Interview with a genius mathematician, award-winning maths tutor: Cansu Olce

Cansu Olce, A Star Brisbane Maths Tutor
Cansu Olce, A Star Brisbane Maths Tutor

Many maths tutors can be found in Brisbane but they are not all the same! Today we speak with Cansu Olce from A Star Brisbane Maths Tutor who has been tutoring mathematics and statistics to university and high school students for over nine years.

Cansu has a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and is passionate about helping people of all ages develop their skills and confidence in maths.

Cansu Olce answered some of our questions:

What does truly genius people think of themselves?

It is a hard question. Any answer will sound arrogant. I’ll push forward, regardless.

I have high IQ scores. Does that make me a genius? According to many people, yes. But I think IQ tests are highly inaccurate and subjective. What’s intelligence? Intelligence has been defined in many ways: the capacity for logic, understanding, self-awareness, learning, emotional knowledge, reasoning, planning, creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving. I do recognise that I’m smart and can think through extremely complex things faster than other people.

Eight years ago, I started A Star Brisbane Maths Tutor. My students had always told me I could explain things well. Did smart help? Being nice helped me more. Yes. A lot. I’ve also had to learn and relearn charisma. It is not something that comes naturally to me. I have always to figure it out. I usually do a good job at it, but it is a very mechanical process for me.

I can entertain my students. The smart angle definitely helps, but so does the confidence. I don’t mind looking stupid, maybe because I have the confidence to know that I am not.

So, how do I think of myself? I am smart, sure, but there are a lot of smarter people. I realise that I can figure things out faster than 99% of people, but that still leaves something like 70 million people around the world who are as smart as me (or smarter). Even with a “genius IQ” I realise that I am not the smartest person I know (even at things I’m best at). But I have to admit that I’ve also been very lucky. I’ve been at the right places at the right times. Quantum helped me a lot.

How do I view myself? The maths and logic stuff is only a small piece of brilliance. Being able to figure out what other people are thinking is a far better tool to have in my opinion. I’ve got the first, and I have gotten quite good at the second although I’m still learning more about it.

Being a genius or smart in maths or logic is pretty cool… a nice parlour trick, but becoming a true polymath is quite a bit more impressive, and something that I’d be pretty arrogant to say that I am (although that is my goal – one I may never reach). Being impressive is good but being a good person is so much more important!

A Star Maths is a successful company. What is the key to success in business?

There are lots of tutors and tutoring companies. The industry itself is very competitive, however not many of them are qualified in maths. Many tutors offer tutoring a variety of subjects. It sounds too good to be true. Nobody can be good at everything. I am a mathematician and spent my entire adult life in mathematics, and I am still learning new things every day. I only tutor mathematics because that is my speciality. I know what I am teaching. I think it is the key to success for my business. However, A Star Maths is a still growing business. There are lots of things I would like to do. I would like to open maths tuition centres in all of Australia.

Good customer service is the most important factor but to succeed in business, you need to be organized. Organization will help you to complete tasks and stay on top of things to be done. All successful businesses keep detailed records. By keeping detailed records, you’ll know where the business stands financially and what potential challenge you could be facing. Just knowing this gives you time to create strategies to overcome those challenges.

Always be looking for ways to improve your business and to make it stand out from the competition. Recognise that you don’t know everything and be open to new ideas and new approaches to your business. Stay focused. The old saying, “Rome was not built in a day” applies here. Just because you open a business doesn’t mean you’re going to be successful immediately. It takes time and effort!

Why do you teach mathematics? What makes you so successful in teaching?

I graduated from the Queensland University of Technology with a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics. While studying at university, I was chosen to be a maths tutor in QUT maths access centre. It was there that I realised that I enjoy teaching and helping others.

From there, I started a maths blog and started getting enquiries from students who need help. There was a big shortage of qualified maths tutors and there still is. I want to provide the best maths tutoring service and I always put my students first. I love teaching maths. I am 100% devoted to my goals. Success is for those who choose it!

Why is maths phobia so prevalent, and what can be done to fix it?

Maths phobia has many causes, and one is because of how it is taught. I don’t want to sound like I am blaming teachers. I am blaming the entire education system along with the way standardised testing is imposed. I think teachers feel under pressure to teach to those tests.

As a result, maths has become little more than a bunch of tests that you have to do well in. If you don’t do well on those tests, then everyone is upset: the teachers, your parents, the school, society, government, the world – everybody. One defence against everyone being upset at you is to decide that you didn’t like it anyway and to declare that it is pointless and not relevant to life. The only solution is changing the education system. We need to release the teachers from pressures of standardised testing and curriculum so they can be more creative!

How can students improve their maths performance?

Adopt a positive mental attitude. Acknowledge that your grades aren’t what you are aiming for, but believe that you can do something about it. Start by mentally taking control of the situation: instead of thinking “I’m a failure”, think “I can and I will do better than this”. Don’t give up – take positive steps towards achieving the improvement you’re more than capable of achieving. Pay more attention in class and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Improve your note-taking skills. Search and find the right learning style for you. Improve your memory.  Allow plenty of time for revision. This is probably the most important one!

Thank you Cansu for sharing your thoughts with us!
You can follow up with Cansu Olce at