Raphaël, secondary 5, is a shy guy who lives in a far-away town in Saint-Mathieu in a small modest home. It wasn’t the warmest relationship at first. He was doing secondary 4 math, and it’s wasn’t easy! I had to go over many concepts with him dealing with fractions and signs seen in secondary 1 and 2. From one week to the next, he’s motivation seemed to disappear and he would forget what we saw the previous week.
Then, slowly, after a few weeks, a bond began to form between us as we started chatting about things other than math; school, travels, becoming a cook (his dream job), teachers, friends, fake friends, gangs, girls, etc.
Raphaël had other much greater preoccupations than simultaneous linear equations. For the most part, this explained his incapacity to concentrate thoroughly on a problem.
In math, you have to dive into a problem as if you were entering a dark room full of strange objects. Slowly, your eyes adjust to the obscurity and you begin to recognize objects. You begin to put together what you learn easily and establish connections, and you end up figuring out what you will have to find at the end of the problem, and then, which path you want to take to get there. The last step is to jump right in, use the right screwdriver at the right moment and don’t second-guess which way to turn it (basic algebraic functions).
This being said, such an introspective approach requires a lot of what I like to call peace of mind. The smallest torment can prevent us from seeing clearly in the dark, or make us forget the science behind screwdrivers, to follow my previous analogy.
The solution? Put your life on hold for a moment and stop worrying to give yourself time for one calculation, or two, or three… And I think that realizing you are not along in asking yourself important life questions lightens the feeling of insecurity.
Also, Raphaël had to accept the fact that his greatest weaknesses went back to grade 5 math. That’s hard on the ego. June was approaching, and I had to make him understand the urgency of the situation, without humiliating him. That was a great challenge. If he failed math, his self-confidence would fall to the lowest level, and it would be even more difficult to catch-up.
Once he was in the right state of mind: “forget everything else, I will do math like crazy until the final exam”, he improved one thousand times faster and his competence in math finally reached the desired level. His class notes became clear and well structured. So, the home stretch was the easiest part, or at least the part he was the most confidant about. I was absent during those last two weeks (I started working for “Les Débrouillard”). He got there on his own. And I don’t think my absence was a bad thing.
At the end of June, I was informed that, against all odds, he had passed math!
I won’t forget him. And I don’t think he will either. A victory, big or small, heals many wounds.
Francis, tutor at School Success