From a shy, introverted child who wouldn’t speak, to an excited, confident boy with a love of Maths.
A naturally quiet, shy boy, Zakaria hadn’t long started school when the pandemic struck. His family hadn’t really had the chance to monitor his academic progress. It was only when coronavirus restrictions enforced online home teaching, that his aunt, Aya Maruyama, began to spot some worrying signs.
As an online teacher of Japanese, she had offered to help set up the technology for Zakaria to work remotely with his schoolteacher and classmates. “But very early on as I was sitting with him, I realised he didn’t speak at all. He wasn’t interacting and it became clear he didn’t understand anything that was being taught,” says Aya.
“I then began to realise that he wasn’t communicating at all with anyone outside his close family.”
“When we went out, he wouldn’t look at anyone or respond if he was spoken to. He was so painfully shy and introverted it broke my heart. And although I tried to tell myself that all children are different and develop at different speeds, I couldn’t get rid of the niggle that something was very wrong. I could see he was so sad and that made me very sad too, for him. I was also very worried he would fall so far behind with the school curriculum that he may never catch up. Sometimes I couldn’t sleep worrying about him,” sighs Aya.
Mission to find help
Aya set out on a mission to find some online tuition for her nephew but several initial attempts turned out to be disastrous non-starters.
“The tutors always began the classes by asking him to introduce himself otherwise they wouldn’t start, so that was never going to work for Zakaria. He just wasn’t interested and the more I tried, the more he withdrew and the more hopeless it was beginning to feel,” says Aya.
The first glimpse of Hope – Brainyspinach Maths Roblox Games
“I was immediately drawn to it as Zakaria was mad about Roblox, he loved to play it so it really was my last hope. Maybe this was the one course that was going to work,” shares Aya.
At Zakaria’s first session, as soon as he entered the lesson, he refused to turn the camera on or to speak. Aya’s heart sank. But Jon was unfazed by the reluctance of his new pupil.
“Jon told Zakaria that he could communicate electronically if he preferred, by using the text chat option. By the end of the session, miraculously, Zakaria was talking to everyone in the room through chat,” says Aya.
“I honestly couldn’t believe it. He was so excited and animated by the time that first session ended and he was jumping up and down saying he couldn’t wait to do it again.”
At last, Aya had the breakthrough she had been hoping for.
The aim of BrainySpinach Maths is to remove the fear associated with learning Maths, to make it fun, and help kids better understand the KS2 Maths curriculum.
“Many parents are worried about their children getting addicted to computer games. The constant battle they have trying to cut down screen time I do understand. I too was a bit reluctant to endorse even more gaming at such a young age but BrainySpinach Maths is so clever and so effective,” says Aya.
“Kids learn all sorts of tricks to solve Maths problems without even realising they are doing Maths! The Roblox multiplication games make it so easy to memorise basic times tables. They think they are playing games when all the time they are learning,” laughs Aya.
Zakaria has now just turned eight and his parents were thrilled recently when he came home with his last school report. It showed he was getting top grades in not just Maths, but also in English and science.
“His teacher at primary school says he is a brilliant student and answers lots of questions in class,” says Aya.
As well as joining in the Roblox Maths Classes, Zakaria also has 1:1 sessions with Jon which Aya says he really looks forward to.
“It’s like he is a different child. The classes have given him confidence in so many areas of his life. Once he realised he was good at Maths it was almost like he understood he could do anything if he put his mind to it! The other day I found him trying to teach his little sister who is six. He was showing her how much fun studying is because for him learning is now all about fun.”
Aya’s nephew has gone from being a little boy who hated school and didn’t have any friends to now being full of beans and keen to learn as much as he can. She is extremely proud and excited about his transformation.
“He is insatiable now, he just wants to soak up everything,” shares Aya.
Although initially, it took a little while for Zakaria to become as competent and as confident as he is now, Aya says Jon’s patience, his flexibility, and the fact that he is never critical towards his students, have helped to put the building blocks in place that Zakaria needed to succeed.
“Zakaria used to hate to fail at anything. He couldn’t bear to make a mistake. If he couldn’t do something, he would give up and that would be the end of it. Jon has taught him that it is ok to get things wrong, that you just have to keep trying and there is no shame in failing. Now I often overhear them talking together about how Zakaria could have maybe tried to solve a problem a different way. And I see that he is understanding what is being said and taking it on board.” shares Aya.
“There is no negativity in the group sessions at all. I could see Zakaria was motivated right from the start as he was doing something that was enjoyable. It grabbed his attention from the start. He now feels part of a tight squad, a fun little Maths family,” says Aya.
What will the future bring?
Looking back, Aya admits it was a while before Zakaria would even turn on the camera during the sessions. His preferred method of communication in those early days was always through text chat. However, the change in him was noticeable to Aya right from the start.
“From day one he was excited about joining the sessions and could hardly wait from finishing one to starting the next,” laughs Aya.
All the while, Jon patiently allowed Zakaria to move at his own pace. And within two months the shy, introverted little boy was happily talking not only to Jon but also interacting with other members of the Class. Today Zakaria is the highest-level player in his group in The Math Obby, Jon’s very own Roblox creation that he made at first for only his students, but then opened up to the public for free after seeing how much it helped the children he tutors.
“That has done wonders for his self-esteem. Jon says Zakaria’s times tables are top-notch,” says Aya proudly.
Zakaria: “Jon is my best friend and my best tutor. I want to work with him all of the time.”
And Aya adds: “Zakaria is now so strong mentally. He is no longer afraid to fail and he is enjoying every minute of his life. It makes me so happy to see him embracing everything that comes his way. This happy, confident little boy is almost unrecognisable from the one I was so worried about just a few years ago.”