In these strange times, more than ever before, teachers find themselves having to deal with learners who have gaps in their knowledge that threatens their progress in maths. Their understanding develops into a fragile Jenga-like structure where misconceptions persist. Teachers of exam classes, conscious of the demands of the specification, are tempted to rush through material and to build on shaky foundations. The time to play, to explore, and to build links between topics is in danger of getting squeezed out in a rush to cover everything in the time remaining. Learners who doubt whether their GCSE or A level exams will even happen may be hard to motivate to prepare for the summer series.
The lucky few learners can access a private tutor, who can provide one-to-one support tailored to their needs. The secret of a good tutor is listening to where the perceived need is, to judge how far back the problem may have arisen, and to create a pathway back to the point where the learner can access the main thrust of their classroom work. The tutor can then provide the knowledge in a concise way, explain a few well-chosen examples that illustrate the point without uncovering a new area of confusion, and provide a couple of questions for the learner to try. Any success here is a big part of confidence building, which is such an important attribute when it comes to encouraging re-engagement in class and problem solving.
The challenge for classroom teachers is to provide that for all of their learners as the need arises, whilst challenging the more confident and motivating the disengaged – no wonder teachers go home exhausted at the end of the school day!
Good luck with your work with all your classes. In all the busyness and the complications of delivery under Covid-19 restrictions, try not to lose sight of the fact that you are a key person in the development of your learners and that you’re doing a great job!
By Rose Jewell