I am an unusual maths tutor, because I know what it is like to not understand a single word of what the teacher is saying. I did well in my O Level maths, which I took at 14, but the following year, I became distracted and got totally lost and was told to give up the maths. I took A Level maths 15 years ago and gained 100% in the first paper. I loved doing the studying and was so happy to get all top grades. I have had the experience of being clever at maths but failing because I got lost. Most maths teachers have always found maths easy.
I teach maths differently. I know that children can forget what they did know or can suddenly lose their understanding because their confidence has crashed. When the crash occurs they can lose more that their recent understandings and need to start from a much lower level. Most maths teachers have not experienced this personally and therefore don’t allow for it in their teaching method.
I always tailor the lessons to the individual, so I can go back as far as is necessary. I often find weaknesses in basic areas which continually sabotage their efforts to learn higher topics. We sort out these problems quickly and can then move forward. I often tell them my personal story, and this helps them to relax and feel more positive about the future.
With maths I explain that their knowledge is like a puzzle and that certain pieces are upside down and some may even be on the floor. As we work together we fit pieces together and there are the great moments when two sections come together making links and suddenly maths makes more sense.
I teach the times tables to my pupils if they don’t know them. I ask them to learn them as: one five is five, two fives are ten etc. Many do their tables on their fingers and then really struggle with division. I also get them to learn: 6+7= 13 and 8+7=15. I teach this by them writing them out in a colour on a post it and then taking a “photo” with their brain. They put the post it up at home where they see it regularly.
Many of the pupils that struggle with maths are actually very clever and have the potential to do very well. They just don’t like getting things wrong and feeling lost, when the others around them understand, so they freeze. It is not that they don’t want to try, it’s just all too complicated. So, I start at the beginning with them and build their confidence. Often there are only a few areas that they really struggle with, but this spoils maths for them. I taught a ten-year old boy who hated maths when he came to me. He went on to study maths at university.
I do practical maths, such as weighing and measuring. I make a game out of it. I get children to guess the weight or length first and see if they are close. To make it more fun I guess as well.
I teach from 4 years old. I have an understanding of what methods work at higher levels, so I teach them those early on. Otherwise they have to unlearn their methods later on and learn new ones.
I use Smartick and IXL websites for the maths questions. More information about these in My Toolbox.