Tutors for Physics and Maths are always in high demand. As core subjects, achieving good results in both is often a key requirement for many universities, and the two often go hand in hand. It is understandable, then, that when you are looking to get help with Physics and Maths, you might look for one tutor that can help with both subjects. But is this the right strategy?
Should I have one Physics and Maths tutor, or a separate tutor for each subject?
The answer will depend on a variety of factors. Sometimes, it is a good idea to have a tutor that specialises in just one subject. But if the subjects are inherently linked, like Physics and Maths, and you are interested in taking both subjects for a specific reason, for example, to pursue an engineering degree, you might want a tutor that can teach both.
A good Physics and Maths tutor will take your interests and aims into account when planning tutoring sessions, making the learning relevant to you. And the tutor will be able to identify areas of crossover between Physics and Maths, and relate them in a way you can understand in both contexts. London International Tutors may even be able to match you with a tutor who has pursued a similar academic path to your chosen one, and who will be able to pass on valuable experience. In this way, your tutor can tailor your sessions to be highly relevant to your academic goals.
How can a Physics and Maths tutor help me?
Our tutors are some of the best in the country. They have many techniques at their disposal that can help you with Physics and Maths, whilst making it interesting and fun. One of our tutors, Kit, explains more.
Hi, I’m Kit. I have been tutoring Physics and Maths alongside my day job since I left university. I have always felt that this makes me a better engineer, which in turn gives me the chance to discuss concepts in the context of real world applications. This can be a refreshing change from sometimes quite abstract problem sheets.
I try to make my classes and tutorials as student led as possible, for three main reasons:
- No two people learn the same way, particularly in STEM subjects. I try to work with my students to find a way of working that suits them best. This can be anything from guiding them through problems within their syllabus, to setting problems that expand on what they’ve already been taught or discussing the real world applications of concepts that might have seemed abstract at first.
- There is no substitute for solving the problems yourself. I often find that the best way to tutor is relatively hands off. This could mean, for example, letting a student work through a problem and prompting or explaining only once they have had a chance to understand and frame their question.
- The earlier we can learn to understand and articulate our own problems the better. This is the biggest difference that I found between school study and university and professional learning and so is an approach that I try to teach all of my students from the very start. “I don’t understand this specific concept for this specific reason” is much more useful to both student and teacher than “I don’t understand”.
Filling in the gaps
As a tutor, I think my main jobs are to fill in the gaps in school learning, expand on the curriculum and provide insights from my degree and career that I hope bring colour to Maths and Physics. This is quite distinct from teaching and allows for huge amounts of flexibility and, as a result, one lesson can look very different from another. This extends to the resources that I use. For example if I am working with a student who is looking to expand beyond their syllabus I often draw on my degree notes or papers I have come across during my professional career. In contrast, if the student’s focus is a particular exam or area within the syllabus I will tend to use past papers, textbooks or my own examples.
Keeping it interesting
Irrespective of the material and the student’s level, I try to make sure that problems have a level of interest. There is such a difference between a problem that is a rearrangement of something a student has seen before and a problem that draws on understanding but requires novel insight. I find the latter is much more effective for engaging students and building confidence. Finding well written, interesting problems can be tricky and requires the tutor to solve and handpick the good ones. I keep a file of these, from a wide range of sources, which I keep up to date as my students’ needs change.
Different students require a different approach
At London International Tutors, it is our job to match students with the right tutors. All of our tutors are highly adaptable, using different techniques depending on how the student learns best. But they each have their own individual styles too, and it is important to choose a tutor that will work best for the student and what they want to achieve. Another of our tutors, Jack, explains how he likes to do things.
How I go about tutoring Physics and Maths
I’ve found it is very effective to use PowerPoints in my physics and mathematics lessons, as these can both provide information and include tasks, such as questions or ‘fill in the gap’ activities. The students have access to these PowerPoints after the lesson so that they can be used for revision and consolidation. I also use worksheets which students can complete using pens or pencils, as worksheets can make lessons more varied and interesting than merely working from a computer. Some students also like having a hard copy of work to keep and use for their revision.
Inventive task setting
I enjoy being inventive when setting tasks for students. For example, getting students to work out, using speed and distance, the time it takes Usain Bolt to run 100 metres compared to a cheetah. For GCSE and A-level students, I tend to include more past exam/exam-style questions in lessons – to be successful in examinations, developing exam technique and skills is essential.
My lessons often begin with a short starter activity. These tend to be 2 or 3 questions. I then spend a short time discussing and reviewing the answers with the student. A large part of lessons involves presenting textual information and diagrams on a PowerPoint, then giving students questions to assess their progress on the topic. The last ten minutes of a lesson usually consists of reviewing and consolidating what has been covered, learned and completed.
What resources I like to use when tutoring online
Along with PowerPoint, I use BBC bitesize to present lesson content. Bitesize often includes helpful examples, videos and diagrams. For each topic, there is usually a short multiple-choice test available to complete, and students can choose to do this after having revised a particular topic. I have also discovered a website called Wordwall.net. Wordwall has many different activities that students can do to test their knowledge and understanding, including games, multiple-choice questions, wordsearches and matching activities. This website has been extremely popular with my students. PhET Interactive Simulations by the University of Colorado Boulder is also a very engaging resource that allows students to experiment with simulations, activities and tests on different science topics. I have found students are impressed by the animations and layout of simulations on PhET, and find the activities engaging.
Techniques I use to engage students
Students tend to enjoy games when covering a certain topic. For example, once several terms have been introduced in a lesson, I play a game such as hangman. For some lessons, I print off words on cards and definitions or descriptions on separate cards, and get students to complete sorting activities, where they might match a word to its definition. I frequently use a deck of cards when teaching some topics, to invent mathematics games.
Students feel confident when they are comfortable with the subject matter. I help build this confidence by ensuring that the student has a good grounding in the basic information and key elements for examinations. The student will then be set small, manageable problems. On completion of tasks correctly, students are given praise and recognition of their success. A final review is essential to boost success, correct any misconceptions and reinforce good learning.
Working with strengths and weaknesses
One of the most important aspects of tutoring is finding the student’s strengths and weaknesses, so that the sessions can be tailored to suit their individual needs. Focusing on the right topics to strengthen a student’s knowledge is fundamental to success. Henry, one of our tutors, describes how he achieves this.
Teaching Maths and Physics isn’t so much about going through past paper questions as it is helping students to get a deeper understanding of core concepts in the course, and to encourage active engagement whilst learning and revising. For a module that the student needs to work on, I structure lessons to begin with an overview of the syllabus, whilst identifying the student’s strengths and weaknesses in the topic, followed by an in depth discussion on any concepts that aren’t clear. This gives a good grounding for the student to then apply their understanding to targeted questions, which consolidates their knowledge and normally motivates them to continue to try more questions and study in their own time.
Focussing on specific topics
I have generally found it much more effective to revise a subject by topic, rather than just attempting past papers which typically include a mix of questions on different modules. This enables more focussed revision and can give a real sense of achievement when a student understands a whole module in the course, and also makes it easier to work out which parts of the course need work.
There are a host of great resources for past papers and revision available online including: Physicsandmathstutor.com, Alevelmathsrevision.com, Mmerevise.co.uk. These provide summary sheets, past papers and sets of questions grouped by topic. This is particularly useful when studying or revising a course by topic rather than all at once.
A Physics and Maths tutor to suit every learning style
We have Physics and Maths tutors from various backgrounds who use different techniques to achieve results. Our job is to match the student with the perfect tutor, to enable the student to get the most out of their sessions. Rob is a full-time physics teacher who also provides tutoring through London International Tutors.
Hello, I have been a maths and physics tutor for many years, and am also a full time physics teacher. I target an individual’s misconceptions using diagnostic questioning. Once I have established a students subject knowledge, I build it up using evidenced-based teaching resources. When teaching maths and physics, it is important that ideas are introduced consecutively, in the correct order. With the correct teaching order, both subjects flow, are logical, and enjoyable.
I am a particular fan of making the subjects relevant to every day life, be that ‘how a tv remote works using the infra red spectrum’ or ‘why the rate of boiling water has no effect on the time it takes to cook an egg.’
Physics and maths are fun when understood, and rubbish when not!
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