Oct 27, 2022 | Red Deer

Giving Fish vs Teaching to Fish

Why Mathnasium is called The Math Learning Centre? What exactly is a Learning Centre? What’s the difference between a Learning Centre and a tutorial service?

Let’s start with a famous Chinese proverb: “Give people fish and they will eat today; Teach them how to fish, and they will eat tomorrow”. Giving fish is easy and it does make the person full – but what would they do tomorrow when they’re hungry and no one is giving them fish? Teaching a person how to fish would last a lifetime, but it needs patience and commitment from both sides. A math learning centre is like “teaching how to fish” and a math tutor is like “giving fish”.


"Teaching how to fish" instead of just "giving fish" requires patience and commitment from both sides, but it would last a lifetime. 


Learning Centre vs Tutorial Service

For a child’s overall pattern of math education, where does Mathnasium fit in? Schools are the primary education provider; Mathnasium is a supplemental education provider. The distinction is that the primary provider issues grades, whereas Mathnasium does not. We affect their grades in a positive way but out role is to supplement what kids are learning in school.

As a supplemental education provider, Mathnasium is structured as a Learning Centre rather than a tutorial service. A tutor’s job is to help a student get through tonight’s homework and Friday’s test. Mathnasium does provide a degree of support in terms of homework and upcoming tests. However, our primary role as a learning centre is to delve into the reasons why tonight’s homework is such a huge issue. Usually, it’s a series of knowledge gaps that students have incurred over the years.


Mathnasium Comprehensive Assessment: the little details pinpointing exactly where the gaps are

Think about this illustration. A 7th grade student, having problems with math at school, go and see a tutor: “I don’t understand algebra, please teach me that”. But then the tutor has a hard time to teach the student because of his lack of foundational skills like fractions, and deeper than that he didn’t show sufficient skills in multiplication and division. Without proper assessment tool, a tutor cannot detect exactly what foundational skills that this student lacks of.

Quite often our students come to us because they are referred to by a tutor. Please check a comment from one of our parents:

“A great experience for my child. They can really figure out the little details of why my child was struggling and help him personally.”

R.U. – October 23, 2022

Nearly every student we assess has some gaps. They are anywhere from six months to several years behind. School closures and remote learning during the pandemic make learning worse. This very recent report from NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) found that across U.S. math scores saw the largest drop ever. Four in 10 eighth graders failed to grasp basic math concepts.

In Ontario, according to the most recent report by The Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAQ), most Grade 6 students are failing to meet provincial standard; it’s 3% less than the number in 2018/19.

Teachers often don’t have enough time to go through the entire syllabus, or they move from one unit to another and don’t have much time to help students who are behind to catch up with the required prerequisite skills. It is good that Alberta schools nowadays have the fund for the remediation program, but might still be not enough for some kids who have bigger gaps and need more personalized approach and attention.


Closing the gaps, one session at a time.


Strategic Role of a Learning Centre

As a Learning Centre, our role at Mathnasium is strategic: a long-term proposition. Our job is to ferret out those gaps and then supplement students’ education by filling in those gaps over time. This is why our assessment process is so important; it helps us pinpoint these gaps and provides us with a foundation on which we build the student’s program at Mathnasium.

It’s important to keep this long-term objective in mind. If we just worked on tonight’s homework, we might get through it and help them come up with the answers but we wouldn’t be teaching these kids anything in the long run. There is a distinction between a tutoring service and our role as a Learning Centre. We are not here to parallel exactly what’s going on in school; we are here primarily to supplement it. Note that we provide time in each session to discuss students’ homework and help them to be prepared to finish the work at home.

It's critical that parents understand Mathnasium’s primary purpose as a learning centre. Quite simply, we don’t offer a quick fix. In extreme cases, the student may be so far behind that it is not possible to salvage this year’s math grade. We must focus on getting the child caught up, sometimes at the expense of this year’s grade.

Ultimately, taking the long-term approach with our students will offer them the most benefit. At its very core, Mathnasium’s mission is to offer a lasting solution to kids’ math problems. This is the place where kids come to solve their problems in math. It’s when we function as a learning centre – not as a tutorial service – that we get a remarkable increase in student performance.

That’s why at Mathnasium of Red Deer, we offer membership program with 6+month membership; because just like the nature of education and “teaching to fish”, you won’t see the result overnight, it requires a longer period of learning to see the magic happens 😊