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Engaging Maths – even with dyslexia or learning difficulties

In this Tutor Spotlight series, we feature private tutors with years of tutoring experience in areas where we often see many questions and misconceptions in. See the other interviews here.

Mr Kelvin Goh decided to go into Full-Time tutoring after graduating from NTU Science to continue pursuing his passion for teaching.

In the past 5 years, he specializes in Primary & Secondary Maths and has tutored a variety of students, including graduating N/O Level students and students with learning difficulties or special needs.

Over time, having coached and interacted closely with students having dyslexia and mild autism, he has developed his own way of coping and guiding such students.

Here, he shares some of his experiences and tips with us.

What are some of the challenges that you have encountered while teaching children with dyslexia or autism? How did you overcome them?

Mr Kelvin: Dyslexia and autism do not solely affect students’ schoolwork. They also affect the children’s emotional well-being and self-esteem. 

I realised that prolonged negative experiences in the children’s day-to-day lives may frustrate them, causing them to feel additional anxiety or stress in their academics. To solve this issue, I strive to show emotional support and understanding during our lessons, usually by pointing out the children’s strengths and potential. These can be non-academic related as well, such as cooking or drawing skills. 

Occasionally, I also share other success stories for students to draw inspiration from. From there, the students get more confident of themselves and are more open to learning, making it much easier for them to pick up on academic concepts.

How do you usually start with a new student? In terms of building rapport, understanding the degree of their special needs, their learning style, etc.

Mr Kelvin: For new students, I usually engage in interactive learning by asking them questions to get to know them better. Along the way, I will tweak my lesson plans and the way I deliver my lessons, according to how receptive the student is to my teachings. 

I also emphasise that they should not compare their achievements to that of their peers, as everyone learns at their own pace.

Are there specific tools/activities that you customize/provide for these students? If yes, why do you think they are helpful?

Mr Kelvin: Students who are dyslexic or autistic have their own unique way of decoding information. Usually I utilise software that can help students visualise things better.

For instance, I have used Desmos Graphing Calculator and Geogebra in Geometry in Secondary and JC Maths. These tools have allowed my students to declutter the information and organise it into a step-by-step process.

What are some signs during class that can help you identify if the student has dyslexia or autism?

Mr Kelvin: Some of the things that I notice include

  • Having difficulty understanding what he/she has read 
  • Having to reread a passage multiple times to understand it fully
  • Having trouble remembering or following a sequence of instructions
  • Struggling with learning and recognising letters


What are the qualities that you think a tutor should possess to be able to teach dyslexic/autistic students?

Mr Kelvin: A tutor needs to understand that every child is unique and learns differently. Thus, I think that tutors would require basic knowledge of multi-sensory teaching techniques to guide them academically.

Have you undergone any specialized training for teaching students with dyslexia &/or autism previously? If yes, can you elaborate?

Mr Kelvin:  I have not undergone specialized training, but I have done ample research through reading and watching educational videos like TedTalk, to have a better understanding in guiding these children.

* Interview edited for brevity and clarity


Related to: For Parents | For Students | Interview | Maths | N Level | O Level | Secondary


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