"Stuck on an A-level maths question? Ask your friends for help first."

(21 Posts)
wanderings Thu 14-Nov-13 08:33:01

This was the written advice given by a particular teacher.

At first, I was quite surprised that see this, rather than the advice that they should see their teacher first.

However (and I have done A-level maths myself many years ago), the more I think about it, the more I see some logic behind it: trying to understand something with one's peers is a step towards the independent learning that's needed for A-level maths (rather than GCSE or lower), and certainly for university work, where independent studying is essential in many subjects.

Does this seem right to you? Sometimes you hear of A-level students really struggling, because they're used to being "spoon-fed" everything; and suddenly they have to solve problems more independently.

DropYourSword Thu 14-Nov-13 08:37:55

I actually think it's a good idea for a few different reasons. If one student is struggling, maybe others are too and it will help them to see that. Also, explaining to other people helps cement learning, so peers teaching peers will improve their own understanding and act like a form of revision. And like you say, it encourages them to think for themselves instead of relying on being spoon fed.

funnyvalentine Thu 14-Nov-13 08:39:47

I think it's good advice. Often, just talking a problem through with someone can help you see the answer, or at least view things differently.

I did a lot of maths at university and used to get together with my coursemates to go through the difficult stuff, normally we sorted it between us without having to ask anyone else. It gives you more confidence too, to have solved something difficult without having to ask for 'the answer'.

louloutheshamed Thu 14-Nov-13 08:39:53

Yes I think it's a good idea. It is a step to prevent the 'spoon feeding' you mention. Ideally the student would work together with a friend, using their initiative to solve the problem.

A student teacher I mentored this year came up with a great acronym for a y7 class she taught, as they were really struggling with independent work and were asking a lot of silly questions. She called it the 5 Bs-

Brain
Books
Buddy
Board
Boss

Before they put their hand up to ask a question they had to refer to the first four and only then could they ask the teacher- it really worked!!

AtiaoftheJulii Thu 14-Nov-13 08:55:55

Also your friends are probably more easily accessible, so you can just ask and get it sorted out, rather than leaving it until a convenient time to ask the teacher and possibly having it drag on for a few days. And like DropYourSword said, it's good for the friends too.

Just don't always ask the same friend. DS1 found himself weighed down helping everyone else out when he started Y12. He had to start saying no in the end.
Maybe it did him good as he now works part time as a maths tutor grin

youbethemummylion Thu 14-Nov-13 15:59:36

We always helped each other in A level maths the way your friend explained it always seemed to make more sense than the way the teacher explained it.

NoComet Thu 14-Nov-13 16:19:24

We did this from Y6 at primary (class of 40) teacher just threw harder work at top table and me and A worked out how to do it. We then explained it to the others.

We were still doing it in Y13, although by then it tended to be A doing maths and me science.

Explaining to other people is a very good way to learn and often a peer has a much better handle on why the teacher was confusing than the teacher themselves.

A went off to be an accountant (not the maths teacher we had all thought she'd be) and me a scientist.

And that would have been the end of the story, had I not met her years later in the park.

"Hi, what you up-to?"
"Retraining to be a maths teacher, accountancy is boring"

And as far as I know she went in to teach maths in various parts of the world and certainly avoided being bored.

AtiaoftheJulii Thu 14-Nov-13 20:50:41

Aw, that's a nice story smile

bruffin Thu 14-Nov-13 20:58:00

Ds a level gave him the same advice. Ds did go through a stage of struggling at the beginning. She said her door was always open but also to go to his friends.

SprinkleLiberally Thu 14-Nov-13 21:02:18

We encourage not asking the teacher straight away from Y7. Very often pupils haven't read instructions carefully or really thought about a task. It is to encourage independence and problem solving. Good imo.

Pooka Thu 14-Nov-13 21:04:45

Peer tutoring/support is a high impact/low cost "intervention" - I think this is rather good advice from the teacher in question.

circular Thu 14-Nov-13 21:32:32

DD1 just started A level maths, had similar advice from teacher.

anniesw Thu 14-Nov-13 22:03:00

My DD did some joint revision sessions for exams with a friend. They each led the topic they felt stronger in. It was their own informal session and it worked really well (and they did stay on task). Benefits: It made the revision more sociable so they were happy to revise for longer periods
, it gave the one leading the topic great confidence in their ability (and I do think belief in yourself is important in maths - if you believe you can do it, you try and find a solution rather than give up), it cemented their own learning and there was a good feeling about helping a friend. It was lovely to watch them being resourceful and committed

IloveJudgeJudy Wed 20-Nov-13 13:09:48

DD has been give the same answer in organic chemistry. Her teacher told her to get her friends to teach her. She has also looked online at the Khan Academy revision videos on Youtube. They're very good, I think (not that I understand chemistry very well).

I know this is a secondary school thread but my Y3 DD's class is encouraged to compare answers in maths, and explain to each other how they got the answer they did.
It saves the teacher a LOT of explaining grin

teacherandguideleader Thu 21-Nov-13 22:23:46

I do this a lot - ask a friend before me. It's not because I can't be bothered but often they work through the problem together, or one explains it to the other and through explaining deepens their own understanding. It also builds confidence in their own skills as they don't have to keep coming to me each time they're stuck.

MathsMan Sat 23-Nov-13 17:57:24

Depends on the friend ! I do say this sometimes to my students, but I hesitate to use it as a blanket statement like many teachers do. Pupils are spoonfed a lot nowadays, and come to expect it, and particularly the weaker ones ask for help before they have really given the question a go. Most of my A-level will turn to their neighbours naturally to discuss method/solutions and I always listen to their discussions/arguments with interest. It really benefits the giver of advice as well as the best test of whether you really know your stuff is to explain it to someone else.

webwiz Sat 23-Nov-13 18:16:01

In DS's further maths class everyone else got the homework wrong in exactly the same way. DS got it right. He isn't free at the same time as the others so wasn't involved in the communal effort!

DD2 was very good at maths and got fed up of everyone asking her for help. She loves working with maths friends at university but it just didn't work very well at the A level stage.

nothruroad Sat 23-Nov-13 18:23:16

In my last school we had a thing called 'Ask 3 before me' where pupils had to discuss problems in their groups before they asked the teacher. It worked better with some classes than others obviously.

clary Sun 24-Nov-13 00:27:45

I ask my students (KS3 and 4 FWIW) to "ask 3 before me" in other words, look in your book (we have probably covered this before), ask a friend (they might have listened better!) or even look in a dictionary.

Otherwise I set them a task and 15 people out of 32 put their hands up and ask how to say "I" or "and" in German (I teach MFL).

It means I can deal with genuine difficulties, rather than people being lazy, and yes, it also helps them be a more resilient learner.

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