The Chalkface

"Happy is the person who comes to
understand something and then gets
to explain it"

Marshall Cohen
Chalkface Tutoring The Chalkface

Anthony
Maths Tutor
0770 4321151
anthony@thechalkface.net

Frequently Asked Questions

Is tuition the best option for me? 
If you want to improve in this subject, whether for a specific qualification or not, there are lots of things you can do.  Many revision materials are available cheaply and even more can be found for free on the internet.  If you are in school or college, your teachers will be able to help by going through problem areas with you if they have time (most teachers will be more than happy to help whenever they can), and many schools will offer additional sessions for students who are struggling.  If you are determined to succeed, these will all be useful and should definitely be made use of whether or not you end up getting a tutor.  If you aren't motivated enough to put in the work, tuition would be a waste of time and money, so don't shell out unless you're certain you can make the most of it.  Cheaper alternatives to one-to-one tuition with a maths teacher include tuition with a maths specialist who isn't a teacher (many science/engineering/computing university students make very competent tutors at much lower rates) or group sessions.  Tutoring centres exist that charge slightly less per hour than an individual, but the payoff is that you'll be part of a group of maybe half a dozen other students, so you can expect no more than 10 minutes of personal attention, and much less choice over which topics to cover and at what pace.  Again, for some students this may be beneficial, but you shouldn't expect more than an extension of classroom teaching, which is not the same as one-to-one tuition.  

Does it have to be so expensive?
If you've read the question above and decided one-to-one tuition is the best choice for you, the next thing to decide is whether your needs will be best met by a bright undergraduate, a non-teaching subject specialist or a qualified teacher.  I'm not going to tell you that an hour with me is worth three with a second year Physics student, because depending on the student and your individual needs, the Physics student may be your best bet.  One of the benefits of being taught by a qualified full-time maths teacher is that they are not only good at maths, but good at teaching maths; the two things don't always go hand in hand!  Another advantage is that we know the exams you'll be taking.  I have taught everything from Foundation GCSE to A-level Further Maths and beyond, have worked as an examiner, and know how best to prepare you for the questions you'll face.  Any scientist or engineer should know their maths, but if you need someone who explains it for a living you want someone with teaching experience.  Prices for maths tuition typically range from 10 to 50 an hour.  If you decide you need a teacher, I'm afraid you're probably going to be towards the higher end of that.  I appreciate that it's expensive, but given the value of mathematics and mathematical qualifications, most people would agree it gives good value in the long run.  You are paying a premium for individual attention, personalised lessons, immediate feedback and over a decade of teaching and tutoring experience.  

How do you structure sessions?
The advantage of having one student per class is that the sessions can be as structured or flexible as you require.  Some students bring their own plan of action, bring questions they want to work through and stick to a rigid timeline.  With others, we spend a bit of time identifying target areas then work through concepts and questions together.  I will never leave you to work through questions alone for 10 minutes - you are paying for an hour's one-to-one tuition and you will get my full attention.  Generally I'll go through example questions with you, then while you are trying problems yourself I will be helping you along, giving suggestions, correcting misconceptions and making sure you understand what each problem requires.  Depending on your individual requirements, I can provide past exam questions, we might use software like Excel or GeoGebra to get to grips with new ideas, and since you're the only student we work at your own pace, addressing problem areas as they arise instead of always rushing on to the next thing.  

How can I make the most of one-to-one tuition?
The most important thing you can do is be motivated.  These sessions are expensive; for students who are determined to work they are very good value for money, but for students who can't be bothered they won't work miracles, and it would just be a waste of your money and time.  If you come with the right attitude it will make a huge difference to how well you learn.  In addition to this, spending time in between sessions on your own is crucial.  The most efficient use of a tutor often involves many hours of individual study for each hour of tuition.  Make it once a fortnight if that helps, but make the hour with me count.  Bring questions you've tried and failed during the previous week, have a clear idea of what your goals or targets are, and discuss with me how you plan to achieve them.  Come equipped, make notes if that helps you, pester me for resources I think will be beneficial and practise, practise, practise.  Maths is one of those subjects where you have to get things wrong a lot to learn how to do it right.  Develop your problem solving skills and it won't just be maths you'll find them useful for.  

What do the various maths qualifications entail?
There are a few details on the relevant tutoring pages for some, but broadly speaking:
GCSE Maths covers a wide range of material, roughly equally distributed between Number, Algebra, Geometry and Statistics.  Number includes basic calculations, fractions and percentages, factors and primes, estimation and rounding, proportion.  Algebra includes writing expressions, solving equations, applying rules of indices (powers), rearranging formulae, manipulating expressions, quadratics, functions and graphs.  Geometry is the maths of shape and space, covering coordinates, measures (eg volume, speed), triangles, angle rules, loci, trigonometry and congruency.  Statistics covers hypotheses, averages and spread, types of graph, probability and sampling.  
Further Maths Level 2 is harder than GCSE, but not as hard as A-level.  More details available here.  
A-level Maths typically comprises four Core Maths modules and two applied modules (Mechanics or Statistics).  Core Maths further develops algebra and trigonometry, introduces exponentials and logarithms and begins differential calculus.  Mechanics links well with Physics and investigates mathematically concepts such as speed, acceleration, forces, momentum and circular motion.  Statistics builds on GCSE work and introduces methods of extracting information from data including the Normal and Binomial distributions, detailed analysis of scatter diagrams and further methods of summarising data as well as probability calculations.  
A-level Further Maths involves a further 6 modules, mostly of a more advanced level than Maths (Further Maths cannot be taken without also taking Maths, but the two count as two complete A-levels).  Some new topics are introduced and others are investigated further, including complex numbers, differential equations and numerical methods of approximation.  Typically additional applied maths modules are also taken, so instead of choosing Mechanics or Statistics you will probably take both, and many will also take a module in Decision Maths, which is somewhat different to the other areas and includes an introduction to graph theory (eg Sat Nav route calculation), programming algorithms (more abstract than an actual computing qualification, though) and optimisation problems.  
STEP stands for Sixth Term Examination Paper and is one of the tests required by some top universities such as Oxford or Cambridge.  It typically doesn't require any additional knowledge beyond the A-level courses, but are considerably more challenging since they require you to tackle unfamiliar problems and determine the best way of applying what you know to problems that you have never encountered before.  

Do you have any resources available?
I'm glad you asked.  I have developed hundreds of resources, mostly for use in a classroom, but also often suitable for home study.  They can be found here:
Mathematics Resources Online.  For A-level students, A-level Resources contains not only teaching resources but past papers, model solutions and revision materials I've developed over the years.  

I don't need tuition, but could you explain how to answer a maths question?
You want Ask An Expert; a service I provide which is considerably cheaper than an hour's tuition, and a lot more convenient than travelling.  Email me a maths problem and I'll not only solve it but provide you with a detailed written solution along with all the notes and explanation you require to properly understand how I solved it.  

If you have any other questions, or would like to discuss the best options for your particular situation, please do get in touch:
Call me on 0770 4321 151 or email anthony@thechalkface.net

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