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Blanking Out During Exams

What to do when you blank out in an examination

Blanking out in an exam, whether it happens once or every time you face a test situation, is an unnerving and frustrating experience.

Usually exam stress and blanking out is caused by anxiety. There is a great deal of pressure to perform well in exams and a lot of fear that if you don’t it will affect your future negatively, especially if it is school-leaving exams. Even for younger learners, they may fear disappointing their parents or even being punished if they do not produce good results.

What you can do before an exam to reduce the chances of blanking out or freezing:

  1. Prepare well

Study the content you need to study for the exam. Pay attention in class and listen for any clues the teacher may give such as tips on the sorts of questions which are often asked. Ask your teacher if there are any areas to concentrate on or spend time preparing. Do the work. Practise and do examples and past papers where possible.

If you are struggling in a particular subject, engage the services of a hand-picked tutor who will assist you to catch up or help you close any gaps in your knowledge and give you other perspectives.

If you fear that you are studying incorrectly or that you don’t know how to study correctly, consider investing in a study skills crash course which will greatly build your confidence and reduce your stress.

2. Prepare emotionally

In addition to academic preparation, it may be helpful to prepare emotionally, particularly for subjects that you do not feel very confident in. Picture yourself going into the examination, being calm, reading through the paper and tackling the questions you know. Realize that if you do your absolute best, that is all anyone can ask of you. Realize that even if you don’t do as well as you would like, it is not a matter of life and death. Think of possible contingency plans if you do not do as well as you wanted to – this will help you to feel that you still have some control.

3. Prepare an exam strategy

The Study Skills Crash Course will help you with this. In general, some good tips are: read the paper carefully, answer the questions you know beforehand, and if you have time at the end, read over your answers.

4. Physical preparation

Make sure you get enough rest, do some physical exercise, eat good food which stimulates concentration (like fish), and cut down on junk food and sugar.

5. Organize examination concessions assistance

If you qualify for examination concessions due to some barrier to learning or learning disability, ensure that you apply for this well before exams. Ensure that you have the necessary help during your exams by booking a trained and qualified concessions facilitator beforehand to avoid disappointment.

What to do during an exam if you blank out:

Even if you have prepared well beforehand and you know your work, you may still suddenly blank out in the examination room. Try the following:

  • If you are being assisted by a facilitator, alert them to the fact that you have gone blank and allow them to direct you.
  • If you are alone, remember that this is not a life-threatening situation (even if it feels like it), and that you will get through this. Turn your paper over, close your eyes, and breathe in deeply. Breathe out slowly. Do this several times until your breathing returns to normal. If you need to do this several times during the the exam and you fear running out of time, remember that this is preferable to being unable to do anything at all on the exam paper!
  • If need be, leave the question you were working on (leave some blank space if necessary), and continue with a question you feel more confident about.
  • Read through your exam paper and mark all the questions you feel more confident about. Aim to answer those first. It is not strictly necessary to answer questions in the order they are asked in the exam paper, but you MUST ensure that all questions are numbered strictly according to the numbers on the exam paper. If your paper is a mess and not numbered correctly, the examiner will be unable to mark it and you will lose marks unnecessarily.

After the exam:

  • Do not waste time beating yourself up about blanking out in the exam! Exam post-mortems serve no good purpose unless they help you to identify what caused you to blank out and to remedy the situation. Let it go otherwise.
  • Remember that an exam situation is a stressful situation by its very nature. Most people are not overjoyed at the thought of writing exams. If you are affected to the extent that you cannot function in any exam no matter how much you prepare, you will need to learn adequate coping mechanisms like consulting a qualified Edu-coach or investigating whether you qualify for a concession.

Action of some sort is the best way to move you forward and gain control of the situation. Identify what needs to be done and do that. Exams do not control you. Your future consists of more than writing exams!

Written by Natalie Wilke, BrightSparkz Staff & Blog Writer

Why tutoring is the best part-time job

Looking for a part-time job? Be a Tutor!

If you are interested in getting a part-time job, there are so many options available to you – it’s often daunting trying to choose! Part-time jobs may require different skills sets, and range from less skilled jobs (washing dishes or flipping burgers), to the highly-skilled spectrum where formal education and experience is required, like business consulting or coaching.

Tutoring as a part-time job falls under the spectrum of skilled work. You need to be well educated yourself and have achieved good results to be able to help others as an academic tutor. Tutoring offers you many benefits as a part-time job – here are just some of them:

Being a tutor helps you develop your character and life skills

You will learn patience and empathy as a tutor, or develop these traits further. Some learners will grasp concepts more quickly than others, and all learners learn in different ways.

You will also learn or improve on your own time management and goal-setting skills as you assist your learners to do the same.

Tutoring grows your own knowledge base – you learn when teaching others

As much as you are teaching others, you will learn from them. This might not be in an academic sense, but in many other ways. Tutoring will “cement” your own knowledge as you teach key concepts, which may make the experience more enjoyable for you as well.Tutor value best part-time job

Being a tutor allows you to share the knowledge and wisdom you’ve gained so far in life

People who are a few steps behind you on the ladder of life will benefit greatly from the life lessons and academic achievements that you have already passed through. Learners may see you as a mentor and adviser. You can use your own experience to give them tips and advice on studying, managing stress, a study-fun balance and more!

Tutoring allows you to help others and make a difference in their lives

You will gain a great deal of personal satisfaction from being a positive force in the life of a learner and possibly a role model too. When your learner improves their marks, and gains a more positive attitude, you will feel like you’ve achieved something great. You surely have, as the impact you have made affects the academic future and ultimately, the life options of the learner. Make a difference as a tutor part-time job

Being a tutor improves your relationship-building skills and gains you friendships

You will be dealing with a variety of clients and learners, some of whom you may naturally relate to better than others! This will develop your communication and negotiation skills, both of which are important life skills to have.

You may end up having lifelong friends among the clients and learners that you tutor.

Tutoring will give you valuable experience to add to your CV

Being a tutor, like a teacher, is an honorable job which impacts the lives of others. You are required to demonstrate not only academic skills, but also responsibility, reliability, planning and commitment, which are all very valuable skills to potential employers in any field.

You will also be able to get valuable references from your clients if you deliver a great service, as well as from your tutoring company.Improve learners lives tutor part-time job

Being a tutor gives you flexibility

You can choose the days and times that fit into your schedule more so than most other part-time jobs, making this a job that fits into your schedule and doesn’t encroach on your study and leisure time as much as other part-time jobs, like being a waiter or cashier.

Tutor at a great hourly rate

Tutoring is a great way to earn income, at a much higher hourly rate than minimum wage. An hour of tutoring a week will allow you to earn the same amount as several hours’ in another part-time job. If you need a little extra income in your budget, tutoring regularly will give that to you without sacrificing a huge amount of time.

 

If you want a part-time job, and would love to experience all the benefits of tutoring, apply now to BrightSparkz Tutors and join the team!

 

Written by: Natalie Wilke, BrightSparkz Staff & Blog Writer

Why I Love Tutoring

If I had a dollar for every time someone had encouraged me to teach, well, I’d just have a dollar. Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a teacher. I admired my teachers throughout my schooling years; the good and the bad. There is always something you can learn from them, whether that be the content they taught in the classroom or the manner in which they handled themselves in tough or awkward situations. One can teach anywhere – it’s just a matter of creativity.

love tutoring

As a tutor, my job is to help a learner achieve their academic goals and guide them through their academic struggles. It truly is rewarding when you physically get to see how your efforts helped improve a learner’s mark on a test or report. The smile you get to see on your learner’s face as to how proud they are of themselves is really all the matters at the end of the day. I have learnt how to be myself through teaching. I don’t have to always know it all and be the ambassador of the subject. I love teaching because your learners want to feel as if you are both going through this journey together. You are helping them achieve something they want and the journey is much more important than the destination.

Teaching can be challenging, especially when it comes to motivating your learner. You see the potential they have, and they often hear about the potential they have, but they do not feel as though they’ve got what it takes. Living in such a busy and demanding time can often make us feel the time constraints on everything we do and we expect our learners to get things done and understood as fast as possible. Sometimes it’s okay to take a step back and sit with your learner to reflect on where they are emotionally, mentally and physically. Taking the time to help them stop what they’re doing and to spend a few moments to take a deep breath and talk about where they are in life can take away a tremendous amount of pressure from them. I find this exercise vital as it also gives me an opportunity to strengthen my relationship with my learners. It helps them see I am human just like them and it’s okay to feel overwhelmed. I encourage my learners to take baby steps as they work toward big goals and the proof is in the pudding.

I love tutoring because I am given the opportunity to help children achieve their best and inspire them on a personal and academic level. It excites me to see how energetic a learner becomes as soon as they understand a topic they struggled with. The determination and enthusiasm that stirs within a child is heart-warming. I enjoy getting to know my learners and to learn about life from their perspective. It brings me such a sense of joy to gain insight into their views and opinions about life. I can confidently say that I have learnt as much from my learners as they have learnt from me. That is why I love tutoring.

Written by Neeza Ramiah, BrightSparkz Tutor

5 Helpful Responses To Your Child’s Report Card

How to respond to your child’s report

Report card

It’s that time of year – the much anticipated (or dreaded) school report card will be coming home soon. As a parent, it’s often difficult to know how to respond to poor results, and how you do may impact your child more than you realize. Here are 5 helpful responses to your child’s report card: 

1. Talk to your child’s teacher 

If your child performed poorly in a certain subject, and you aren’t sure why, contact their teacher to ascertain whether this is due to not understanding the concepts, or some other aspect. You could also ask for an idea of how their peers performed, and where they rank on this scale. 

Social issues, learning problems or even something as simple as needing glasses could be affecting your child’s grades, and their teacher should be able to provide insight into this. 

2. Talk to your child Talk to your child about their report

Maybe they hate the subject, or don’t understand the teacher. Maybe they are being bullied, or don’t like their school or classmates. You will gain far more from talking to your child to understand what is going on in their lives and minds. Above all, do not disregard their feelings. Talk to them about how you could work together to improve their grades. 

3. Re-evaluate your own expectations 

If your child has one B on an otherwise straight-A report card, this may not be the issue you think it is. Are you being too hard on your child? You want the best for them, and for their future, which is why you push them, but be sure you don’t push them to the point of burnout. 

4. Reward your child Reward your child

Your child worked hard, and deserves praise for their achievements. Highlight areas where you are proud of their achievements, and celebrate with them in some small way – this could be taking them for an ice cream, or to see a movie, or just some quality time. Children want you to be proud of them, and will work hard for this, so make sure they know that you are. 

5. Arrange extra support 

BrightSparkz can help!

If your child is facing any kind of academic difficulties, they may need extra support. Contact BrightSparkz Tutors to arrange for a private, personalized tutor, or to arrange a session with our Edu-Coach to better understand why your child is struggling. Your child may need assistance in writing exams, such as a reader/scribe, or they may be lacking study skills that could be resulting in poor exam results. Whatever the reason, BrightSparkz offers a range of services that will help your child succeed. Contact us today! 

 

 

Written by: Tessa Cooper, BrightSparkz Contributor

Holiday Tutoring WILL Give Your Child the Edge!

School's out - how to make the holidays productiveAre your children daydreaming about the fast-approaching school holidays? Late nights, lazy mornings in bed, spending time with their friends, and most of all – freedom from homework! Perhaps you are looking forward to not fighting the traffic for a few weeks, not preparing school lunches or making sure uniforms are ironed and no after-school pick up drama? We imagine all of the above!

We also know that holiday tutoring and how to get the right tutor are not the most popular or important things on your (or your child’s) mind right now, but we’re going to try to change that!

The school holidays give children a much-needed break from day-long learning and routine, and are a definite necessity in the life of every child. It allows them time to recharge, have fun and be a child! However, this can be a time to really take advantage of your child’s available time for their own good.

If your child is excelling at school, and there is no room for improvement, you are indeed fortunate and probably the envy of most parents of school-aged learners. However, for many children, a complete brain shutdown over the holidays is not as good an idea as parents may think. Studies have shown that learners, particularly young children, display a dip in their academic abilities after extended periods of relaxation, such as long holidays.

Once back at school, learners are expected to continue on the same, if not a higher level (due to them having had a break), but, teachers do notice a significant downward shift in all subjects, as well as in reading and handwriting levels – all at an even weaker level than prior to the break. Learners (and their parents) can expect it to take a week or two to get back into the swing of things again, and for academic performance to be restored.

Help your child avoid the post-holiday academic dip!

Young minds need to be continuously stimulated. Children will find something to do with their holidays, but the question is: Are these activities going to benefit them, or simply allow for academic regress? By getting a tutor, you can ensure that your child avoids the post-holiday academic dip.

 

Here’s how a Holiday Tutoring Program can give your child the edge:

  1. It keeps a general structure

Although we may sometimes resent it, we all need structure in our lives, and children even more so. Without it, a certain level of anxiety can begin to set in, as too much unpredictability is uncomfortable for most people. Learners go from a strict and organized schedule of classes, tests, homework, sport and extracurricular activities, to weeks of screens, games and mobile devices, sleeping in, and countless hours to fill.

A holiday tutor will ensures that the academic realm of life is still under control. It also allows for the other 80% of the holiday time to be enjoyed as resting time, knowing that someone constructive and stimulating has been accomplished. It leads to the satisfaction of “keeping on top of things” instead of subconscious stressing time – knowing that the break will soon end and that they are not at all ready for the new workload that awaits them.

Giving your child the opportunity of tutoring at regular intervals throughout the holiday (even for as little as 1 lesson per week), will provide just enough structure to help your child keep their focus on academics, as well as ease the transition back into the new term.

  1. It allows time to go back to the basics

All subjects, particularly Maths and Science have basic building blocks. I recall from my own Maths struggles at school, as soon as you’ve missed a set of basics, it is nearly impossible to make sense of anything that comes after that!

Whether your child has missed a few days of school, or has had little understanding up to a point, holidays are a great time to catch up on concepts and fill in the gaps. Once the new term commences, there will then be even more new work to get to grips with.

3. It gives learners the time they need to process information

Without the pressure of class tests and assessments constantly creeping up on them, the break allows learners to feel as though they have the time to spend fully grasping various concepts.

Additionally, because children are generally more relaxed in the holidays, they retain more information and have time to process it before moving right onto something new, as is most often the case at school.

  1. It allows learning to happen at the BEST time

Extra lessons normally take place after a full day at school, when very often a learner is already so drained that all they want to do is something mindless such as kicking a ball or watching TV. There are unfortunately only so many hours in a day, especially during the term, which makes it difficult to schedule tutoring at any other time, but that’s what makes the holidays such an ideal time for tutoring! Learners can have lessons in the morning when minds are fresh and able to process and retain new information, much more effectively. 

  1. It helps to alleviate test and exam anxietyStudy Skills Crash Course

Most people have some degree of test-related anxiety, often due to feeling unprepared. Tests make up a large part of a learner’s grade, and it is therefore essential that they can perform in this area. A holiday tutor can use the time to not only help your child prepare for future tests and exams, but also to improve on study skills. BrightSparkz also offers a unique “Study Skills Crash Course”, designed specifically for our learners in order to highlight the most important tips and advice for each learner’s individual learning style. This one is not to be missed!

  1. It lightens a parent’s load

While children seem to spend more time on holiday than they do at school, parents most often still need to be at work all year round. When your child is sent home with holiday homework and assignments, it can be a challenge finding time to help them get this done.

Thank goodness for tutors, who can not only make sure that the holiday work is completed, but also that your child understands the content of the work. It’s a no-brainer! 

  1. It is a time to re-evaluate and set new goals

Tutors are great motivators who inspire and encourage their learners to constantly try to achieve better results. Why not make the most of the accountability relationship your child develops with a tutor and allow them to spend time together in the holidays, not only for the sake of working on school material, but to help them set academic goals for the new term and keep them motivated? This allows your child to start the new term feeling inspired and driven to achieve the goals that they have set for themselves.

  1. It teaches learners to step-up to challenges

Holiday tutoring is not mandatory, so learners who spend a bit of extra time on their academics during the holidays are learning the value of taking charge and responsibility, as opposed to being a victim of their academic struggles. This is also an opportunity to improve on average marks and put in the time to push for that distinction. This is of great importance for Grade 11 and 12 learners who desire a place in a tertiary institution or course of choice.

Holiday tutoring instils discipline, and teaches the value of doing what others won’t, to achieve what others don’t. There is no doubt that learners will see the positive outcomes of their hard work when returning to school with a greater confidence and understanding, even before they see the fruits when they receive their first tests back!

Myth Busters!

Many parents may assume that it is only necessary to make use of a tutor if their child is struggling, and some even wait until the child has already failed before seeking the help of a tutor. However, tutoring is extremely beneficial to every kind of child – whether they are a failing student desperate to pass, or an average one chasing distinctions.

“Research suggests that 1 hour, 2 – 3 times per week is an effective way of helping children catch up, maintain or even excel in their academics, especially if they are given one-on-one input. This is the best way to ensure they get the most out of their education”.

 How BrightSparkz can help you 

  • Private Tutoring

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

Contact us about our holiday tutors today!

Our tutors are unique individuals, who are hand-picked by our experienced team of consultants. based on their specific strengths in their chosen subjects.  They not only have excellent subject knowledge, but also a passion for tutoring and helping learners reach their potential! Get a tutor today!

 

  • BrightSparkz Mobile Maths & Science (Maths & Science App)

BrightSparkz Online is an award-winning online Maths & Science App tailored to South African learners from Grades 8 – 12. It covers all content for Maths, Natural Science, Physical Science and Chemistry, and is suitable for both CAPS and IEB syllabi. The platform provides top quality resources broken up into manageable sections, and is an excellent way to supplement your child’s one-on-one lessons as it’s something they have unlimited access to, once registered for just R499 for the year. Get your 7-day fee trial here!

  • Study Skills Crash Course!

BrightSparkz Tutors now has its own Educoach, Lauren, who runs a tailored one-on-one Study Skills Crash Course, comprising 2 x 1 hour sessions, and based on each learner’s individual learning styles. Lauren has over 10 years in the education industry, having taught a variety of subjects and grades to learners of varying capability. This is a hugely valuable service that we encourage all parents to sign their children up for – and holidays are the perfect time! For more information or to book, click here or contact edupsych@brightsparkz.co.za.

If a holiday tutor sounds like just what you need, BrightSparkz Tutors can help. Take advantage of our Holiday Tutoring Promotion (15% off any 5 or 10 Classic Lesson Package – T&C’s apply) – Just click here, provide us with your details, and we’ll get right back to you!

Written By: Natalie Wilke, BrightSparkz Blog Writer

Help Reduce Your Child’s Exam Stress

BrightSparkz’ Top Tips for Reducing 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 exam and study workload, and the exam stress that inevitably goes along with it!

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 can affect other aspects of learner’s lives.

Other effects of dyscalculia

  • 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 after school 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.

Associated learning difficulties

  • 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)

There is still so much we don’t know about dyscalculia, and no definitive cause has been found. However, there are some ideas that researchers are still studying.

Possible Causes

  • Genes and heredity: Studies show this 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. 
  • 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.

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. It’s unclear how much of a child with dyscalculia’s brain differences are shaped by genetics, and how much are shaped by their experiences. Researchers are trying to learn if certain interventions for dyscalculia can “rewire” a learner’s brain to make math easier. 

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)!

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

Understanding Dyscalculia – Part 1

Despite the fact that Dyscalculia affects around 6% of the general population, many learners, tutors and educators are unfamiliar with the specifics. The next few blogs will cover some important aspects of dyscalculia, what is entails, the symptoms, the diagnosing of dyscalculia, various effects, and more. I hope you find this helpful!

What is Dyscalculia?

Dyscalculia is a learning disability that affects one’s ability to do mathematics and to grasp mathematical concepts. Learners with dyscalculia struggle to learn mathematics and to develop mathematical skills despite an adequate learning environment at home and at school. There are different severities of dyscalculia and learners will react or adapt to each differently. Some learners might work hard to memorise simple number facts. Other learners may know what to do but not understand the reason behind certain mathematical methods or steps. This is likely because learners with dyscalculia are not able to see the logic behind mathematics. Learners with less severe dyscalculia might understand the logic behind maths but are unsure how and when to apply their knowledge when solving mathematical problems.

Dyscalculia affects people throughout their lifespan. Children with dyscalculia tend to begin falling behind from as early as primary school. Oftentimes, learners may develop a strong dislike for mathematics as a result. Once learners reach secondary school, they usually struggle to pass maths and science subjects.

Warning Signs of Dyscalculia

Dyscalculia comprises various types of mathematical difficulties. Your learner’s symptoms may not look exactly like those of another learner. Observing your learner and taking notes to share with teachers and doctors are good ways to find the most effective approaches and support for your learner. While the signs of dyscalculia look dissimilar at different ages, it does tend to become more apparent as kids get older but it can be detected as early as preschool. There is not sufficient research done on dyscalculia and so there is also no definitive list of symptoms and other than the obvious difficulty with mathematics, we know very little about what symptoms continue through to adolescence and adulthood. Because dyscalculia is best monitored and helped when spotted as early as possible, the following list has been comprised to help you identify any presently known symptoms:

Warning Signs in Preschool or Kindergarten

  • Has trouble learning to count, especially when it comes to assigning each object in a group a number
  • Has trouble recognizing number symbols, such as making the connection between “7” and the wordseven
  • Struggles to connect a number to a real-life situation, such as knowing that “3” can apply to any group that has three things in it; 3 cookies, 3 cars, 3 kids, etc.
  • Has trouble remembering numbers, skips numbers, or counts in the wrong order
  • Finds it hard to recognize patterns and to sort items by size, shape or colour
  • Avoids playing games that involve numbers, counting and other math concepts

Warning Signs in Grades 7 – 9

  • Has trouble distinguishing numbers from symbols
  • Has trouble learning and remembering basic math facts, such as 2 + 4 = 6
  • Struggles to identify mathematical signs (+-) and use them correctly
  • May continue to use fingers to count instead of using more sophisticated strategies
  • Has trouble writing numerals clearly or putting them in the correct column
  • Has trouble coming up with a plan to solve a math problem
  • Struggles to understand words related to math, such asgreater than and less than
  • Has trouble telling left from his right, and even a poor sense of direction
  • Has difficulty remembering phone numbers and game scores
  • Avoids playing games that involve number strategies
  • Has trouble telling time 

Warning Signs in High School

  • Struggles to apply math concepts to everyday life, including monetary matters such as estimating the total cost, making exact change and figuring out a tip
  • Has trouble measuring things such as ingredients in a simple recipe
  • Struggles finding his or her way around and worries about getting lost
  • Has a hard time grasping information shown on graphs or charts
  • Has trouble finding and using different approaches to the same math problem
  • Learners may lack assurance in activities that entail estimating speed and distance, such as playing sports and learning to drive

Symptoms of dyscalculia

  • Difficulty imagining a mental number line
  • Particular difficulty with subtraction
  • Difficulty using finger counting (slow, inaccurate, unable to immediately recognise finger configurations)
  • Trouble decomposing numbers (e.g. recognizing that 10 is made up of 4 and 6)
  • Difficulty understanding place value
  • Trouble learning and understanding reasoning methods and multi-step calculation procedures
  • Anxiety about or a negative attitude towards maths (caused by the dyscalculia)

Now that you are aware of the many and varied symptoms of dyscalculia, it will be easy for you as a tutor to spot any correlations or learning disabilities should your learner ever have. If, during your tutoring sessions, you notice your learner experiencing difficulty, it is important that you keep a record and then speak to his or her parents about your concerns.

The next blog will briefly list how dyscalculia is diagnosed and discuss various other effects of dyscalculia. If you have any further information or experiences, please write in and let us fellow tutors know!

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

Coping with and Helping Learners with ADHD

This blog recaps one of my previous about how to help learners with ADHD. This blog includes challenges posed for tutors and teachers who might have learners with ADHD as well as tips for tutors and learners who have ADHD.

ADHD can present the following challenges for tutors and teachers

  • Learners require more attention
  • Learners have trouble following instructions, especially when presented in a list
  • Learners often forget to write down homework assignments as well as completing given work
  • Learners may have trouble with operations that require ordered steps, such as long division
    or solving equations
  • Learners usually have problems with long-term projects where there is no direct supervision

ADHD can affect learners in the following ways

  • Low grades
  • Teasing from peers
  • Low self-esteem.

So what can we do to help and aid these learners with their studies?

Patience, creativity and consistency are three of the most important aspects to take into consideration when tutoring or teaching learners with ADHD. As a tutor or teacher, our job is to evaluate each individual learner’s needs and strengths. We then need to develop our lessons and strategies in accordance with this.

Additionally, one of the most effective ways of helping learners with ADHD is maintaining a positive attitude. Make the learner your partner and say, “Let’s figure out ways together to help you get your work done.” Reassure the learner that you will be looking for good behaviour and quality work. When you see it, support it with prompt and sincere acclaim. Finally, look for ways to motivate a learner by offering rewards (such as a longer break or less homework).

Tips for the Learner

  • Sit away from windows and doors so as to minimise distractions
  • Move while you work. Constantly moving can help you focus better on the task at hand
  • Concentrate on certain words! Studies show that repeating anchor words like “focus” can block distractions

Tips for the Tutor

  • Give instructions one at a time and repeat whenever necessary
  • Signal the start of a lesson with a cue and in opening the lesson, tell the learner what he or she is going to learn and what your expectations are
  • Tell students exactly what materials they’ll need
  • Where possible, work on the most difficult material first. This can help to make the most of your session/lesson
  • Colour-code sections of material and make use of visuals!
  • Test the learner in the way he or she does best, such as orally or filling in blanks
  • Divide long-term projects into sections and assign a completion date/goal for each
  • Allow the learner to do as much work as possible on a computer
  • Make sure the learner has a system for writing down assignments and important dates and uses it!
  • Establish eye contact
  • Vary the pace and include different kinds of activities. Many students with ADD do well
    with competitive games or other activities that are rapid and intense
  • Allow for frequent (but short) breaks
  • Summarise the key points before finishing the lesson
  • Lastly, and most importantly – be patient and understanding

At BrightSparkz Tutors we provide excellent one-on-one tutoring for Maths, Science, English, Afrikaans and more… Get a tutor today!  Visit www.brightsparkz.co.za for more information.