Maths A Level - Dd can't keep up with the Asian Students

(87 Posts)
Etainagain Tue 09-Feb-16 22:35:54

Dd 17 is in her first year of A Level Maths. She attended state school up to the end of Year 11 and got an A* for her Maths GCSE. Maths was always something she enjoyed and she didn't need to put much work in to get a good grade. Dd was awarded an academic scholarship at an independent school which has a high number of Asian students. In her opinion, the Asian students are about three years ahead of the UK students (for science subjects also). There are 12 students in her Maths group and more than half of them are Asian (Chinese, Thai and Korean). Dd is really struggling at the moment. She said the teacher is hopeless and cannot work out most of the problems himself, let alone explain how to do them to the UK students. Mostly, the Asians work out the answers and then teach the teacher and the English kids how to do it. Dd feels that her teacher doesn't put in any effort because he doesn't need to. The Asian students are guaranteed top grades without any input from him. She really wants to get a good grade and is angry that, in her words, he 'doesn't give a damn'. One lesson he produced a list of questions and a girl asked whether he had made them up himself to which he replied 'of course not, you don't think I'd go to that much effort, do you?' I told him that Dd is not happy to be currently working at a Grade C and asked what she could do to improve. He didn't seem that bothered and said that she could attend the maths clinics at lunchtimes, but she said it is pointless because if he can't explain things in class then he won't be able to explain them in a clinic. He also suggested using My Maths, but Dd doesn't like that site.

Now, I'm wondering whether the real issue is that there is a huge jump between Edexcel GCSE and OCR Maths A Level (not sure whether there is a difference in boards, or whether OCR favours the Indie kids who did IGCSEs) and that Dd would struggle regardless of the teacher? Is A Level Maths something that she could teach herself? Does she just need to put more effort in? If it is the teaching that is weak, should I complain and how can I do so in a way that maintains good relations? Maybe the teacher has a difficult job dealing with such different levels of understanding in the class? Dd hates Maths now and is thinking of dropping it. It is VERY disappointing for her.

cruikshank Tue 09-Feb-16 22:41:31

Sounds like the issue is the teacher. She isn't struggling because others in the class are more able - she is struggling because she isn't being taught properly.

MooPointCowsOpinion Tue 09-Feb-16 22:42:03

Indie kids?

I was trying to give you the benefit of the doubt but seriously. I got to indie kids and then I just knew.

Get her a tutor. You can't complain about the teacher until she gives the clinics and the mymaths a go.

Balletgirlmum Tue 09-Feb-16 22:44:20

Indie is short for independent moo. My ds's indie school do igcse which is meant to be better preparation for a level though the new GCSE's that are coming in are also supposed to be tougher.

ReallyTired Tue 09-Feb-16 22:46:25

I think your daughter needs to leave the Asian kids out of it. A-level maths is hard whatever your skin colour or nationality. Unless she develops a bit more of a can do attitude she will hold herself back. So what if the my maths website us boring? Maybe the Asian kids don't expect to be entertained. A-levels are a slog and are designed to develop more independent working skills.

I had really good maths teachers and I found it hard 22 years ago. The jump from GCSE to A level is huge. A lot of independent school children sit GCSE maths early and do bridging work in year 11. Your daughter is probably struggling if she has not done this extra work. There are all kinds of resources on the Internet if she does not like My Maths.

MooPointCowsOpinion Tue 09-Feb-16 22:46:59

Oh thank the Lord. I thought whatever next, judging not only Asian kids for daring to be brighter, but the kids going to forward thinking schools as well for being brighter too?

stayathomegardener Tue 09-Feb-16 22:48:54

I think the problem here is your familiy expectations of an independant school being better and having better teachers than the local state school.
You do know that independant teachers don't actually have to have qualifications don't you.
Speaking as one who has had dd go through independant fron age 7.
DD had some truely dreadful teachers particually in Maths and at one point ended up removing herself (against the wishes of head of maths) from the class to go down a set to a better teacher.

Balletgirlmum Tue 09-Feb-16 22:51:05

I think the issue is the teacher. The school have accepted your dd do they have a duty to bring her up to standard if the curriculum she previously followed was different to some of the other students.

The teacher should not only be explaining things but should be able to do so in different ways to account for different learning styles.

He sounds a bit crap & he's obviously getting away with it due to the educational background of many of his students.

I would be very cross if it was my dd (she plans to transfer to an academic independent school from a non academic one for 6th form too)

bodenbiscuit Tue 09-Feb-16 22:53:09

I don't see how other students nationality should even be an issue. hmm

Etainagain Tue 09-Feb-16 22:54:36

Moo I meant independent school pupils when I said indie....I was just trying to type quickly and I've seen that work used on mumsnet.

ReallyTired I think you are right...she definitely needs to develop a can do attitude. She does seem to be lacking in confidence at the moment.

The overseas students do struggle with some aspects of maths, particularly 'wordy' questions and so all the students help each other to some extent. Dd said that the independent school students and the overseas students do work much harder than the state school pupils generally (there are quite a few state school pupils there). She probably needs to put in a lot more effort.

Etainagain Tue 09-Feb-16 22:58:16

Boden nationality shouldn't be an issue of course, but when it comes to maths the overseas students are way ahead of our kids (at least the ones in Dd's school are). It is just a fact, not an issue. They are a great bunch of students and a real inspiration to my Dd (as well as an enormous help to her).

Dreamgirls234 Tue 09-Feb-16 22:58:55

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Etainagain Tue 09-Feb-16 23:00:32

Stayathome it could well be true that I have unrealistic expectations. I suppose I just thought that someone who teaches A level Maths would be able to work out the problems (Dd said he hasn't got a Maths degree but I don't know whether you would need one to teach A level).

grumpysquash2 Tue 09-Feb-16 23:02:50

If some of the other students are 3 years ahead, then they would be 2nd year University level.
Is that really the case?

Regardless, she is on an A level course and A level maths is what she should be taught. So the teacher should be teaching at sixth form level.

How about a tutor to make sure she's on track for the exams and knows the syllabus?

PurpleDaisies Tue 09-Feb-16 23:02:59

Have the Asian students just arrived from their home countries? It's likely that the curriculum there is more rigorous than ours (although I'm happy to be corrected by anyone that actually knows about maths teaching in Korea, China and Thailand) so they've covered the material before. If not, it looks like your dd has ended up in a particularly able maths group and the nationalities of the students really aren't relevant in the slightest. If she's always been the brightest maybe she's finding that difficult?

Many students real struggle with maths a level-it's a massive jump from GCSE and sometimes (particularly female) students lose their confidence when they come up against something they can't do for the first time ever.

A tutor is a good idea. Your dd could try the clinic-the teacher could be better in smaller groups than en masse. It often takes a while for some students to "get it" with certain maths concepts but once they drop into place they can answer almost any question relating to them. If your dd gets a bit of extra support from somewhere she could very likely turn things around.

Etainagain Tue 09-Feb-16 23:03:26

I've no idea whether she is doing OCR mei. I'll have to ask her! I feel slightly better about it now that I know that IGCSE might have offered some of the students better preparation for the A level.

noblegiraffe Tue 09-Feb-16 23:06:16

There is a big jump from GCSE to A-level and it is not uncommon for even A* kids to struggle. The difference between getting a poor grade and a good grade at A-level is how much work you put in outside of lessons. If she's not going on mymaths and she isn't going to the maths clinic, then simply put she is not doing enough work. She can blame the teacher, she can blame the other kids, but ultimately, she needs to pull her finger out. Mymaths is one of a billion internet resources. Has she googled? Looked at YouTube videos? Khan academy? Presumably she's got a textbook? How many past papers has she completed? The mark schemes are available online.

Dreamgirls234 Tue 09-Feb-16 23:06:18

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Bolognese Tue 09-Feb-16 23:06:56

Sadly an A* at maths GCSE is just a mediocre grade, hopefully the new 9 will be a better reflection of ability.

Consider moving your DD into a state school that has a better maths department, sounds like she needs to catch up big time but school just isn't interested or able to do so.

Etainagain Tue 09-Feb-16 23:08:13

Yes, most have just arrived in the UK. They are a lovely bunch and very clever!

I did try to find her a tutor but it is proving very difficult as the A level tutors I have found are all fully booked. I suppose I could try and see if someone has any availability in the holidays.

Dd probably does need to put in more effort herself and give her teacher's suggestions a go rather than being so completely negative about everything he says.

stayathomegardener Tue 09-Feb-16 23:09:32

DD rubbish maths teacher for GCSE was qualified in PE...

Etainagain Tue 09-Feb-16 23:12:44

Dd's teacher has a Psychology degree. I'm not sure whether that matters though. I presume he has Maths A level!

However, I do appreciate that there is no point in blaming anyone and she needs to put in a lot more work. I suspect she was spoonfed in her old school and is having difficulty dealing with the transition.

Dreamgirls234 Tue 09-Feb-16 23:17:46

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

BackforGood Tue 09-Feb-16 23:18:46

The jump from GCSE to A-level maths is reknowned to be huge.
GCSE maths is not very difficult to get top grades in if you are a capable mathematician - it then comes as a shock to those students who haven't been used to putting in loads of extra study to be able to achieve good marks not, not talking about dd1 at all there
Doesn't sound like the teacher is very good though, and i think that should be raised with head of department, considering what you have said.

SchnitzelVonKrumm Tue 09-Feb-16 23:21:35

If I was paying £££ for a private school I'd be pretty fucked off that my child was being taught A level maths by a psychology graduate hmm

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