The purpose of this page is to present you with as much information about the tutoring I offer so as to help you decide whether I am the right fit for you/your son/your daughter. You will also find this information helpful when looking to engage with a tutor across all subjects. Feel free to get in touch via the form in the “Contact Me” section below if you have any questions that you feel are not answered in the information below.
A Bit About Myself…
My name is John Armstrong and I am a fully qualified and experienced teacher of A Level Mathematics and Further Mathematics as well as university entrance exams. I have also been tutoring on a one-to-one and small group basis for many years. My teaching experience is mainly in Sixth Form Colleges teaching A Level Maths, Further Maths and preparing students for entrance exams such as STEP, MAT, TMUA among others.
My Tutoring Approach and Philosophy
High grades come with hard work. In all my teaching experience, it is the students that put the most work in that get the best grades. It is my job to help you thoroughly understand the material and give you the knowledge, self-confidence, and of course, the resources required to put in that hard work. I will help you to uncover which areas need work and will guide you through how much work you should do in each area. The key to success is to practise, practise, practise!
My Academic and Professional Background
I am a fully qualified teacher of mathematics holding a PGCE and Qualified Teaching Status in the UK. My undergrad degree is in Mathematics and Computer Science and I hold a Master’s degree in Applied Mathematics in which I was awarded a “distinction” grade. You can see my qualification certificates below.
When looking to take on any tutor, it is important to know that a strong positive 1:1 relationship between the student and the tutor is imperative. In order to find an A Level Maths/Further Maths tutor that best matches your needs, there are a number of questions you should first ask yourself:
Do you NEED an A Level Maths/Further Maths Tutor?
Before you even start making any enquiries about trying to find a tutor you should talk to your class teacher. They will have the best insight (apart from yourself, obviously) as to how you are doing and whether you are being overly self-critical. If after this conversation you are still feeling like a tutor is a good option, there are many things that you should consider when choosing the right tutor for you. In my experience of classroom teaching and private tutoring, there are three main reasons why a student would engage a tutor:
The student is feeling behind and needs an A Level Maths tutor to help them catch up.
The student feels they are doing well but wants an A Level Maths tutor for reassurance
The student is already achieving highly and needs a tutor to help them excel, possibly to achieve the grades for a conditional offer from a top university.
Is the A Level Maths/Further Maths tutor a qualified teacher?
Make sure that the tutor has classroom experience; you will find many tutors out there who claim that classroom experience does not matter on a 1:1 basis and in some cases they may be right, however, classroom teachers have a vast experience of giving one-to-one explanations to students of a wide array of differing abilities and are more readily able to adapt their explanations to the given situation. And if your chosen maths tutor is not a qualified teachers, make sure that this is reflected in their price.
Does the A Level Maths/Further Maths tutor have experience delivering your syllabus?
Be sure that any A Level Maths or Further Maths tutor is familiar with your own particular syllabus. Whilst the main A Level Maths syllabuses are more aligned than ever, the A Level Further Maths syllabuses deviate significantly in the optional modules so it is imperative that you check that any tutor is familiar with the syllabus and not simply just “a page ahead in the textbook”.
How much does the A Level Maths/Further Maths tutor cost?
Whilst it’s good to feel like you’ve got a bargain, when it comes to finding a tutor, cheapness isn’t always a good thing. Always ask for an initial conversation and, wherever possible, a short trial session in order to see whether you will be getting value for money. Don’t be shy to directly ask “why do you charge so much/so little?”. When you are spending money on something so important then it is your right to know the answer to this question.
Do you go with an online or an in-person A Level Maths/Further Maths tutor?
This is a relatively new dilemma that parents and students face. Do you go for someone local who can come to your house or do you take the plunge go online. Both have pros and cons. If you stick local you limit the pool of tutors you can choose from but get face-to-face lessons which some people prefer. If you go online you get to cast the net wider, making sure that you get a tutor most suited to you, but they will not be in the same room, although with the recent advances in technology, it is possible for the online experience to be as good as the face-to-face experience of tutoring.
So to summarise, employing the services of a tutor is a big decision and one that should not be taken lightly. Take your time and make sure you have found the right person. And most importantly, don’t commit to anything before trying them out
As an experienced tutor of A Level Maths and Further Maths, there are a certain number of qualities and attributes that I believe that any tutor should have. So even if you decide not to choose me, please carry on reading so you know what to expect from a tutor. Bear in mind however, this is just my own opinion, but one that is based on many years of experience as a private tutor and a classroom teacher of A Level Maths and Further Maths. In my opinion, these are the things to consider when engaging an A Level Maths or Further Maths tutor.
- The initial conversation with the tutor
This is a chance to pass on all relevant information about the student to the tutor. The more information you can give at this point the better as it will help the tutor form a longer term game plan to help push the student on as far as possible as quickly as possible. By the end of this conversation you should (as a parent or student) know exactly the approach that the tutor is going to take.
- Initial assessment of student by the tutor
In order to speed up the process of an A Level Maths or Further Maths tutor getting to know the student’s strengths and weaknesses, it is often a good idea for the tutor to set an initial assessment which could be in the form of an exam paper, or simply a tailored exam-style worksheet on what the student has covered so far in their studies. You may, before any assessment, have a broad idea of the areas you want a tutor to cover, however, a tutor can provide additional value by rooting out weaknesses that you didn’t actually know were there.
- Subject knowledge of tutor
You should always enquire whether a tutor has the skills and subject knowledge to provide good value and to progress the student at a sufficient pace. Obviously subject knowledge is something that can be built over time, but to be simply “one step ahead in the textbook” is not enough when dealing with something a serious as a student’s education. As a parent/student should be confident that the tutor has the relevant subject knowledge and, moreover, specific knowledge of the A Level Maths/Further Maths syllabus you are studying to be able to maximise progress.
- Session planning
A tutor needs to make sure that the student will have enough work to get through so that the tutoring session doesn’t seem rushed or, conversely, dragged out. By the end of every session a student needs to really feel like they have achieved something and that can only be achieved by effective session planning on the tutor’s part.
- Ability to work on any topic at short notice
At risk of contradicting the above point, whilst it is a necessary skill for an A Level Maths or Further Maths tutor to plan sessions and have a good idea of how each session is going to pan out, it is also necessary that a tutor has sufficient experience, subject knowledge and learning resources to be able to work on any topic (within reason) that the student requires.
- Setting relevant homework between tutorials
More important than what is covered in the lesson is the student’s own private consolidation. And this is SO much more important than people realise. Much like taking piano lessons without practising between lessons, the progress that can be achieved in a tutoring session will be very limited unless the student practises the skill they have learnt. In tutoring international students in recent years, particularly students from Hong Kong, I have been introduced to the term “drilling” which is to give many many examples on the same topic so students don’t just practise until they start getting things right; they practise something until they can’t get it wrong.
- Regular updates to parents
A private tutor should have a conversation regularly with parents to update them on their son or daughter’s progress. In my experience, this encourages parents to ask more questions of the students and hold them to account a lot better in terms of their productivity.
My Different Approaches As An A Level Maths and Further Maths Tutor
As an A Level Maths tutor and an experienced classroom teacher of A Level Maths, I have seen many different reasons why a parent would want a A Level Maths tutor. However, choosing a tutor with the right approach is always a worry and it can seem like a daunting task. I will now outline some common scenarios, one or more of which will probably ring true. Each individual student needs a personalised approach as each personality is different, however, in order to give you an idea roughly of the approach that should be taken by a tutor in a range of circumstances, let me give a few case studies of the different types of students and how a tutor may help.
Example Student #1: Underconfident and Scared To Ask For Help In Class
Laura is a student who lets things get on top of her; she feels she understands most things to an extent in class but when it comes to things she doesn’t understand, she rarely asks the teacher. The thought of asking about something she doesn’t understand while everyone is watching sends shivers down her spine. And there are many more students like Laura; it is extremely common for A Level Maths students feel like this. They shouldn’t; we as teachers are here to help. However, the fact remains that some students don’t like to ask questions in class. And as a result they end up slowly falling behind.
In my experience, these traits are all too common. In this situation, the key to getting a student back on track is to thoroughly assess at the earliest opportunity. But the word” assess” can induce a lot of anxiety. The first thought that comes to mind is the idea of having to do a paper in timed conditions, a situation that would leave a student who is struggling feeling useless and exposed. But it need not be that way; assessment can be gentler. Assessment can be performed concurrently with teaching. Over the years, I have found that assessment for the purpose of determining gaps in knowledge is better done during lessons using past paper questions; the approach involves concurrently discovering gaps in knowledge and supporting the student in filling those gaps. I have found this to be far more effective in the initial stages than simply setting a student off with a past paper and constantly reminding them their knowledge has gaps. The latter would be demoralising and serve no real purpose.
Once these initial gaps in knowledge are filled, I have found it particularly productive to then try to teach students slightly ahead of their class teaching schedule, getting them, say, one week ahead of what they will be learning in class so that they have the ground knowledge and confidence to ask (and answer!) questions in class.
Example Student #2: Overconfident After GCSEs and Doesn’t Practise
Simon is a student who performed brilliantly in his GCSEs. An all round top grade student. However, a couple of terms into A Level Maths his grades from school seem to be slipping. Simon says that it is just a blip and that he feels he is doing well, but as a parent you are not so sure. This is yet another common scenario. Many students who have a natural ability up to about the GCSE level often find that as soon as a bit of extra work is required outside of lessons, things start to fall apart.
This is yet another very common scenario, with these traits most commonly being found in boys who achieved highly at GCSE. Early intervention is the key to restoring confidence and instilling a strong work ethic that will carry them successfully through A Level. With this type of student it is imperative that the gaps in knowledge are diagnosed and that a programme of work is drawn up early on to help the student. But generating a (potentially long) list of knowledge gaps is not enough. On its own, to simply tell a student that they are behind and can be overwhelming and demotivating. The best approach is to drip feed the students the gaps in knowledge and simultaneously plug the gaps so as not to knock the student’s confidence.
Once the gaps are filled and the student is back on track, a slightly different approach is then needed. As an experienced A Level Maths tutor, at this point I would ensure that the student actually starts to get ahead of the game, teaching them the content that they are about to study in class to give them a head start will put them in a position in which they ooze confidence, but by this stage the confidence is justified.
Example Student #3: High Achiever but Terrified of Exams and Underperforms in Tests
This particular type of student is also very common. The pressure of exam situations always gets to them and they underperform as a result. They are a top student: they ask questions; they do the homework; they take detailed notes and spend time rewriting them out neatly; they make beautiful concise revision cards to bolster their study. But it is with these final two points where the problem lies. The student spends a lot of time doing many many things other than the thing they find most difficult: exam questions.
In my time as a classroom teacher and tutor of A Level Maths and Further Maths, I find that a gentle approach to try to wean students off spending their time producing (admittedly beautiful) archives of lesson notes and fantastic revision cards. With A Level Maths and Further Maths, any classroom teacher or private tutor will tell you that to do well, the key is practice practice practice of exam questions. To change the working habits of a hardworking and diligent high achiever could be made into a battle, but it is important not to approach it this way. I have found that the confidence of such high achieving students is easily shattered and to tell them that they have been doing everything wrong up to this point would be a mistake. My approach in this situation would be to have the student to discover for themselves that there is a better way of working by gently nudging them in the right direction.
Example Student #4: Failed to Progress onto the Second Year of the Course
David struggled throughout his first year and never really seemed to get to grips with the jump between GCSE and A Level. A few weeks before the end of year tests David realised the mess he was in and worked harder than he’d ever worked before. But it was too late and it was not enough. He has been told that he didn’t get enough marks on his end of year test to progress to the second year, so if he wants to continue with maths he has no option but to repeat the year.
With students in this scenario it is important that a tutor gets in there straight away before the student loses hope. Clearly the student’s confidence is bruised, but a good A Level Maths tutor will know that this situation can be turned round and made into a positive. In this situation, as a tutor I would capitalise on the improved work ethic that David exhibited towards the exam period and help him use this to his advantage. David has spent all of the last year feeling like he is bottom of the class but he will still have taken in a lot of the mathematics that was taught to him even if it is not currently fluent or instantly recallable, but there will be an underlying base knowledge. And provided a tutor works with David to keep him slightly ahead of the schedule of what he is going to be taught in class, he can go from like he felt last year (bottom of the class and behind) to feeling on top of the material and able to hold his own, achieving well in homework and class tests.
Is An Online A Level Maths/Further Maths Tutor for You?
I have written this to present you with all the facts about online tuition so that you can decide whether the online A Level Maths and Further Maths tuition I offer is suitable for you or your son/daughter. I hope to answer a few questions you are probably asking yourself. If I have missed anything, please do email me and I will add your question to this list.
Q1: Is online tuition as interactive as in-person tuition?
The short answer is yes, it certainly can be. Although there are a lot of variables. It depends on both the tutor and the student. I, for example, have been tutoring online for many years now and have tried and tested many different methods, settling on the ones that work best. With the right equipment (i.e. a touchscreen tablet with a stylus or an ordinary laptop with a USB graphics tablet) the experience can be as authentic as if the tutor and student are sat next to each other; with an open audio channel on Zoom and a web-based shared whiteboard, the tutor and student can see and hear each other and, importantly, see what the other is writing in real time, as shown in the excerpt from one of my online tutorials in the video below.
So to summarise, if you have the correct equipment, geographical distance will not be a limitation to you getting the right tutor for you. Without a tablet and stylus, however, I would suggest that the experience would not be as authentic and that a local in-person tutor may be better.
Q2: I have the right equipment but how do I know if my son/daughter will engage with tuition?
Try it out. You’ll be surprised. As a tutor I certainly do not want to provide students with a service that is not going to be of benefit to them. For that reason, I have a policy whereby I say that after the first session, don’t pay me for it if you don’t want to continue. The last thing I want is for people to be paying for something that isn’t of benefit to them. I’m pretty confident, however, after the first session that you will be surprised at how productive and worthwhile students find the experience.
Q3: Do you set work between sessions?
Yes! Work done between sessions consolidates what was done in the tutorial session and is equally as important, if not more so, than what happens in the session.
Q4: You seem to charge more than other tutors. How do you justify that?
My rates (see the prices tab) are a reflection of both my classroom experience, my experience one-to-one tutoring, the time and effort that goes into the top-quality resources I produce to use in tutorial sessions and the grades my students obtain as a result of all of this. Furthermore, the support does not end at the end of the session; I am happy to answer any questions my students have via WhatsApp between sessions.
Q5: Do I have to commit to a certain number of lessons?
Q6: If online tuition is that good, why isn’t every tutor doing it?
I have to be honest and say I don’t know the answer to this. It could be reluctance to make the initial investment that a tutor needs to make in order that the lessons run smoothly, it could be lack of technological awareness or just simply that a tutor prefers to be there in person. Whatever the reason is, I really don’t know it. However, I am confident that after a taster session, students will see the value and want to continue. And if I’m wrong, don’t worry! Simply don’t pay for it.
My fee is £60 per hour-long session. This rate reflects my qualifications, experience and the quality resources that students are given access to when being taught by me.
For this price you will receive:
- An hour of one-to-one tuition from me, John Armstrong, the creator of ALevelMathsRevision.com, an experienced teacher of A Level Maths and Further Maths with exam board marking experience;
- Expert advice on exam technique and how to “target the marks” in an exam situation on a topic-by-topic basis;
- Tailor-made resources to complete as homework that complement the learning process and further embed the newly learnt material.
If you want to book a lesson or are unsure about whether one-to-one tuition is for you, please get in touch in the “Contact Me” section to organise an online demonstration of how effective one-to-one tuition can be.