Friday, 9 December 2011


What is the biggest concern of parents who ask Step UpLearning for help with private tuition for their children? 

An easy question to answer:  it’s confidence.

I want my child to have more confidence”

“He lacks confidence”

“She needs a little more confidence

Some children seem to have buckets of confidence-sometimes it can be interpreted as cockiness- but usually in certain areas. A boy might be super-confident on the football pitch but feels so inadequate in the classroom he resorts to the age old male fall-back of playing class clown. In that way he is appreciated even hero-worshipped by his peers but he is covering up a multitude of failings.

So where do we start? 

There is no magic wand to wave, it is a long term effort which starts by establishing what the child is good at and then building on this with small steps of success. 

Confidence grows from the little successes which build up to that point when a question is asked by the teacher in the classroom and she puts her hand up and gets the right answer.

This week one of our students proudly told me how she was able to answer a question none of her classmates could answer. 

A magic moment!


Tuesday, 6 December 2011

3.8 million children do not own a book

Almost four million children in the UK do not own a book, according to a report by the National Literacy Trust.

Seven years ago 1 child in 10 did not have a book of their own, while today that figures stands at 1 child in 3.

A shocking statistic and one which brings sadness to those who love books and see reading as a way to educate our children and give them access not only to the accumulation of knowledge, but to a higher level of understanding of  the world around them.

It begs the question, what can we do?

Schools and parents are of course in the frontline here but what can we do as a community? Libraries are under threat; computers have taken over the leisure time that children used to have for outdoor play and reading. Parents have to be good role models and be seen to be reading.

As a private English and Maths tutor with Step Up Learning, I have run over a 600 reading assessments in the past 7 years and there is always a correlation between the amount a child reads and whether their reading age is ahead or behind their actual age.

I would like to see a daily “quiet time” with no TV or computers (and phones off!).

Are some parents presenting the wrong role model for their children?  What can we do to reverse this shocking statistic? 

I would love to know what you think.

Friday, 25 November 2011


I am often asked to support children with the "chunking" method of division. There are times when my personal preferences are subordinated to the needs of the learner especially with long multiplication. I personally favour the Lattice of Napier's Bones method but will teach other methods when it meets the personal learning style of the learner.

When it comes to chunking however I really have to grit my teeth. There are times when we have to go along with the student as it is the only method taught in their school and we will always do our best to make sure each child is supported to ensure success at their school. Whilst I understand where chunking is coming from (we need to teach why as well as how) I think it is not only confusing but also open to inaccuracies  committed by the learner in the multiple calculations required.

Division itself is in my mind the most difficult of the four operators and we should not over complicate things for students who are finding it tricky anyway. Give students different methods, by all means but don't dismiss traditional methods for the reason that they are out of date. Some mathematical methods are over a thousand years old, does it make them wrong?