An interview with Francesca
Can you tell us a little bit about the work you do at Linden?
I work one-on-one or in small groups with learners of different age groups and levels, ranging from young children to adults. My students are either struggling with math, or already have a natural ability and need coaching in the right direction. I support students doing the International Baccalaureate (IB) and IGCSE by helping them understand foundational concepts, prepare for tests (including SATs exams), and general academic support and time management skills. I also work with more advanced/gifted learners that love that extra challenge.
What is your approach with your students? Do you have a particular technique that helps them open up to math?
Part of being an academic coach is that I’m there to support the students as well as guide them to a specific curriculum-set goal. I ask students which subjects they like or dislike and why. I often find that while some may say there are subjects they don’t like, what they really dislike is their own feeling of insecurity about it. Establishing this rapport means I can gauge exactly what level of encouragement and instruction they need.
Math tends to be a very tough and scary subject for many students. What are ways to help children overcome their bias?
First, I try to take away that fear and nervousness associated with math. If there’s something they’re interested in – a particular sport, for example, I try to connect that to what we work on to make the content more relatable and less scary. Instead of posing questions and pointing out wrong answers, I make sure they have a strong foundation in technique and knowledge, and that they can demonstrate exactly how a mathematical process is done, and then gradually build in test questions and examples. I need to see how they’re approaching the problem to know what they need help with.
What can parents do to promote the love of learning at home?
Offer positive encouragement rather than pressure, with emphasis on rewards for effort, not just attainment. Providing ready access to learning materials, as well as investing time and interest in their homework, gives my students that sense of progress and that’s important for motivation. Helping your child understand their homework doesn’t need to be scary if you feel you don’t have a good grasp of math. Often saying you don’t know an answer to a problem gives students the chance to explain things to you, or want investigate the answer together. The fact that you want to try to figure out an answer sets a great example.
Do you have any favorite apps, books, videos or resources to support children that want to improve their math skills, but don’t know where to start?
In my lessons, I love to gamify math and use memory aids and timed practices to keep students interested and focused. It is important to mark progress and set clear goals because students feel proud as they meet their goals. I like to use number-based card games like Blackjack (an added bonus is that it makes them feel more grown up to play a game that adults play for fun!) and math-related puzzles like the Rubix cube. There are some great flashcards and resources, particularly for IB students at Haese Mathematics.
Francesca is an Academic Coach specializing in Mathematics, with a Master’s degree (First Class Math) in Mathematics from the University of Sheffield. Francesca has experience in business and education, having worked in the pharmaceutical industry as a business analyst, before focusing on a coaching career. Over the past years Francesca has taught children in England, the US and across Asia with various organizations – helping to develop their confidence and excitement in what at times, can be demanding subjects. As an academic coach, Francesca strives to challenge the stereotypes surrounding Math, encourage new ways of thinking and to share her enthusiasm with all the children she works with. Francesca runs 1:1 and group workshops for students in all levels.