Tutoring using children’s interests creates enjoyment and motivation

“Can we do something with these?”

A voice from behind the door asks.

Each morning and early afternoon, I teach home schoolers Maths and English. I really enjoy these sessions as the sessions can be more free and frequently follow the children’s interests. Although I always have a plan in mind, this often changes when I arrive as the children have something that they want to share with me or do.

Using children's interests and toys provides motivation for learning.

A coy child’s voice from behind the door asks, “Can we do something with these?”

“Sure, no problem,” I reply, wondering what ‘these’ are.

“They’re Russian dolls – look!”

And with that, 7 Russian dolls are carefully taken apart and laid out on the carpet.

At the same time, I am thinking that this is the ideal prop to continue our learning about circles. Over the last two weeks, we have been learning how to calculate the area and circumference of different circles and these Russian dolls were almost cylindrical. Nothing could have been better!

Together, we have a great discussion about how to find the volume, linking it to our previous learning of finding the volume of cuboids, and other 3D shapes. The dolls also gave a really practical example of the difficulties in measuring accurately.

Practical measuring

Accurately measuring the diameter of the Russian doll to the nearest millimetre.

Measuring accurately the height of the Russian dolls.

Once we have completed all the calculations, we discuss how the accuracy affected the calculations. we conclude that the best way to find the volume of the Russian dolls would be to fill them with water – perhaps the best, but not the most practical!

At the end of the session, the child was really motivated and eager to tell her mum what she had been doing. By using something that she was interested in, she had the motivation to practise the calculations needed to find the volume, as well as think laterally about how to measure as accurately as possible and discuss whether the calculations we had done were greater or less than the actual volume.

What interests does your child have? How could they be used o motivate your child’s learning?

Catherine Rooke

Catherine is a specialist, international maths tutor helping children with maths difficulties, anxiety and dyscalculia have positive maths experiences. Through gaining confidence, enjoyment and re-establishing a love for learning, your child will find a new enthusiasm for learning maths.