by Laura Fewell @mathstuitioncovid19
It must be one thing for parents to be worried about their job due to the pandemic, but another to suddenly have a new one: teaching!
I’ve compiled a list of tips and tricks that I’ve learnt over the years as a maths tutor that will hopefully help a parent adjust to their new teaching role. Despite me teaching maths and science primarily, these tips will be relevant for all subjects!
Home-schooling will vary from age group to age group; you’re not going to want to tackle motivating an 8 year old in the same way you would a 16 year old, so feel free to adapt these tips as and when it’s necessary.
My first tip is to always make sure you’re keeping track of the child’s teaching. It’s important for them that they don’t feel that they’re learning topics at random, and it’ll also help you plan better. For me, this means a simple table with a list of topics that we’ve come across, the student’s confidence level with this topic, and a tally chart for how many times we covered questions on this. This is better suited to students and parents who are unsure of where to start, and those who struggle generally with all areas of a subject. In particular this is useful for those at secondary school, and studying for their GCSEs. Each time I begin a session with a student, I’ll pick 5 or 6 things from the list and ask a question on each of them, going through the answer in detail if they’re struggling. If a topic has 5 tally marks next to it, but the confidence level is still low, I know that I need to come up with a new way of teaching this type of question. You can download template Topic Trackers on my Facebook page, along with many other resources: maths colouring for KS1, word searches, GCSE bingo, topic guides and videos for GCSE and A Level, and curriculum guides for parents.
While you may think that consistency is key, it’s actually important to teach in a variety of styles to work out what suits a child best. I’ve learnt that the students who struggle in school aren’t necessarily the ones who aren’t naturally gifted at a subject, but the ones who just respond better to a different way of teaching than how they’re being taught in school. When a teacher has a class of 30 or more students, it’s inevitable that their teaching styles are better suited to some than others. For me, it usually takes an hour or so with a student to work out whether they like to learn visually, by a method approach or by repetition and practise. One tip I have here is to try the same type of question, but try teaching it 3 different ways over the space of a couple of days. After this, ask them how they would do a similar question, and they’ll probably have a preference. If they say “the one where we did loads of questions”, they probably prefer learning by repetition. If they say “the one with all the pictures” then you know that they prefer to see the question in pictures or in charts, so that they can understand it better. For the resources I publish, I always try to strike a balance between diagrams, text and practise questions, to try to make the guide helpful for everybody.
Breaking up the learning
Breaks are important! With this, I don’t just mean breaks like a child would get in school, every 2 hours or so, I mean constant chopping and changing of methods, questions and for younger children too, games. While older children have the ability to be able to stay focused on one method or question for 30 minutes or more, for younger children it is much less than that. If you’re teaching someone who is of primary school age, maybe spend 10-15 minutes explaining a concept to them, followed by a question, followed by a game related to that topic, and then repeat, to keep them engaged. There are some great maths games out there: check out Hit the Button (topmarks.co.uk), easypeasyapp.com and The Maths Factor. For an older child spend 30 – 45 minutes on a method, doing some practise questions, then do something different for 5 – 10 minutes before revisiting the method. This leads me nicely onto the next tip…
It is unbelievably important for students of ANY age to have some wins. If they spend a whole hour or so feeling like they’re not achieving anything, or that they’re completely stuck, their motivation will drop like a lead balloon. Make sure you’re interspersing tough questions with some easier ones that you know they’ll get right. This is especially true for older students, who may have a more negative mindset towards a subject. Exam papers are good for doing this, try alternating questions at the end of the paper with questions at the beginning. For example, do question one to start with, then jump and do the last question on the paper, then go back to question two, then the penultimate questions, and so on. There are many maths papers and other resources, including questions by topic, available on physicsandmathstutor.com and mathsmadeeasy.co.uk.
Be sure to let me know if you found these tips useful, and which of them you’ve put in to practise. If you’re interested in downloading free quizzes, guides, videos and more, search @mathstuitioncovid19 on Facebook and Instagram. I also run challenges in the Facebook group, so if you’re competitive that’s the place to be! One-off and weekly online tuition sessions are also available, just click the ‘Services’ tab on the Facebook page for more information.
Best of luck in your home-schooling journey!
Laura has been living in Southampton since she graduated from university in the city last year. She studied Physics but has always been more keen on Maths! She lobes water sports and studying ancient languages, and as well as tutoring 10-15 students a week during term-time, runs her own HMO property management company and invest in property on behalf of others.