Navigating Maths Difficulties: The Power of Personalised Tuition for Students

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Many students have maths difficulties, a challenge that can be pervasive and have lifelong consequences. If you ask a class full of students about their opinion of maths, there will be several students who shudder and tell you that they hate maths, it is too hard and they will never be good at maths. Interestingly, there will be more girls than boys who feel this way.

It is estimated that approximately 5 – 8% of students suffer from dyscalculia, a specific learning difficulty related to maths. However, there are many more students who struggle with maths anxiety. The ripple effects of maths difficulties extend beyond academic performance. They can cause students’ self-confidence to falter, foster a negative attitude towards learning and even limit future career opportunities. At Confidence 121, we believe that every student has the potential to conquer these challenges and let their maths abilities flourish.

Common maths difficulties for students

Deciphering the language of maths:

  • Struggling with mathematical language can significantly hold back a student’s ability to understand and resolve maths problems. This is because maths has its own unique vocabulary. Much of the language used in maths is used in general conversation, however, within maths the words often have a different or very specific meaning. Misunderstanding terms or symbols can lead to incorrect interpretations of problems and incorrect conclusions. At Confidence 121, we strive to simplify the complex language and focus on providing situations where our students can explain their understanding and clarify any misinterpretations.


Memorising multiplication tables and number facts:

  • When a student is asked to solve a problem, they need to use prior knowledge to help. If this knowledge isn’t easy for a student to recall, more of their energy will be used to work out the facts, meaning that they are likely to have ‘cognitive overload’ (this is where a student has used up all their mental energy before getting to the end of the problem). When this happens, the student has less energy available for understanding and solving the actual problem and this leads to what we see as ‘silly’ mistakes. At Confidence 121, we initially focus on students’ fluency of basic facts and procedures before tackling problem-solving skills, so that they can be successful in all types of maths tasks.


Struggling with spatial skills:

  • Some students may have specific difficulties in understanding, reasoning and drawing conclusions about objects and their relationships in space. These are essential skills in many areas of maths, particularly in geometry and graphing. Children who find this difficult, will need lots of hands-on experience to build up their understanding and start visualising shapes.


Problems with mathematical reasoning:

For many students, getting to the ‘right’ answer is their main focus and often, they are unable to explain how and why they did what they did. Being able to demonstrate clear logical thinking is a key component of maths alongside justifying and proving. These higher level skills are much more difficult for students to develop and require a lot of practice.

The ripple effects of maths difficulties


For students with any of these maths challenges, the impact can be devastating. When students can see their peers working faster, getting more questions correct, being able to explain their thinking and reasoning, they automatically compare themselves. This affects not only their confidence but also their attitude towards learning. As their self-confidence drops, so their grades suffer. As their grades suffer, they start to think that maths is difficult and there is no point trying as they will never ‘be good at maths’. Within a short period of time, a student can be trapped into a downward spiral, which they find difficult to get out of.

The transformational role of personalised tutoring

While there are many different types of tuition, personalised tuition definitely has a great impact on students. Every student is different and has slightly different needs. A skilled tutor is able to identify the specific areas when an individual student is struggling and tailor the tuition to focus specifically on these areas. At Confidence 121, we ensure that every student ends their first session feeling confident and understanding that they can do maths with the right support.

Personalised tuition: The key to unlocking maths difficulties.

Demystifying Language Difficulties:

A confused girl with mathematical language surrounding her

At Confidence 121, we ensure that all our students understand the key language by asking key questions. For example, one of our students was able to recall all their double facts. However, when they were asked to explain what doubling was, they had no idea – they had just learnt the facts without any understanding! By spending time showing examples of doubling in real life, creating their own pictures to show doubling and then encouraging the student to look for examples of doubling during the week, the student gained confidence as well as the mathematical language that they needed to be successful. Confidence 121 also encourages the use of flashcards to learn exact definitions and to use the specific language in any discussions so that the mathematical language is embedded in everything that we do.

Boosting Number Fact Memorisation:

By acknowledging that fluent recall of number facts is vital, at Confidence 121, we incorporate a lot of different games to practise. There has been a lot of scientific research to show that students learn facts more quickly through playing games rather than simply through memorisation or completing worksheets. We acknowledge that not all students will be able to memorise all their number facts so work with them to develop quicker ways of reaching the answer. We also show different ways of learning times tables as well as highlight patterns and links between the times tables. Confidence 121 makes use of different apps to help with the learning of times tables and other number facts.

Cuisenaire rods are one of the manipulatives that Confidence 121 uses to help build maths confidence

Enhancing Spatial Skills:

Having practical experience, holding different shapes in their hands as well as building models of shapes helps students to develop their spatial awareness. At Confidence 121, we spend time making shapes and talking about their features, using the correct vocabulary. We use movement to develop understanding of angles, position and direction and also make use of the many great apps which are fantastic at showing aspects of shape that are hard to see ourselves.

Elevating mathematical reasoning:

Throughout all our tutoring sessions, here, at Confidence 121, we focus on explaining our understanding and knowledge of different problems. By having this focus rather than the aim of getting it ‘right’, our students are continually developing their problem solving skills. We often share what we ‘saw’ and highlight how we ‘saw’ different things and that because of this, we often solve problems in different ways. Alongside this, by making links between maths topics explicit, students start to think about what they already know and how they can apply this knowledge.

Success stories: The Impact of Personalised Tuition to Overcome Maths Difficulties

Spatial skills

Angles with Jack
Jack* (not his real name) struggled with identifying the size of different angles and using angle rules to work out other angles. Through carefully thought out questions, which gradually increased in complexity, and using coloured pens to highlight aspects of the diagram, Jack was able to increase his confidence in finding the angles.

Understanding Language

Area - Amber
Amber* (not her real name), was in grade 8 and covering the topic of surface area and struggling as she didn't know what area was. The lack of understanding of mathematical language was holding her back. We talked about the meaning of area, real life examples of area that she could relate to and how to work out the area of rectangles. With her new understanding of area, Amber was able to relate this to the surface area of cuboids.

Personalised Tuition

Personalised tuition really can transform your child’s experience of maths learning. By focusing your child’s learning on the areas that they are finding challenging and providing teaching that builds strong foundations, personalised tuition is a fantastic and effective way of helping your child develop confidence and a positive mindset towards maths. 

If you would like your child to conquer their maths challenges, I would strongly encourage you to seek out personalised support for your child. At Confidence 121, we believe that every child can do maths and we aim to provide positive maths experiences for everyone. Please click on the link below to send Confidence 121 an enquiry message.

Catherine Rooke

A specialist international maths tutor helping children with maths anxiety, maths difficulties and dyscalculia have positive maths experiences.