But A-level maths was a huge reality check. It wasn’t the same. Things moved a lot faster than GCSE and the logical steps required to get the right answers were far from obvious. I didn’t have a problem with learning the new methods, but knowing when and how to apply them was tough at the beginning.
I also didn’t find the mark schemes particularly useful because they weren’t easy to understand. Soon I realised that I needed some support to develop my understanding and help me to bridge the gap between GCSE and A level maths.
One day, I remember typing into google, ‘How to integrate A level maths’. This was 10 years ago! The first thing that came up was a playlist of blue looking videos. The thumbnail; ‘Exam solutions integration part 1”. I clicked on the videos. They were all short, with slow and clear explanations. It also included model answers to typical exam questions, so I didn’t need a mark scheme. This was just what I needed.
I continued to watch these videos throughout my A-levels and even used them to help me study for Calculus and Applied Maths at University. The videos have played a huge impact on my overall academic success.
I was also lucky enough to get in contact with the man behind the video, Stuart Sidders. He helped me to understand several topics and gave me general advice on how to approach questions. His support and videos brought back the love I had for Maths at GCSE level. The advice he has given me is invaluable and till this day, plays a huge part in how I see maths and how I teach it.
How I now see Maths
Maths is a science, but it’s also a creative art. How can you use the tools you have at your disposal to solve problems – this is the creative part. How wide is your mind?
Think about the famous UK TV show, ‘Great British Bake Off’. All the contestants are given the same essentials (flour, butter, kitchen utensils, oven controls, budget etc) and the end goal is clear. Make a cake that looks and tastes good. Some contestants end up cooking an almost perfect sponge with just the right moisture and density, while others cremate the cake! Even those that make a good sponge, some are far more creative than others with their designs.
Maths is very similar. The essentials you are given are a set of definitions and methods. And just like the cake, the question really is, can you form something that’s ‘right’ out of the definitions and methods you know?
The only difference is that with Maths, the ingredients you need are not always given to you and the end goal is not always very clear. But that’s the challenge that makes Maths more exciting than baking a cake.
Article written by Michael Olagunju (Air Maths Tuition)