Beyond grades, I influenced my students in every contact we make. I sum up this influence with three words: Clarity, Confidence, Curiosity.
Clarity refers to clarity in my student’s understanding. It means understanding how a formula is to be used, understanding a concept, or understanding why a certain worked example was like that. Without clarity in everything the student learns, new knowledge will often be built on shaky foundations. Without clarity, learning gets harder and harder as a student gets into higher levels. Clarity makes foundations strong.
My job is to explain with various ways until my student gains this clarity. My promise is that I will not give up until my student is satisfied with his clarity.
Clarity also refers to clarity in how my student expresses his thoughts or logic through his steps in his working. A key skill to do well in the future is the ability to communicate clearly.
To achieve this, I train my student to write logical steps, with proper statements explaining his intention or though process.
Confidence refers to helping my student to believe that he can do a lot of mathematics, much more than he believes is possible, if only he is willing to work at it. That he can make use of the common sense in him to figure many mathematical things out, so long as he does not fear and does not give up too easily.
Often times this means helping my student who is petrified with fear of maths to get small wins – solving simple sums, getting the right answers, or figuring out which formula to use. Often times this also means debunking his deeply ingrained belief that he is just “not the math type”.
I know I have achieved this with my student, when I see the courage in their eyes when faced with a complex maths question, and hear him silently say, “Bring it on. If I wrestle with it long enough, I believe I can solve it.”
Curiosity refers to inspiring my student to have the desire and the habit to ask “why not this?” and “what if I do this?”.
I inculcate this by example, by being truly curious about brand-new questions, which I may not have immediate solutions to. Instead of feeling embarrassed about not being able to get at the answer to certain questions, I would be candid about not having the answer and roll up my sleeve to get to the bottom of it.
I believe that this kind of attitude towards challenges rubs off on my students. In my class, I love to do “real-time solving” with my students; we would go through a difficult question which one of the student found somewhere, and I’ll analyse the question out loud, share my thoughts on what possible topics it was meant to test, what possible clue could help us progress, and what were the challenges I saw. Sometimes I could solve it on the spot, sometimes I got stuck. Whichever the case, I made sure that good observation skills, critical thinking and logical deduction were employed while we struggled through the process. That is, in my opinion, curiosity at play.