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How to build confidence in students in a math tutoring online session using games

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In an online math help session and indeed all classroom learning, the educator’s role is to find out what beliefs the student comes into the session with.

Since one of the goals of educating the student is to be able to transfer knowledge that the student can apply in future, it is the educator’s role to pay particular attention to the type of favorable or unfavorable beliefs the student comes with into the learning environment.


Many factors will differentiate a good performing student and a student left behind by the pace of any learning environment. Knowledge of the student’s beliefs allows the educator to plan lessons, making use of those favorable beliefs and helping struggling kids reconsider unfavorable beliefs.

Motivating students in every learning environment will provide benefit to the student throughout their lifetime. If this motivation will be sustained and provide advantage to the student, the right environment and belief must be nurtured.

In an online algebra tutoring session, Bob finds it difficult to solve a question posed on the whiteboard. He states he is unable to solve the algebra question because he does not know how to begin. Ashley in contrast, asserts in an online calculus tutoring session she can solve the problem and arrive at the answer with little support from the calculus tutor.

Interest is a strong determinant in motivating students and should be advanced in the learning process if the transfer of knowledge will yield fruit.

Ashley comes to the learning environment with a positive belief about math and feels sure in the online calculus tutoring session she can arrive at the answer with little support from the calculus tutor. This initial interest is the zeal that most students need in other to learn. Interestingly, Bob reveals that he is not able to solve the algebra question and does not know how to begin. The absence of the will to try is a negative belief as Bob views the problem as either difficult or he does not have the interest to try or he lacks the basic foundation knowledge. When this negative feeling has taken a hold on Bob, it produces doubts and nervousness. The final result is failure.

The role of the algebra tutor in this situation is to cause a transformation from the negative unfavorable belief to a reassuring favorable belief. Thus promoting interest will assist the student cross over. If this cross over must be beneficial to the student, the algebra tutor needs to bring the struggling student to a point of interest to partake in the process.



One difficulty in online calculus tutoring, online algebra tutoring and indeed all math learning sessions is instilling deeper learning through interest generation.

In K-12 education, designing and offering rich learning content to the student can be challenging. In designing and deploying this rich learning content to the student, the educator needs to understand that their primary goal is to generate interest so as to transfer knowledge. Once the students’ interest has been gotten, the educator needs to also find a way of keeping this interest throughout the learning session.

One of the ways that Bob will be interested in solving the algebra question is for Bob to be carried along in the learning process via “You Do, I Do” scaffolding technique. This is one scaffolding technique that enhances deeper learning.

As if we do not know what deeper learning is; deeper learning is the process whereby a learner demonstrates the capacity to transfer learning. This means a deeper learner will be able to understand a topic, explain it to others and apply it.

To be able to promote deeper learning in every learning environment, the following learning style will prove effective:

a) Use of real life examples, pictures and drawings the child can relate to their situation.

b) Use of storytelling to make ideas or concept stick.

c) Encourage the child to solve more problems in a variety of ways.


Online tutoring strategies that promotes positive motivational beliefs in kids



In the early years of a child, the difference between positive and negative numbers can be confusing. The child first meets the minus sign when it is used to indicate the subtraction operation. In other to avoid confusing the child, teaching negative numbers in the number line should be handled with care. The educator needs to find a practical way to introduce negative and positive numbers when teaching number line.

There is a way that proves beneficial to the child in an online math help session as well as in classroom learning. This method will be effective in re-establishing a link from unfavorable beliefs to favorable reassuring beliefs. This method will promote interest in the child and hold such interest throughout the learning process.

The educator should begin by informing the child of the benefits the session will afford him/her if they partake in it.

In this case of introduction of minus sign using number line, the math tutor should inform the child that partaking in the number line session will help him/her learn:

a) Positive and negative number position on a number line and,

b) Ideas they can use to differentiate between positive and negative numbers using pictures and drawings

In the online math help session, the tutor should ask the child to sketch or draw a mountain beside the sea, on the whiteboard. If the child cannot do this the first time, the tutor should go ahead and sketch this on the whiteboard.

Next, the math tutor sketches pictures of plane, bird, fish, octopus and boat on the whiteboard. The math tutor asks the child where to place the items like fish, boat, octopus etc. on the first mountain besides the sea drawing. The tutor should encourage the child to use the word “below the sea” and “above the sea” when responding. After all the items such as fish, boat etc. have been sorted and placed, the tutor should find out from the child how high the plane and bird might be above the sea and how far below the sea the fish and octopus might be. The tutor should also find out from the student, their views about where the boat might be. After this, the tutor should immediately introduce to the child the minus sign. Tutor should let the child understand that the minus sign should be used to represent all that is “below the sea” and the surface of the sea should be a reference which is called zero (0).

Live math help

Another way to teach minus sign in number line is to draw a horizontal line on the whiteboard and referencing it as the natural ground. Next the tutor should begin by drawing say, thirteen seats on the horizontal natural ground on the whiteboard. Tutor can now write zero (0) on one of the drawn seats, say the seventh (7th) seat from the right of the thirteen seats. Next, the tutor should number the seats to the right of zero (0) as; 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. The tutor can ask the child how the seats to the left of zero (0) could be numbered. Suggest the negative sign if the child cannot figure it out then, number the seats to the left of zero (0) as; -6, -5, -4, -3, -2, -1, (0)

Tutor then sketches a boy on top of a numbered seat and request that the child say what seat he/she will like the boy to move to. Urge the child to say 3 or 5 for numbers on the right of zero (0) and “negative 1” or “negative 5” for numbers to the left of zero (0).

Using games such as these has the capacity to promote self-directed learning, interest and build confidence in children. These games potentially engage the student, build interest in them and make them come back for more learning.

It is the tutors’ role to find out what went well after each online math help session and what should be enhanced for future sessions.



Written by Charles Onwugbene of FX-FCTUTOR (@fxfctutor1)


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