The Cuemath Way is a philosophy of math learning and teaching that's designed to deliver a Big Delta, or exceptional math outcomes. Depending on their current level, this could mean different things for different children, or even for the same child at different points in time:
- Getting rid of their math anxiety
- Building a strong conceptual foundation
- Scoring better grades at school
- Succeeding at advanced math contests
The goal of The Cuemath Way is to deliver a Big Delta for every child - with full appreciation of their unique learning style and needs.
Delta in Every Class
To deliver a Big Delta, the tutor must create a delta in every class - some real, meaningful increase in the child's math ability.
In many math classes, there's either very little challenge, or there's too much challenge, or the child is just tuned out - conditions which are not conducive to good learning:
The Cuemath Way holds that only when the child is actively engaged and the level of challenge is somewhat outside their current zone of comfort, does new learning happen. In other words, for a delta in math ability:
- the child must struggle by going out of their comfort zone, but …
- that struggle must be productive and lead to new learning
We call this process Productive Struggle, and it's at the heart of The Cuemath Way:
There's this misconception that struggle is bad - and especially in math, finding problems difficult, or making mistakes, are signs of poor learning. Well, that's incorrect!
Only with struggle will the child's mind get stretched. But the level of struggle has to be just the right amount. In other words, the child needs the good kind of struggle, aka productive struggle.
The Cuemath Way expects the tutor to generate productive struggle in every class, by ensuring three conditions:
- Right zone of difficulty
- High ratio of effort
- Strong motivation in the child
Right Zone of Difficulty
The challenge level of the material - the math concepts and problems the child is working through - should be neither too low nor too high. It should be "just right", and should push the child only a little bit outside their current comfort zone.
Some call it the zone of proximal development. I often call it the Goldilocks Zone, which is actually a concept from astronomy - for life to sustain on a planet, it can be neither too near nor too far from the host star, and can instead only be in a narrow band of distance.
To keep the child in the right zone, the Cuemath tutor does two things:
- Tutor continuously investigates the child's mind Like a good detective, the tutor constantly asks probing questions and encourages the child to verbalize their thinking, to determine whether the child is in the right zone or not.
- Tutor adjusts the level of difficulty or engagement Whenever the child has gone out of the right zone, they bring them back into the right zone - by getting them to work on simpler or more challenging problems, or doing more repetitions when the child is unsure, or doing the same problem in a different context.
In this effort of constant calibration, the tutor is extensively assisted by Cuemath's proprietary learning platform curriculum and our visual and adaptive curriculum.
For example, the LEAP platform allows the tutor to tap into our content base of millions of questions and assign custom practice material to the child at any point, thus keeping the child in the right zone.
As another example, our curriculum has a lot of visuals and simulations that make it easy for the child to understand what's really going on. Here's one that shows why exterior angles of a polygon sum to 360°:
High Ratio of Effort
In traditional math classes, most of the effort is done by the teacher. Even in typical tutoring sessions, it's the tutor who does most of the explaining, writing, drawing or solving, while the child often follows along passively:
In other words, most traditional math classes have low ratio of effort between the child and the tutor.
A Cuemath tutor, on the other hand, in expected to generate high ratio of effort - it's the child who is expected to do most of the effort of "doing the math", while the tutor must be constantly watching, and step in to provide guidance in the form of "cues" whenever needed.
There are two ways in which a Cuemath tutor generates high ratio.
Tutor talks less and gets the child to think and talk more
They don't constantly interrupt the child, but instead give the child the space and time to think and respond. They don't tell the answers directly.
Instead, they cue the child in many different ways to generate more thinking and talk on the child's part. This Cue Don't Tell philosophy is the reason why we are called Cuemath, by the way.
To enable our tutors to do this art of cueing well, there's a powerful feature on our platform called Talk Meter, which shows the student:teacher talk time ratio every 20 minutes of the class:
Our research has shown that a talk time ratio of around 50:50 is ideal. The Talk Meter helps both the tutor and the child stay in this ideal zone.
Tutor gets the child to write more
The tutor encourages the child to show their work by writing on the interface.
Writing is critical to become better at math. It helps the child clarify and organise their thinking, making it easier to grasp concepts and solve problems. Writing also aids in retention, as jotting down steps and solutions reinforces the child's memory. In addition, written explanations improve the child's communication of complex ideas, and allow for better feedback from the tutor. Finally, writing can reduce math anxiety by demystifying complex equations and making the problem-solving process more structured.
In short, writing is a superpower for math learning.
Cuemath's classes support the writing process through Math Canvas, which is an amazing one-of-its-kind feature where the tutor and the child can write directly on top of the question area and have rich, contextual discussions, just like they would in an offline class:
Strong Motivation in the Child
The tools for learning are abundant. It's the desire to learn that's scarce. - Naval Ravikant
The world of technology and AI is evolving at an unprecedented pace. But the process of learning is still - and perhaps will always be - a fundamentally biological process. For a child aiming to learn math, there's no "make me a math genius" download button. They still have to go through a long and arduous journey of effortfully working through new ideas and concepts - with their neural network only slowly getting rewired as a result.
For the child to successfully go through this journey, one thing is more important above all else. Motivation. Motivation to struggle and get better. Motivation to fail and yet keep moving forward. Motivation to go outside their comfort zone. Even the most sophisticated learning tools in the world will fail if there's no motivation on the child's part to put in the effort.
Therefore, creating strong motivation in the child is perhaps a Cuemath tutor's most important job, and they are trained to do two things on this front:
The Cuemath Oath
The Cuemath Way puts the tutor-child relationship at the heart of everything. While Cuemath’s AI-enabled platform and visual curriculum are very sophisticated in their own right, their ultimate goal is to amplify and strengthen this very human relationship, as that is the only way to deliver exceptional outcomes.
In this context, every Cuemath Tutor is expected to bring a very high level of commitment to their job. In fact, Cuemath goes further than perhaps every other education company by asking each one of its tutors to take an oath - The Cuemath Oath.
The Cuemath Oath affirms that the young, fertile mind of a child is the incredibly powerful end product of billions of years of evolution and a reservoir of limitless potential, and it is the teacher’s privilege to get to shape this young mind. Here’s what the oath says:
Just like every doctor has to take the Hippocratic Oath, every Cuemath Tutor has to take the Cuemath Oath.
Below, you can see me taking this oath together with hundreds of Cuemath tutors in a series of tutor conferences we conducted in July 2023:
Putting it all Together
So here's a summary of The Cuemath Way:
- The goal of The Cuemath Way is to deliver a Big Delta - exceptional math outcomes for every child.
- To do that, the Cuemath Tutor aims to create a delta in every class - a tangible increase in the child's math ability
- The best way to create a delta is through a process of productive struggle - struggle that pushes the child somewhat outside their comfort zone and leads to new learning.
- To ensure productive struggle, the tutor ensures three conditions in every class …
- Right zone of difficulty - the tutor must keep the challenge level of the material neither too easy nor too hard, but "just right",
- High ratio of effort - the child who should be doing most of the effort, with the tutor watchfully observing and cueing
- Strong motivation in the child - the tutor must create in the child a desire to learn and embrace productive struggle.
- Underlying The Cuemath Way is an oath that every Cuemath Tutor must take - The Cuemath Oath
As a company, everything that we do - the way we hire our tutors, design our curriculum, or evolve our platform - is to amplify the power of The Cuemath Way in every class. And whenever we look back at our journey, we feel a great sense of satisfaction that The Cuemath Way has helped us deliver exceptional outcomes for tens of thousands of students across the world.