Is the subject of mathematics somewhat like marmite, either you love it, or you hate it? Do people have some kind of “algebraic gene” which governs their mathematical understanding and abilities? Is there some sort of mysterious inner “protractor” that enables a few special people to become mathematicians?
On the face of it, you might think that the answer to all these questions is an emphatic “yes”!
Certainly, the world of mathematics (together with subjects like physics) has its own language and “ways of speaking” which may present challenges to the untrained novice. It is also true that there are those who seem to be naturally “gifted” in maths.
I wonder, however, if a person’s love or otherwise for mathematics (or any other complex subject, for that matter) is critically linked with the way it is first introduced and subsequently taught, together with the degree of patience shown to students by those who have the privilege of teaching this wonderful subject.
Students of all ages who are unable to secure sufficient one-to-one help from their teachers tend to give up when new mathematical ideas and concepts are introduced and not fully explained or understood. A student’s fledgling confidence can also be easily damaged without constant encouragement and support.
Mathematical ideas frequently build upon one another, so a failure to grasp one basic idea may lead, if no help is patiently and consistently provided, to fundamental misunderstandings which may ultimately result in a fog of total mathematical incomprehension.
Even those students who have skilled and inspiring teachers, can find that some areas of mathematics are a serious challenge for them. This can rise to the surface during times of classroom testing or more formal examinations.
An added difficulty is that mathematical problems can present themselves in a wide variety of ways and examiners seem to have the annoying habit of asking questions which do not immediately correspond to the more familiar student textbook exercises. It is vital that students are sufficiently warned and prepared for such varied and potentially unfamiliar challenges.
This is where the help of the right kind of private tutor can change everything.
A skilled tutor can help to unlock the hidden potential of a student by steadily helping to build confidence through regular support and gradual challenge. As a tutor of mathematics and physics, it gives me much joy to see students grow in confidence and ability in their studies.
It is a wonderful thing to encourage and nurture the life-long love of mathematics in all students!