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Practice Makes Perfect

I recently read about an interesting experiment conducted by a table tennis coach, Ben Larcombe [1]. Ben became fascinated by the idea that one could achieve mastery by practice, not innate talent. So he recruited his childhood friend Sam, a “computer geek” without any sign of sporting talent, and put him through a programme of over 500 hours of 1:1 coaching. Sam made dramatic progress – although one year of daily practice didn’t prove enough to make it as a top-ranked table tennis player.

Malcolm Gladwell popularised the thesis that to become an expert in anything one needs to put in an average of 10,000 hours of practice  – after 7 years at University, and 20 years of tutoring I can certainly vouch for the value of practice!

And as a tutor what really excites me isn’t table tennis, but the parallels with kids at school – as Matthew Syed, a former Commonwealth table tennis champion, rightly points out: “In subjects like mathematics, if young people are not very good at the beginning they tend to give up because they don’t think they have got a brain for numbers.”

I can concur with those sentiments. New students often come to me lacking severely in confidence. They have often given up because they have convinced themselves they are “bad at maths.”

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Mind the Gap

Mind The Gap

It often comes as a shock to students starting their A-levels to discover how big a step up in difficulty they are expected to take after completing their GCSEs. Nationally nearly 1 in 3 sixth-formers drop out of A-levels according to reported statistics (1), with drop out and failure rates being particularly high in maths (2). It is crucial to bridge that gap by having the right approach to study and the right support to be able to successfully make the transition.

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