Brain training or tutoring? Question #1
a.) An 9-year old boy is going out for soccer. He gets on to the team, but he starts to have trouble aiming the ball in the direction he wants it to go when he kicks. His coach pulls him aside and shows him how to control the angle of his kick, and tells him to go home and practice it. The boy practices his kick, and improves.
b.) Another young boy wants to play soccer, and tries out for the team. He cannot run as fast as the other boys, and is badly uncoordinated, so he doesn’t make the team. The coach suggests some weight training and balance exercises, and tells the boy that if he does those things faithfully, and runs every day, he will have a better chance to make the team next time. The next year, the boy comes back stronger and faster, and makes the team.

Brain training or tutoring? Question #2
a.) An acrobat sustains an injury in his wrists, which causes weakness in his grip. He cannot grip the handle of the trapeze anymore. Since his livelihood is at stake, he goes to a specialist, who shows him a series of exercises that he can do to heal and strengthen his wrists. The specialist tells him that once his wrists have healed and gets stronger, his grip will improve. After a few weeks of faithfully doing the wrist exercises, he finds that he can grip the trapeze bar again.
b.) Another circus performer, a clown, gets a severe case of chickenpox and misses several circus performances. When he gets back, he finds that the other clowns have changed the clown-car routine, and that he also has to learn a new joke… but they don’t have time to practice with him because they have a special clown meeting to go to. Since the performance is tomorrow night, the first clown goes to the Elephant Man, who knows the clowns’ routine by heart (his monologue is right after their routine, and so he’s seen it a few times) and asks him to go over it with him. After a few run-throughs, he feels confident in his ability to do the routine.

Brain training or tutoring? Question #3
a.) President Obama’s daughter is going to be interviewed by David Letterman, but she’s nervous, so when Mr. Letterman tells her what to do, she forgets. She’s never been on TV before, by herself without her father. So, she goes quickly to the President and explains that she doesn’t know what to do. He sits her down and talks her through all the steps. She thanks him for reminding her, and feels calmer, and does well in the interview.
b.) Andrea Bocelli takes on a talented pupil named Luigi. Luigi has a beautiful voice, but it is very weak. Luigi explains that he just can’t make his voice any louder than it is, and doesn’t know why. Bocelli looks at Luigi, who is a very skinny boy, and being very wise, tells Luigi that the problem is not in his voice, the problem is that his body is out of shape. He puts Luigi on a regimen of running and sit-ups. In a few months, Luigi’s voice is much stronger.

Brain training or tutoring: The Answers
Question #1
a.) tutoring b.) brain training
The little boy who makes the team, but has trouble kicking, is like a child who is doing fine in school, but just doesn’t “get” one subject, and needs a little extra help. A tutor can help a child think or approach a subject from a different angle. The boy who is not fast and strong enough to play, is like a child who wants to learn, but can’t because their cognitive skills need to be strengthened. The first child has a good foundation, but needs guidance. The second child needs to build up his foundation before he can play.

Question #2
a.) brain training b.) tutoring
The trapeze artist is frustrated because he has sustained an injury which has weakened his grip. This is like a person who is frustrated because of a TBI or other brain injury that has taken away some of their abilities. The right approach is to work on the weaknesses (the injury) to re-build strength, so that the abilities come back. The clown with chickenpox is like a child who is out of school for a while with an illness or other emergency, and misses material. A tutor can help (like the Elephant Man did) get the child back on track.

Question #3
a.) tutoring b.) brain training
President Obama’s daughter got nervous and forgot what to do. This is typical of some children who have trouble taking tests or getting good grades under pressure. A tutor can help the child gain confidence by giving them little tricks or tips that will help them along. Luigi the singer, however, is not suffering from nerves – he simply has weak muscles that are unable to support his voice, and he tires easily. Mr. Bocelli is like the brain trainer who targets the reasons behind a problem to solve the problem itself.

I hope these examples have helped to create a distinction in your mind between brain training and tutoring. Both are useful, but they function in different ways. It’s important to know the difference, because what we have found is that most children benefit from brain training – whether they are struggling or not – but that kids who really need brain training do not benefit from tutoring.