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.
1. The initial conversation with the tutor
This is a chance to pass on all relevant information about the student to the tutor and find out more about what the tutor feels they can offer. 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.
To give an idea of the correct questions to ask in this initial conversation, please refer to an article I have written on “Finding an A Level Maths Tutor Who Matches Your Needs“.
2. 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.
3. 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.
To summarise, it is important that a tutor:
- is suitably qualified to deliver the material to the student. This would usually involve being a qualified teacher of Maths and having classroom experience of delivering content;
- has experience of how to “target the marks” for the required syllabus. Exam board marking experience could provide this level of familiarity, for example.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.