I have a confession to make: I hate maths.
Probably not the best start to this blog post, but hey it’s the truth. In Primary school, I was pretty good at maths. Actually, I have an old VCR Video of my five-year-old self proudly stating that maths was my favourite subject.
So what happened, that took me from a bright, enthusiastic five-year-old who loves maths to a cynical, distrusting thirty-year-old who hates the subject.
Somewhere along the line, I developed “Maths Anxiety.” Along with, you know, good old-fashioned general anxiety too. But this post is to talk about anxiety associated with maths.
Perhaps you remember your school days, when you’d take out the school timetable from an over-sized book-bag on your shoulder, and make an audible groan as the words “maths” stare back at you.
Maybe, you too, have memories of well-meaning maths teachers who speak at super-sonic speeds to explain Pythagoras theorem and then look at you like you’re a troubled teen when you ask for it to be explained again.
I inwardly shudder over the memories of the two words scribbled in red ink on my maths homework: “See Me.”
From the time I started secondary school back in the year 2000 to now, I have got by with maths with few issues. Thanks to calculators and scraping by with a reasonable grade at GCSE, then I waved goodbye to my math’s teachers and set fire to those textbooks (not really) as I ventured into more creative subjects for my A Levels and beyond.
Now, I am a thirty-year-old homeschooling mum of three boys and I need to put my aversion to maths aside and – somehow – get my son excited about maths! Following some bad experiences at school, (when he didn’t get the maths answers correctly, the teacher would tell him off and tell his father and I that he’s “really not very good at maths,” right in front of him.)
So, now we homeschool, and I was given a rare opportunity to trial a set of one-to-one maths tuition lessons in exchange for a non-biased review. I was all-too-happy to oblige, as I had not been doing very well at teaching the kids maths by myself.
The company in question is called Matr. (Because Maths – Matrs! Right! Get it? (Matters….matrs… No? Ok…back to the cave of weirdness Laura..)
What is Matr?
Matr.org started off in 2013, as a support to Primary schools in the form of online maths tuition. The tutors follow the National Curriculum and the feedback from teachers and pupils in the schools was so positive, they started to grow from there. They claim to have given over 500,000 hours of tuition to thousands of children across the country – and there’s no stopping them now!
Now, Matr is available for families to sign up and take advantage of their tuition. This is particularly exciting to me, because my children are homeschooled. This opens up the private-tuition to a whole new world of people.
How Does It Work?
You will see that you can choose between two options, when signing up for maths tuition.
- 25 Minute Session.
- 50 Minute Session.
For either session: The first 10 minutes of the session your child will need to complete an audio and voice check, and a warm up activity that will help their tutor tailor the lesson. Followed by 25 /50 minutes of one-to-one tuition and a 5-10 cool down activity.
You will need to use Google Chrome (It’s free to download if you do not have it.) and a PC headset with a Microphone. (I found one in a PC store in the high street for £7)
When you sign up with Matr, you will receive an email with instructions to set up your account. Make note of your email and password because you will need them each time you log in for your child’s lesson.
If you have multiple children, they each have their own account, which can only be accessed through a parent account.
There is a maths test, to help the teachers at Matr gage what level your child is at and help them to tailor their lessons to meet the needs of your child.
The Burton Boys had their first lesson…
Ryan went first. He’s 9 and like most 9 year old boys, is really into Fortnite. To say he was not excited about his maths lesson is an understatement. He was dreading it. “I’m not good at maths,” He whined, when I told him it was time to get ready.
So, I managed to coax him to the computer by saying he could play a round of Fortnite while he waited for the lesson to begin. He also didn’t need to get dressed. So here is, in his PJs, playing Fortnite, while the count-down timer is ticking away before the lesson.
I thought it was really sweet, that for the sound check, Ryan was asked to say the phrase, “I am a nice person.” Then the radio check played back his recording.
As you can see, (the numbers at the top are a ten-minute countdown) there is plenty of time given to ensure the headset is working well and to get through the first couple of warm-up questions before the tutor comes in.
Note: While the tutor is in the session with your child, this screen is all you ever see.
The interface is so friendly and Ryan felt totally at ease and curious! He loves technology and enjoyed learning how to drag and drop the arrows and numbers as he spoke to his tutor.
I was delighted to see that the lesson was purely looking at the screen and kept the focus on the maths. I wondered if you would see a video of the tutor, but that would have been distracting for my son. It made the maths tuition really hands on as Ryan was encouraged to join in and move his cursor around the page and draw the answers to show his understanding.
I heard Ryan speaking shyly to his tutor:
“Hi, nice to meet you too,”
“I don’t really like it, it’s just hard.” (When asked what he thought of maths.)
Ryan did a 50 minute session and not-once did he ask to stop. I anticipated he might get tired or overwhelmed, but surprisingly, as he was saying goodbye to his tutor, I heard him say:
“That was good. I’ll definitely be back, is it every Tuesday? Oh good.”
I nearly fell off my chair in shock.
Following the session, Ryan had to answer some cool-down questions and then took pride in “finding the treasure!” Which is a nice little addition to the experience. (The goal is to unlock a new class topic and find the treasure at the end of the session by answering the questions!)
This kid. I never thought I’d see him smile THIS MUCH after doing maths.
Alex is my 8 year old. Now, he’s a maths-genius. He has a brain for calculations and problem-solving. However, he has this
weakness thing, where if he does not get something right the first time, he simply won’t try it again. So there are a few areas of maths where he is not so confident. He logged into his account and whizzed through the warm-up questions so fast, he had enough time to play 8 minutes of Fortnite before the tutor came in. He too was dressed in his PJs.
Alex found the questions quite tricky, but I could hear the tutor gently coaxing him on and encouraging him to keep trying. It was amazing to see, because usually when he found something hard, he would stomp his feet or storm out of the room with frustrated tears rolling down his cheeks.
Alex had this to say about his experience:
“That was good – the teacher was kind and he helped me. He’s really nice and I like him. He helped me understand the maths.”
Then he continued with:
“I learnt a lot actually, I want to keep doing it.”
When the session finished, he sat and revelled in his glory, earning his first “Mission accomplished” tick, and motivated to keep going. That’s a nice little touch – I thought – to the experience. It made it more fun and adventurous.
Now that the boys had a positive experience, I did not even need to march them upstairs to the computer. Ryan sat eagerly with his headset on and shouted out the numbers as they counted down. He spoke more enthusiastically with the tutor and told me after his session that he thinks he’s “Good at maths, actually.”
Apparently, his tutor told him he was impressed with his work and that he was good at maths. That was a huge confidence boost for Ryan, who really struggled with the idea of even trying maths! He thought he was simply not good at it. I was blown away!
Alex enjoyed his maths lesson too. It’s funny, it’s only been two lessons in, and the boys have already become accustomed to the routine. They’re both excited about continuing on next week too!
As a parent, I am looking for these things when reviewing a service like this:
- Child Safety
- A Positive Experience
- Value for money
Child Safety – As an online tuition service, I was concerned that there may be a webcam which would allow the tutor to see my child. Perhaps this isn’t a concern for most parents, but it made me feel wary. Especially as child-grooming is a really big problem on the internet. It was a big positive that the communication was verbal-only. And as I supervised the children during their sessions, I was able to make sure that the conversation remained on topic and the discussion never deviated. Also, the tutor is not seen on the screen at any time, Matr.org states a reason for this on their website:
We have found that children are more engaged when they are able to focus entirely on the maths. This is why your child will only be able to hear the tutor and not see them. Throughout, lessons remain interactive with a focus on children explaining their reasoning. Matr.org
A Positive Experience – The experience was definitely positive for both children. They gave me great feedback and the fact that my son Ryan, who has suffered with maths anxiety is excited to do it again, says it all.
Progress/Results – It’s early days, and I will write a follow-up to let you know how things are going in the future, but so far I am impressed by the boost in confidence and the willingness to try doing maths. The main results so far, is that my children learned something new, enjoyed the session and looked forward to the next one.
Flexibility – I really like that there is no contract with Matr. I have looked for online tuition courses before and all of them have costly fees and an iron-clad contract. What if money runs out and you need to take a pause for a few months? With Matr, you can stop the sessions any time. (As long as you give them some notice!) And you can choose the time/day of your sessions.
I also love that you don’t need to leave the house. As an anxiety-sufferer myself, this was a really big plus. No rushing around to get ready, no traffic queues or having to find childcare for sick siblings who might have to be home. Nope, just plonk your child in front of a PC or laptop and you’re good to go! You could even have the lessons done on holiday!
Value for money – The monthly payments work out at as low as £9.25 per lesson. That’s for one-to-one tuition. You can’t really complain at that. Considering the flexibility, high-quality software and expert tuition they provide, it really is an affordable option for all, not just the elite. Besides, your children and their confidence in maths are worth your investment. I would give up having a few takeaways to ensure my children feel more confident in maths!
I am grateful for the opportunity to try Matr.org tuition, because it has opened my eyes to just how easy it is to set up, how much the kids benefit from it and what an asset it is for any homeschooling parent. Local clubs work out at similar pricing and they are for a class of kids, this is one-to-one, and tailored to meet your child’s needs. I’m really impressed by that.
If you’re looking for something to support your child aged 7-11 learning maths, I highly recommend you give Matr a try. Find out more about Matr tuition here.
Because Maths – matters! 🙂