Let’s be honest, maths has never been the most popular subject. It’s the age-old problem area that most people find challenging, from childhood right through to adult life.
But maths doesn’t have to be hard! That’s where you, the tutor, come in. 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.
The classroom isn’t always the best place to learn! Source: Visualhunt
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.
Once a student has fallen behind, it can be really difficult to catch up, and students often feel like they’re drowning. This is something picked up by Ousted (Office for Standards in Education) in a report on maths education – they found that students weren’t helped or supported enough if they fell behind, which affected their entire course of study.
So it seems that maths is becoming a noticeable issue in national education. But there are many ways that private tutors can pick lost students back up, and redirect them towards success.
The first step in getting your students motivated to learn maths is by re-contextualising it. This means that, by putting maths into accessible and relevant situations that your student can recognise and relate to, you will make it comprehensible, as well as fun and engaging.
Making maths fun is the most crucial element in changing your student’s outlook. By showing them that maths isn’t a chore, and that it can be really versatile and exciting, you will spark their interest and self-confidence.
Of course each student is different, and should be treated as such. It’s important to keep track of how your student absorbs information, the way they understand and approach challenges.
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?
Once you can hone in on the issues, you can start exploring what would make maths more fun during your home tuition sessions.
And now the world is your oyster! There are so many ways to make your lessons more enjoyable and creative, using tools and media such as:
Introducing play into learning, especially with younger students, is really important for their development and understanding of a subject or challenge. Whatever you use, just make sure it’s age appropriate and gets your student engaged in the activity, and 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 maths 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.
There is a much wider scope for what you can do in terms of fun and games with younger students, particularly at primary or early secondary school age. At this age, your student is at a stage in their development 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!
Games are a great way to overcome challenges! Source: Visualhunt
Maths games are great idea because they will help your student visualise the methods and the application that they need to learn. If you’re teaching your student to tell the time, for example, why not get hold of a clock to teach the lesson– you can buy (or make!) 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. Outline a budget, a menu and some 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.
The internet is pivotal when exploring fun ways to teach maths. Just a simple internet search of ‘maths games’ or ‘make maths fun’ will bring you pages of results, including articles, advice and guidance, and all sorts of games and resources to try.
If you’re looking to work on particular aspects of your student’s syllabus, BBC Bitesize is a brilliant tool. You can hone in on particular topics that directly follow the national curriculum, available for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, for both primary and secondary school.
If you’re looking for free online maths tools that stem away from specific course specifications and just focus on learning basic maths principles and fun games, then have a look at Educators Technology who have set out a list of links and ideas to get you started.
For more ideas on which games and activities to try to be a fun maths tutor, check out our blog post on maths games!
To get started, put aside some time to really research and play around with ideas. Make a list of ideas you might have yourself, perhaps you have something in mind for a particular topic that’s been tricky for your student.
As the tutor, it’s important to have a go yourself at any of the apps and websites you might want to use, or that have been recommended to you, before you go on to suggest them for your student to use.
This goes for any resources you find during your search, just have a quick scan to make sure they will be useful, appropriate, and most importantly, fun to use during your private tutoring sessions.
Outline a brief lesson plan, to make sure that all the bases are covered and your student is still receiving what they need from you in terms of curriculum and tackling specific problems. But this is where you can start weaving in some fun and games to your sessions.
Play around with games and roles. Source: Visualhunt
Remember to keep your plan adjustable, as it is subject to change. After all, you need to notice how your student is responding to the activities you have set out. If they are having fun, great! Keep track of what works, what might need tweaking, and your student’s individual progress.
If they still seem to be struggling, or if you think they aren’t enjoying something, move on! You’ll find that much of it is a case of trial and error, and practice makes perfect. It’s important here, too, to keep track of what didn’t work and why, and how you could improve for next time.
It might be a good idea to set your student a bit of homework as well. It doesn’t have to anything too big or strenuous, it could even be as simple as trying out a new app or completing a section on BBC Bitesize, for example.
By encouraging your student to keep working at their maths in their own time, they will naturally get better and better. By setting work that is fun, manageable, and that doesn’t resemble the dull and difficult exercised they do at school, then you can help them build a new relationship with maths – one of pleasure and confidence.