This article was originally published on 3rd March 2010.
Most adults have a maths age of between eight and a half and ten and a half, according to Richard Marrett, managing director of Whizz Education. This is the level that corresponds with the maths that most of us use in our every day lives to add up the shopping, do the tax return and figure out how much to tip the waiter.
It might not just be our children, then, who are in need of an online maths tutor.
It follows, then, that anyone who is at least average should know more maths at the age of eleven than most of us have for years. So unless you’re an engineer or an accountant (someone who uses maths for work) there’s an anxious gap between what we know and what we know we should know – because we once knew more. That causes nervousness around the subject.
In addition to the more universal anxiety, bringing up a child abroad means that there is also a question mark for many parents about how their child’s schooling compares to the national curriculum in the UK. If the hope is that one’s child will eventually receive a British university education then they will need the same GCSE results in maths as their peers.
“A lot of people shell out thirty, forty, fifty pounds an hour for a professional tutor when the fear strikes them,” said Marrett. “Our software is designed to do the same job but for £15 a month.”
The site was developed six years ago by Ron van der Meer, a pop up book artist, using interactive animation to keep things lively on screen. The idea is that by using the information about how many of the maths questions the student gets right, the online “tutor” is able to gauge the student’s level in that particular area of mathematics and tailor the course to suit.
To further supplement your child’s learning, you can also visit The Telegraph Tutors to choose from over 4,000 personally selected tutors.
“To begin with there is an assessment,” said Marrett. “Once that’s been done we might find that our 12 year-old has a maths age of eleven and a half in adding and subtracting and twelve and a half in fractions. The starting point is then pitched accordingly.”
The maths problems are explained visually and a series of related questions posed.
“If the student fails to grasp something, the ‘tutor’ is programmed so that, after a while, it will explain the problem in a different way – like a good teacher. At the moment the UK program goes up to the end of Year Eight, which is 13 to 14 years old.
“It’s designed to be used for one hour a week, with the role of the parent being to make sure that there is an appropriate learning environment and and all our research shows that using it helps the average pupil to improve their maths over the course of a year by 1.6 maths years. Obviously they’re a year older by the end of it. But in addition they have put on an extra 60 per cent. It works.”
Expat was given a free trial of the tutor and discovered that the speed of the program varied dramatically from one day to the next in the Telegraph’s office. On the first day the connection to the server kept breaking but on day two it was fine and it wasn’t clear at this end why this was the case.
The graphics are funny, using short animations involving animals and robots. The questions a little repetitious for this adult – but then how else do you learn? Also I could have done with a little more feedback about how I was doing (not too badly, I was led to believe, eventually).
But if I had a child who was a little slow with their times tables I might consider giving an online maths tutor a go before resorting to the nuclear option of an expensive in-person tutor.