We speak to Community Member and experienced tutor, Helen Osmond, about her techniques for motivating students from maths-haters to maths-lovers.

This is the fourth in a new series of Q&As with Community Members to explore our community and what skills, advice and support it can bring you. 

To join our free community, click here.

We can’t wait to see you here.


1. What is your academic background? 

I have a BSc Hons in Pure and Applied Mathematics from the University of Exeter. I almost completed my PGCE in secondary maths at the University of Bath before having to withdraw during the last teaching practice due to a period of ill health. This led to me transitioning and now developing my skills in tutoring. 

2. What subjects do you specialise in? 

Maths – which is a wide subject. Predominantly GCSE and A-Level Maths, but I also cover Functional Skills, GCSE Statistics, GCSE and A-Level Further Maths, and an entrance exam for a local private school.  

3. What is your favourite thing about tutoring these subjects?

I love taking students from “I hate maths, I can’t do maths” through to “meh, it’s ok” and then finally “oh yeah I CAN do it!”

It’s often the lower ability students that react this way, but I also enjoy seeing a student bring in a variety of mathematical tools and topics together to work through a problem to the answer. 

4. What skills have you learnt in your tutoring experience?

Too many to list here but mainly flexibility and reactiveness. Tutoring isn’t often the place to stick to a lesson plan. We start with a loose plan and then once we’ve assessed a student’s understanding of a subject, we might need to adjust what we’re tutoring, perhaps going back over an underpinning topic to secure that understanding before we can build upon it.

Maybe we need to move through more quickly and build upon what we’ve planned, or even if they don’t understand the way we’re tutoring something, we might need to come at it from another direction, either in the session or at a different time. 

5. Why do you believe tutoring to be so effective?

It’s targeting the specific needs of a single student or small group of students. Classroom teaching usually has 20-30 students if not more, and it’s hard for a teacher to provide specific targeted help for each of them individually.

Teachers do an amazing broad sweep of the subject to cover as much for as many as possible. Tutors are often there to help correct misunderstandings, answer questions students don’t want to ask in class, allow them to make mistakes and help them to spot when they have, so they are able to correct themselves, and give them the confidence to try. 

6. Name one game that you like to play in your tutoring sessions.
I have a great treasure hunt trail for teaching vectors involving cracker/dad-level bad jokes. I still haven’t worked out how to use it during online tuition yet though!

More universally, I have a Connect Four dice times tables game which helps with the underlying multiplication skills.

7. What one word would you use to describe your tutoring?

Confidence-building (is that one or two words?!)

8. Lastly, if you could interview one famous person, who would it be?

I’ve got to pick just one?! … I’m struggling to choose but probably the Queen. She has seen and encountered so much during her lifetime, and is always calm and encouraging.

I bet she has a hilarious sense of humour!