What was the secret of the world’s greatest teacher?
Most teachers teach by telling.
By facing an audience of students, on a blackboard or in a video, and telling facts, formulas and answers.
But telling is a one-way monologue. And in most cases, it’s boring and ineffective.
There’s a far better way. And it was evolved more than 2000 years ago by a man in ancient Greece. Socrates is considered to be the greatest teacher the world has ever known. The essence of his technique is a two-way dialogue between the teacher and the student.
How does it work when teaching a child?
It’s simple. The teacher must avoid giving away the solution or answer. Instead, the teacher must use cues - questions, hints, nudges - to keep pushing the child forward, till the child discovers the end answer on her own. In other words, the teacher must cue, not tell.
Let’s take an example.
Suppose that the child needs to learn the simple middle-school formula of a cylinder’s total surface area. A cylinder, when opened and unrolled, yields one rectangle and two circles, and using this insight, it’s easy to derive the formula as 2πr(h + r). If you want to jog your brain, you can take a few seconds and work it you yourself:
Now, a teacher-who-tells will just lecture away on this concept in a one-way monologue: “So ... suppose that this cylinder has a base radius of r and a height of h.
Now, you can see that the cylinder has this curved surface, and these two flat surfaces. If I open and unroll the cylinder this way, I get this rectangle and these circles. We can easily see that… ”. The end outcome of this monologue is a child who’s neither much wiser nor any happier.
On the other hand, a teacher-who-cues will offer a series of cues in a two-way dialogue: “So … how many surfaces does the cylinder have? [child responds] How do we find the area of the flat surfaces? [child responds] How do we find the area of the curved surface? [child responds] Oh, you can’t figure it out? [child responds] What if you opened and unrolled the curved surface into a flat shape? ...”. The end outcome of this dialogue is a joyous child discovering the 2πr(h + r) formula on her own!
I’ve taught more than 10,000 students myself. I started out as a teacher-who-tells. But with experience, I’ve transformed into a teacher-who-cues. From that experience, I can tell you that cueing is unbelievably more effective than telling. That’s why we follow this philosophy religiously at Cuemath. Every Cuemath teacher is rigorously trained to cue, not tell. And by the way, that’s why we are called Cuemath. :)
If you liked this, you might be interested in exploring Cuemath’s live online classes, where expert tutors teach math and coding by cueing instead of telling.