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Second-year UCL students tutor sixth formers in maths

UCL has built on its partnership with Newham Collegiate Sixth Form Centre (NCS) through the development of a tutorial scheme with the mathematics department.

Maths tutorial

27 April 2016

For eight weeks, between January and March, small groups of year 12 (first year of A-level) students took part in university- style mathematics tutorials, which were facilitated by second year undergraduates at UCL.

Benefits for pupils: learning to articulate their ideas

The idea behind the scheme, created by the sixth form, was to develop pupil’s high-level thinking skills by working on challenging problems well above the A-level syllabus.

The scheme also had the benefit of encouraging the sixth form pupils to articulate their ideas and explain them to others, giving state school pupils the confidence and clarity of expression needed to perform well in university interviews.

The NCS mathematics department wrote problems sheets which both the A level pupils and the UCL undergraduate tutors received a week in advance of the tutorial. The tutors were also provided with solutions. The problems were designed to stretch the A level pupils’ thinking and were taken from a variety of sources including Maths Olympiad papers, Oxford MAT papers and STEP papers.

Benefits for undergraduates: leadership and workplace skills

For UCL undergraduates, the scheme was a chance to improve leadership skills and gain an insight into the teaching profession. 

For many, their communication skills were also enhanced as they were required to explain very challenging concepts in a rudimentary manner.

“This was an excellent opportunity to learn some really difficult mathematics in small groups and not be concerned about exams or the A level syllabus” said NCS pupil Tafsia Shikdar.

Another pupil, Jorabah Singh, commented: “I absolutely love maths and what better way than to spend time after school working with UCL maths students on complex maths problems. We are all so grateful to our Mentors - they were outstanding.”

NCS pupils had already benefitted from UCL’s expert subject knowledge through a workshop run by UCL’s Dr Luciano Rila.

Providing pupils with extra support

Professor Robb McDonald, Head of Mathematics at UCL, who helped enable effective recruitment of undergraduates on to the scheme, said: “I am happy to give this excellent scheme my enthusiastic support.” Dr Robert Bowles, Mathematics Admissions Tutor, was also invaluable in offering support.

The NCS pupils gained confidence in expressing their ideas mathematically. They also learned how to think creatively about very hard problems. This was evident in how pupils, who took part in the UCL NCS scheme, performed in a formal mock examination consisting of eight problems.

UCL has strategic partnerships with three school across London which help the university to understand more about the secondary and further education sectors in order to continue adapting and developing approaches to teaching and learning.

Newham Collegiate Sixth Form Centre is considering expanding this scheme to other subject areas. Please contact educationpartnerships@ucl.ac.uk for more information.