to register for a re-write, then contact the Department of Education, via your school.  The deadline to register for a supplementary exam is usually mid-January, but it is best to register as soon as possible after you receive your results. The supplementary examinations usually take place in February and March. The 2016 dates have not yet been finalised so keep an eye on the media releases posted on the Department of Education website once the Matric results are released.

This is also an excellent time to consider tutoring, to assist you with those difficult sections of work and to help you cover all the material needed before you write your exam. By getting support systems in place well in advance of your Matric re-write, you will improve your chances of improving your marks and passing your subject. It is important to know, however, that it is also up to you to pass, so start observing good study habits: make up a timetable; give yourself a good, clean, well-lit study area, away from the hustle and bustle of the house.

Get in touch with us soon (don’t wait until the last minute) and we’ll get you set up with a tutor who will be there with you every step of the way. We want to see you succeed, and assist you in achieving the marks that you want to get!

Written by Conor Engelbrecht, Maths & Science Tutor

Help Reduce Your Child’s Exam Stress

This time of year is busy on all fronts, and if you have children of school-going age life gets just that little bit more hectic as you help them navigate their their exam and study workload.

Here are 5 tips to help you and your child cope with exam stress during this busy season:

  1. Encourage routine – this includes study time, mealtimes, bed times, as well as making some time for fun and exercise!
  1. Have healthy snacks readily available – Chocolate, energy drinks, and coffee all result in fatigue and spikes and dips in blood sugar levels and concentration. Instead, have a supply of healthy snack options like fruit, nuts, popcorn and ensure they drink lots of water!
  1. Create a study space – Teen bedrooms are not the neatest of places! Try and find an alternative study space (as uncluttered and distraction-free as possible) which can be turned into a “study-zone”.
  1. Provide support – this goes beyond just offering academic support. Emotional support and encouragement goes a long way to boost confidence and positive feelings. Offer to make a cup of tea from time to time, or PVR their favourite show for later 🙂
  1. Planning ahead – Have a calendar on the wall with all upcoming exam dates. Don’t rush to get to school on the morning of the exam – pack the night before, and leave enough time margin to get to school early.

All that’s left is to make sure you keep a smile on your face 🙂

Good luck!

From us on the BrightSparkz Team 🙂

Understanding Dyscalculia – Part 3

Our two previous blogs discuss dyscalculia in detail. Now that we know a little bit more, what can we do to help our learners?

Tutor tips (For the tutor and the parents):

  • Use concrete examples that connect math to real life. For instance, use examples that include their favourite things or shopping. This helps to strengthen your learner’s number sense.
  • Use visual aids when solving problems. Draw pictures or move around physical objects. Teachers and tutors can refer to this as “manipulatives”
  • Assign manageable amounts of work so your tutee will not feel overloaded
  • Review a recently learned skill before moving on to a new one, and explain how the skills are related
  • Supervise work and encourage your learner to talk through the problem-solving process. This can help ensure your tutee is using the right math rules and formulas
  • Break new lessons into smaller parts that help to show how different skills relate to the new concept
  • Let your tutee use graph paper to help keep numbers lined up or in columns
  • Use an extra piece of paper to cover up most of what’s on a math test so your tutee can focus on one problem at a time
  • Playing math-related games helps your learner have fun and to feel more comfortable with math
    • Answer fewer questions on a test and allocate more time for your tutee to finish a test
    • Record lessons and lectures
    • Use a calculator in class
  • Boost confidence:Identify your tutee’s strengths and use them to work on (or around) weaknesses. Activities that tap into your tutees interests and abilities can help improve self-esteem and increase your learner’s resilience. Try to pace yourself during your tutoring sessions and do not use more than one strategy at a time. This makes it easier to tell which ones are producing a good result and which are not
  • Help your learner keep track of time:Whether it is a hand on the shoulder, a few key words or an alarm; have systems in place to remind your time-challenged tutee when to start the next activity.
  • See what it feels like:Try to experience what it is like to have dyscalculia. Acknowledging that you understand what your learner is going through is another way to boost his or her confidence and to improve your own level of understanding
  • Be upbeat:Let your tutee know when you see him or her do something well. Praising effort and genuine achievement can help your learner feel loved and supported. It can also give your tutee the confidence to work harder!
  • Support, patience and understanding are key!

If you would like a tutor to assist your child or learner, contact BrightSparkz Tutors today!

Understanding Dyscalculia – Part 2

In our previous blog, an expansive amount of information was provided to help you (as a tutor or parent) to identify the symptoms of dyscalculia. Unfortunately, dyscalculia has also been known to affect other aspects of learner’s lives.

Other effects of dyscalculia include:

  • Social skills:Failing repeatedly in math class can cause your learner to assume failure is unavoidable in other areas too. Low self-esteem can affect your learner’s inclination to make new friends or to partake in afterschool activities. Some learners might also avoid playing games and sports that involve math and keeping score.
  • Sense of direction:Some learners might struggle to differentiate left from right and may have trouble getting places by reading maps or following directions. Some learners with dyscalculia cannot picture things in their minds.
  • Physical coordination:Dyscalculia can affect how the brain and eyes work together. Because of this, your learner may have problems judging distances between objects. Certain learners may seem clumsier than others the same age.
  • Money management:Dyscalculia can make it difficult to stick to a budget, to balance a checkbook, and to estimate costs. It can also make it hard to calculate a tip and count exact change.
  • Time management:Dyscalculia can affect your learner’s ability to measure quantities, including units of time. Learners may have trouble assessing how long a minute is or to keep track of how much time has passed. This can make it hard to stick to a schedule.
  • Other skills:A learner may have trouble figuring out how much of an ingredient to use in a recipe. Learners might have a hard time estimating how fast another car is moving or how far away it is.

There are various other learning disabilities that are SOMETIMES associated with dyscalculia:

  • Dyslexia, or difficulty reading
  • Attention difficulties
  • Spatial difficulties (not good at drawing, visualisation, remembering arrangements of objects, understanding time/direction)
  • Short term memory difficulties (the literature on the relation between these and dyscalculia is very controversial)
  • Poor coordination of movement (dyspraxia)

Because there is still so much we do not know about dyscalculia, no definitive cause has been found. However, there are some ideas that researchers are still studying.

Possible Causes of Dyscalculia:

  • Genes and heredity:Studies of dyscalculia show it is more common in some families than others are. Researchers have found that a child with dyscalculia often has a parent or sibling with similar math issues. So dyscalculia may be genetic
  • Brain development:Researchers are using modern brain imaging tools to study the brains of people with and without math issues. What we learn from this research will help us understand how to help learners with dyscalculia. Some studies have also found differences in the surface area, thickness and volume of parts of the brain. Those areas are linked to learning and memory, setting up and monitoring tasks and remembering math facts
  • Environment:Dyscalculia has been linked to contact with alcohol in the womb. Prematurity and low birth weight may also play a role in dyscalculia.
  • Brain injury:Some studies show that injury to certain parts of the brain can result in what researchers call “acquired dyscalculia.”

The most plausible cause for dyscalculia is due to a difference in brain function. Unfortunately, many people think that because it is in the brain, it cannot be changed but this is not true. There are many support systems and tutors available to help your leaner cope with their dyscalculia.

What Does This Mean?

The brain is a highly adaptable organ (most especially during childhood) and research has indicated that certain training programs can increase the functioning in brain areas involved with reading, and so researches are hopeful that the same is applicable for mathematics. For children with dyscalculia, it is unclear how much of their brain differences are shaped by genetics and how much by their experiences. Researchers are trying to learn if certain interventions for dyscalculia can “rewire” a learner’s brain to make math easier. This concept is known as “neuroplasticity” and has been shown to work in people with dyslexia.

What Do I Do?

If during your tutoring sessions, you suspect that your learner may be suffering from dyscalculia, it is your responsibility to keep record of your tutee’s difficulties. You then need to communicate your thoughts to your learner’s parents. The learner’s parents should discuss any concerns with the learner’s teachers who will ascribe a school therapist or specialist. The specialist will ask you, the tutor, the parents and the teachers various questions as well as chat to the learner to discern whether the learner does in fact have dyscalculia or perhaps a different learning disability.

If your learner does have dyscalculia, there are many things that you can implement and do during your tutoring sessions to help him or her with their studies and academic outlook. Our next blog will list important hints and helpful tips to use during your tutoring sessions (or as a parent) J!

If you would like a tutor to assist your child or learner, contact BrightSparkz Tutors today!