Tutoring on Stationary Points

A short post on something funny and interesting that happened last week in one of my tutorial sessions. This year I started tutoring for Higher Maths, for those of you that don’t live in UK, or don’t know what this is, here is the official website about it: Higher.

The story started probably 2 weeks ago, when he ( I’m going to call him James just for this time) started “differentiation”. He is quite smart and picks really quick any method, but if he doesn’t get what’s the purpose of things he just looses interest. This week he has done “stationary points” at school and he just doesn’t understand how those are going to help him. Probably I should say that James already knows he wants to do Medical Science at university and considers mathematics to be just something useless that needs to be passed to get into uni.

At some point during the session, he just stopped and said quite annoyed: “If I will be doing medical science at uni, where would I use all of these?”. You could imagine that I didn’t know what to do first: wanted to laugh, a lot of examples were going though my mind, or maybe just tell him this is not the way to talk to me. But decided to just smile and asked for his textbook. He looked at me really strange, also specifying that he doesn’t want to do this type of exercises anymore. I took the book quietly (Heinemann Higher Mathematics Student Book, 2nd edition) and went to the chapter on differentiation. Due to the fact that I am not a teacher and that I haven’t tutored Higher before, I didn’t know exactly all the questions from the book, but I was sure I could find what I was looking for. And… YES!! I was so happy when I saw the following questions:

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The next thing that happened was incredibly funny for me. Still smiling I pointed to the questions and asked James just to read them quietly. He spent 5 minutes reading them, he read each a couple of times. His smile from before was slowly disappearing. I was trying to focus not to laugh. He looked at me a little annoyed, I think my smile was starting to grow and he could observe that. He said (nicely): “You got me, let’s do this questions now. They seem quite interesting and I can tell you what I have read lately about lungs”. I got surprised that he wanted to share something like this with me, he never did it before. We did the questions nicely, he told me quite a lot of interesting things (considering that I was never good at anatomy) and in the end he asked for more questions like this. So, we made an agreement: he will do everything nicely and quietly if I can get applications like the ones above, but he has to see the questions before he starts the basic things. I find this will be quite interesting and challenging for me, but I think I will enjoy it.

Let me know if something like this happened to you and how would you have handled it. Also, if you have any other advice for me, I am open to suggestions, you can email me at lthmathematics@gmail.com. Thank you for your help and support. You can find me on Facebook,  Tumblr,  Google+,  Twitter,  Instagram and Lettrs, I will try to post there as often as possible. Don’t forget that maths is everywhere! Enjoy!


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