Maths has never been the most popular of subjects. Whether it's fractions, geometry, algebra, or just basic maths, everyone has a weakness. In fact, it’s usually one of the biggest problem areas for school children – and adults too!
It is a subject that can make people tear their hair out, at any age and level, from GCSE to A-Level, and even through to everyday adult life.
If you took a walk through a school playground, there’s a pretty slim chance you’d hear pupils getting excited about having maths next period – it’s generally followed by a large sigh, or an outright groan of anguish.
There is a distinct lack of enthusiasm and excitement for maths, and many students have a mental block or a full-blown dislike for the subject.
In the classroom, maths is often a case of being given different formulas and mindlessly plugging in values to arrive at the answer. This is hardly thrilling work for most learners, and can trigger very negative feelings towards the subject.
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A report carried out by Ofsted (the Office for Standards in Education in the UK) investigated the problems in primary and secondary mathematics in schools in England, and why the amount of students carrying maths through to post-16 level education was so low.
The report showed that pupils weren’t receiving enough maths help and support to catch up if they had fallen behind. It found, as well, that younger pupils or those in the lower ability sets had the weakest teaching, sometimes even deemed ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted.
Lastly, the report showed that the brightest students simply weren’t fulfilling their potential at secondary school, even those who were overachievers in primary school. Many schools enter students early for GCSE maths, not giving them enough time to get their level up and achieve the highest grades.
This is why private maths tutoring is so in demand. Many students find that they are not motivated to learn maths, simply because they find it difficult and it’s not always taught in a way that suits them personally.
This is a concern that doesn’t just come from students and parents, but from the UK school inspection office as well.
Having a personal teacher for maths tuition at home means that students can learn in an encouraging and supportive environment, without the pressure of keeping up with or being in competition with other students.
At the end of the day, people want to learn things that are relevant and interesting. If you can put maths into a context that students will understand and appreciate, you’re halfway there!
When trying to motivate your students to learn maths, there are a few things to think about. You’ll need to ask yourself:
- How can I make maths more fun for my student?
- How can I alleviate their mental block when faced with learning maths?
- What different methods can I try to help my student learn?
- What kind of games we can play?
- What resources are available to help with tutoring maths?
As a home math tutor, it is your job to get your student past the feeling of not being good or clever enough, and alleviate their mental block so that they can achieve academic success – and, more importantly – so that they can see the fun and value in learning maths!
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Maths Strategies to Help Bring Your Students On
Sometimes the trickiest part of maths is not having an understanding of the basics before moving on to the more complicated activities. This can make students feel lost and confused, and maths becomes a chore.
The first step in getting your students motivated to learn maths is by re-contextualising it, by putting it into accessible and relevant situations in order to make it comprehensible, as well as fun and engaging.
Whether your private tuition is aimed at primary school, GCSE, A-Level, or even university, there are many ways to appeal to students at all levels and find out how they can thrive in what is currently a problem area.
Start by spending some time with your student to really work out what it is about maths that troubles them. Is it a specific topic? Is it the way it’s taught in school? Is it because they just aren’t succeeding?
It might be that your students is struggling particularly with mental maths, or they find linear equations tough to get their head round. Whatever the problem, there is a solution.
Once you can hone in on the issues, you can start exploring what would make maths more fun during your home tuition sessions.
Introducing play into learning, especially with younger students, is really important for their development and understanding of a subject or challenge. Consider using things such as games, videos, music, interactive websites – as long as it’s age appropriate and gets your student interested and engaged in the activity, the sky’s the limit!
Just by putting maths into a different context, you can help your student look at it with fresh eyes. Whether this is through games, mock transaction activities, cooking, or whatever method your student might enjoy, the crucial goal is making maths relevant.
This is where you can start getting creative with your home tutoring sessions, personalising them to the individual needs of your student. Play around with different learning techniques that can be carried out through fun activities, and take note of what your student enjoys.
The world - and more specifically, the internet - really is your oyster when exploring fun ways to teach maths. Carry on reading to find out more about different learning methods, as well as games and activities, that you can try with your student.
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Alleviate Mental Blocks With Maths Strategies
For so many people, maths is a bit of a headache. Putting up this mental block during childhood can often stay with you for the rest of your life, so it’s best to nip it in the bud as early as possible and show students how important maths really is.
Often it’s the problem of students simply not being able to visualise what they are trying to understand. It can be really challenging to learn when you can’t picture how things work on a physical level.
You can help alleviate your student’s mental maths block by making the maths accessible, by showing them a physical representation or model. This will allow your student to see and contextualise what they are learning, and it will make it easier to apply this knowledge to other situations or problems in the future.
A massive part in helping your student see the fun and value in maths is how you speak to them, the words you use to talk about the subject. If you use encouraging, positive and reassuring language, your student will become more open to maths, and will eventually feel more confident and motivated.
If you can connect maths with language, it will make it more comprehensible and manageable for students who don’t have a natural affinity for numbers. Some students can just look at numbers and start feeling slightly anxious or frustrated – but as a great home tutor, you can remedy this problem.
As soon as a student realises that maths is accessible and can be actively enjoyed, their mental block and frustration will slowly fade away, leaving room for new, exciting challenges.
You want to get your student to a stage where they no longer have the notorious maths headache, but where they associate maths with fun and enjoyment.
You might even look into books about maths to inspire your students through a medium that they are comfortable with. Find a method that suits how your student learns on an individual level, and watch as they start to bloom and thrive as mathematicians!
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Different Methods for Learning Maths
Work out how your student learns on an individual level. Perhaps they are good with words, or particularly creative. You can play around with different models – be it algebraic, graphic, literary – to see how they can best understand maths problems.
There are so many ways to introduce mathematical concepts to your student, and the more creative the better!
Explore the different types of maths resources, trying different activities. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of trial and error – this will help you understand how your student learns best and what they find the most enjoyable.
Think about using resources that will stimulate and interest your student. Pictures, music, cards, art and everything in between can have stimulating effects on the brain, especially when your student is more creatively inclined, or a visual learner.
Maybe your student had a particular interest in another subject, or maybe they have a wonderful talent or hobby. Try to create an environment that mimics what you know they enjoy – this could mean playing games that reflect their interests, or using music or pictures to appeal to their preferred way of learning.
Perhaps your student is an avid musician: you could try using or making music to help them approach maths in a way that they are sure to enjoy, which will help them retain information.
Or maybe they are a budding baker, and you could have a go at some cooking to get them to understand measurements, conversions and sums. A batch of cookies is always a great incentive to learn!
The important thing is finding a system that works with your student’s way of learning. Often in maths students lack confidence as a result of incorrect answers and bad grades. By using games and varied learning stimulants, you can teach your student how to arrive at the right answer through methods they can enjoy.
With many maths problems given in the school curriculum, marks are awarded for showing method, as well as giving the correct answer. It’s important to check what is required of a student according to their syllabus and exam, in order to prep them correctly.
If you are an online private tutor, there is arguably more of a challenge when trying to motivate your student. When teaching through a screen, it is harder to create a certain atmosphere, or make your lessons interactive.
When teaching maths online, you will need to try different methods and resources that can be easily used and communicated in your lessons, which will most likely be conducted via video chat. Your student will need encouragement and stability in their lessons so that they can overcome their difficulties.
So, in order to provide excellent online tuition, you will most likely need to explore the different websites and online resources available to help you carry out engaging lessons. You can of course send your student worksheets or activities that you have prepared ahead of time so that you can work through them together.
Make sure that your student is really benefiting from their personal teacher. There are many advantages of online tutoring lessons, which can be conducted over various applications and websites, especially as they can be recorded and played back by your student later on. Making sure your lessons and resources are available will motivate your student to go back over work and keep pushing themselves.
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Have Fun with Maths Games
With younger students of primary or early secondary school age, there is a much wider scope for what you can do in terms of fun and games. Your student is at an age where playing is still necessary for learning, so you can use this to your advantage.
The most crucial part about playing games is that your student sees how fun maths can be, and how it can be applied to everyday life. In showing your own positivity and love of maths, it will rub off on your student too.
Make your student aware of the various daily activities that use and rely on maths. You can think about how you might turn these activities into games that you can play with your student.
You can use any games you like – and board games, puzzles or card games are a great place to start. Try adding in little maths problems for your student to solve, or play games involving money. A bit of competition is a great motivator – and a prize is always fun!
Maths games are all about visualising the methods and the application. For example, if you’re teaching your student to tell the time, get hold of a clock – you can buy pretend clocks with moveable hands, so that you can call out times and your student can adjust them accordingly.
When learning how to handle and count money with younger students, there are lots of fun ways to engage them and put their learning into practice. You might decide that you could have a go at a setting up a shop, or go on a little spending spree, all in the comfort of your home!
By designing a pretend shop or café, you can make money and transactions fun. It helps, of course, if you’re playing with real tea and biscuits too! Outline a budget, menu and prices, and let the games begin.
If you want to make things a bit more challenging, why not introduce some vouchers and have a go at working out discounts and percentages. Swap places as you pay, so that your student can understand about both sides of a transaction.
There are all sorts of games available online too. Have a look at different websites from the section below, and explore the different games, quizzes and puzzles available. This is a great way to interact with your student if you are an online maths tutor, as you can send your student links and review the results together afterwards.
Don’t shy away from making your own game resources too. You can easily create documents and recordings of games for your student to access and refer back to outside of your private lessons. You can also prepare quizzes and tests to spark a little sense of healthy competition with themselves.
By incorporating a sense of play into extracurricular work and any homework you set your student, you can encourage their enjoyment of maths in their free time, and alleviate the feeling of maths being a chore or unpleasant challenge.
You could also look for apps that offer maths-related games or challenges. There are ample fun and free apps to choose from, from Sudoku, puzzles and brain-training, to digital card or board games and everything in between.
There are some really great maths apps available to download to smartphones and tablets, so that your student can have fun with maths and play games on the go. They are available for various age groups, and are sometimes designed to help with exam preparation too.
Many apps are free, or are fairly inexpensive, and can be a wonderful way of making maths an enjoyable challenge. Have a look at the iOS App Store or Google Play to see what’s out there!
Online Maths Websites
As a private teacher, your tuition services will benefit from great websites and helpful online maths resources to mix up your lessons and make them more fun for your students.
Einstein said: ‘Computers are incredibly fast, accurate, and stupid. Human beings are incredibly slow, inaccurate, and brilliant. Together they are powerful beyond imagination.’ So we have it on good authority that computers can be a great tool for learning!
You can use computers and the internet in all sorts of ways, from helping you, the teacher, to plan and conduct lessons, to helping your student engage with the areas they find challenging and change the way they approach problem-solving and calculations.
There are endless websites, apps, programs and resources available online to start constructing fun and creative home tutoring sessions.
You can start by using some free online tools with your student, to help them learn different ways to calculate and solve problems in maths. Sites such as Wolfram Alpha and software such as Geogebra can be really helpful when teaching different mathematical topics and methods.
Websites such as Educators Technology have information specifically designed for teachers, with various lists of resources and links to other sites and apps that will help you plan and carry out your lessons. Have a look at their list of free maths websites, with great ideas of activities and games that you can try with your students.
A brilliant website for both students and teachers in the UK is BBC Bitesize. Simply pick an education level – from key stage 1 all the way through to GCSE – and choose your subject. The site is available for the education systems in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, so the content is specifically tailored to your student’s curriculum.
Their maths section is broken down into topics, which then breaks down further into corresponding subsections. BBC Bitesize is a great way to set your student homework and challenges, especially if you are an online tutor and already teach via internet.
If you create your own resources, there are various ways of sharing them online for your students to access and refer back to when needed. You could do this using Google Docs or other similar sites, so that you can build up a record and an archive of your lessons, which might come in handy for future students too!
Perhaps you record your lessons, either as an audio file or a video, or you might even make videos that go beyond your lessons. If you feel as though a wider audience would benefit from your videos, why not share them using sites such as YouTube, or other social media?
YouTube has a wealth of educational videos that provide enjoyable and often quite funny lessons on pretty much anything. If you’re not much of a presenter, and wouldn’t want to make your own videos, have a look at what’s available and might work well in your own lessons.
For older students, it might be an idea to show them some TED talks. TED talks are recorded mini lectures given by experts of all fields, and there are some really motivating speeches worth a watch. Have a look talks on maths that might spark an interest with your student – even if it’s just to show them how vast and creative maths can be!
As you can see, the possibilities are endless when trying to make maths fun and motivate your students. Be sure to explore all the options - especially online - and you'll convert your student to liking maths in no time!