My basic reason for this blog, theoretically at least, is to share some of the work I do in school in One-To-One maths tuition.  In practice it’s about a lot more than that – about games, people who’ve inspired me, lessons I’ve enjoyed, odd little snippets that have stayed with me, and more.  I do promise, however, to do my very best to resist talking about jazz or Brighton and Hove Albion.

So what do I mean by One-To-One  tuition?

Seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it, but it’s not quite such a silly question as you might think.  We’re not talking about any old situation where an adult sits down with a single child, nor are we referring to sessions with a private tutor – I’m employed in school under the aegis of the Making Good Progress initiative, which grew out of the initial scheme launched nationally in 2009.

The target group of pupils is what you might call the (fairly) silent majority of children (most of my pupils are in Year 6 – 10 to 11 year-olds); those children of reasonable ability for whom progress has stalled a little.  Alternatively they may children who are doing OK, but who are ready to receive a stimulus which will let them show a significant development in progress. I’m not working with those of particularly high ability or those with definite problems, so I suppose my pupils come from the 60% or 70% who are not at the extremes.

But basically, the principle is that by working individually, the teacher (and yes it’s a teacher and not a classroom assistant or a volunteer parent) will be able to locate and remedy misunderstandings which are preventing the child from making full progress.

Initially we used weekly after-school sessions; originally we used ten sessions of an hour.  Quite soon we switched to sessions in school time; then we found we got pretty well all the benefits in a smaller number of sessions, which freed up time to work with more children.

And while One-To-One sessions are great the one thing they cannot offer is child / child interaction and discussion, so we’ve settled into a pattern of using five / six week blocks in a One-To-Two format.  In consequence, I get to work with more than twenty Y6 pupils in a year, perhaps 25% of the year group.

The starting point is that teachers, pupils, and parents will agree three areas for development – for example, using fractions, problem-solving, multiplication methods.

I try hard to make it clear that the sessions are very different from normal lessons.  We’ll work comfortably in the library, with laptop to hand.  I guess 90% of what we do is by talking, and anything written is done in a book that’s mine rather than their exercise book.  There are no textbooks or worksheets, and most of the writing is mine.

Above all, the sessions are the child’s rather than mine; they’re active rather than reactive and passive.   There’s no hiding place and no chance to switch off and take a rest, and one of the things that surprises children – and their parents – is that they can do a solid hour of mathematics and still be surprised and disappointed when it’s time to finish.

You won’t find me making any claims that I resolve all the child’s difficulties in the three target areas, let alone more widely.  But what I will claim is that their attitude to mathematics is often changed dramatically, that their confidence and self-image are vastly improved, and that these are not simply short-term benefits.  School managers love the fact that their performance in KS2 Tests is usually significantly boosted.

And it’s not just pupils who benefit, either.  When we’ve been able to have meetings with colleagues in other schools there’s been universal agreement that 1-2-1 is so informative that every teacher should do some tuition every year, simply because of the insight they get into the way children learn mathematics.

So this blog is my attempt to share some of the things I’ve found useful and some of the things children have taught me.  And given that in 55+ years I’ve taught quite a lot of maths lessons, there are quite a few other things I’d like to share as well.


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