Ever since I started tutoring, around 9 years ago now, I have seen there is a definite pattern to the timing of enquiries from new students. We start off with those that come in during late August, trying to get in before the start of the new school year to take advantage of a whole years’ worth of help.
Then there is a lull.
Until October Half Term. Usually towards the end of the week or into the first week of the new Term. That is when the new A Level students get in touch. The break has given them a brief respite from the relentless workload. Finally, time to have a breather and take stock. And acknowledge in the peace of the short holiday that A Level maths is HARD. Much harder than they thought. It is the realisation that, even if they secured the coveted grades 8 or 9 at GCSE, they have not really been prepared for what lay ahead.
Then is the time to get help. Not necessarily by getting tutoring, though that gives a great avenue of support. Maybe they just need to speak with their teacher or friends and look at what support is available “in house”. Failing that, the help that an outside tutor can bring can be invaluable. I can get students to look at maths, and maths problems, in different ways; seeing methods not used in school. More importantly, giving them time to focus on areas of difficulty when the teacher has moved on – constrained by the timetable. Mathematics doesn’t lend itself to fast learning and doesn’t take kindly to time allocation in a regimented way. It likes to be understood and appreciated.
If you are one of these new A Level students, take a moment to think about where you are with your learning and get a plan in place to move ahead successfully. Above all, make sure you enjoy your study of mathematics.
“A mathematician, like a painter or poet, is a maker of patterns. If his patterns are more permanent than theirs, it is because they are made with ideas.”
These words, and the title of this blog, were written by the great British mathematician G H Hardy in his essay, A Mathematician’s Apology, published in 1940. Hardy was at the end of what he saw as his useful creative life as a mathematician and used this work as an opportunity to describe what he saw as the nature of mathematics. Its place in the world. Its beauty. Even how some branches are “trivial” or “ugly” compared to his sphere, of number theory. He also gives an insight to how mathematicians work. He wanted to inspire upcoming generations of mathematicians.
There is a wonderful irony when he writes “No one has yet discovered any warlike purpose to be served by the theory of numbers or relativity, and it seems unlikely that anyone will do so for many years.” He had no idea how his beloved number theory would be used to crack the German Enigma code and then go on to underpin all of public-key cryptography so important to the Internet today.
In short, if you have an interest in mathematics, you must read this book. If you are studying A Level maths and certainly if you want to study maths at university, it is essential reading. It’s short too. All over in less than 150 pages. You will not be disappointed.
A Level Results Day is just over a week away. There is no avoiding it, and you shouldn’t want to. If you have done the work you will be fine. If you are expecting AS results you will know what needs to be done next year. Focus and go do it! If this is A2, I hope you get what you want to move forward. The future is an exciting place to go. Embrace it and do all you can with it.
The Student Room has produced some great advice for the Day. Check it out.