The Pareto Principle and Academics | Launch Academy Tulsa Tutoring

By Dominick Cooper, Founder and Director of Launch Academy Tulsa Tutoring Company, 2011 winner of the DaVinci Scholar Award, 2013 nominee for Young Entrepreneur of the Year, and university guest speaker on curriculum and education design.

Nearly every businessman and businesswoman has heard of The Pareto Principle or The 80-20 Rule.

It was pattern that was discovered by economist Vilfredo Pareto. Basically, it posits that around 80% of the effects of an event come from 20% of the causes. Here are some examples if you have trouble wrapping your head around that:

  • 20% of your carpet gets 80% of the wear
  • 20% of your wardrobe is worn 80% of the time
  • 20% of the restaurants you have dined at before makes up 80% of your “regular” restaurants
  • 80% of your debt comes from 20% of our debt sources
  • 80% of your income comes from 20% of your sources of income

You get the picture. Now, while this 80-20 sometimes varies, the principle is the same – 80% of your results depend on only 20% of your causes. What this means in relation to tutoring and academics is 80% of your grades is dependent on only 20% of your causes! Think about it:

  • Nearly 80% of your grade is made up from your homework and your final exam – 20% of your total class/homework time.
  • Nearly 80% of your exam grades are because of 20% of what you studied (the other 80% was spent snapchatting, instagramming, and watching youtube videos about miniaturized cooking utensils).
  • 80% of your tutoring time is spent going over 20% of the class concepts because you need more time to understand it
  • Nearly 80% of your homework comes from 20% (or 1) of your classes – usually it’s math.

You get the picture. So, what does this mean for you?

Three things.

1. Focus on the Big Stuff First

If your math homework takes up 80% of your time, get it done or find a way to shorten that assignment! Do it in class,during lunch, or in after-school tutoring. The changes will be dramatic. Does your final make up 15% of your grade? That’s a big chunk! Pour as much dedication into studying for that as you did the homework. Maybe even get tutoring if it would make that big of a difference!

2. Cut out the other 80% of fluff

Stop snap-chatting when you should be studying. Stop “studyflixing” – studying while trying to watch Netflix. And, above all, stop texting your friends, no matter how significant they are! Do this tutoring exercise. Draw a circle and split it up into 20 slices. This circle represents how you study. Color in the slices with various activities that you do during studying – flash cards, review notes, check facebook, read a Buzzfeed article, etc. You’ll be amazed at what you see and what you can cut out.

3. Fill the other 80% of fluff with more “Big Bang” items

Now that you’ve cleared your space of clutter, don’t leave it empty or the clutter will come back! Instead, fill up that emptiness with more of what we call “big bang” items – the practices and actions that will most heavily affect your grade. This could be studying by rewriting notes, watching a Youtube video on the subject matter, reading a chapter ahead, doing a “mini study” for an upcoming test, tutoring another student who is struggling, and other things. The most important thing is that it must serve an academic purpose and it must pay off in a big way.


What are some other insights you’ve gotten from the 80-20 rule? What are some examples you can think of in using the 80-20 rule in the classroom? How can the 80-20 rule be implemented by tutors in tutoring?


Stay Smart.


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