Extracurricular tutoring and learning opportunities have long been available both face to face and more recently online. Despite this I have never considered web based one to one tuition for my boys. Honestly I can’t place why, it just hadn’t particularly occurred to me. So when Matr contacted me I was intrigued to learn more about their maths tuition for children.
I first chatted to Matr back in October 2018. We talked through how their service worked and my overarching concern about safeguarding my children online was confidently eliminated. Matr clearly have online security and children’s wellbeing at the heart of what they do. All tutors are background checked and work in a secure online classroom. You might recall my interview with their CEO, Tom, where he talks about the rigorous selection process for Matr tutors and how less than 1% of applicants are successful.
So what do they do?
Matr provide online maths tutoring for primary school children, with specific focus on Key Stage 2 (Years 3 to 6 or Junior School level). They aim to make one to one tuition available to everyone, not just a select few. Tutors are carefully chosen based on information that you give the company when you sign up and the same tutor nurtures your child through all of their sessions.
Tutorials are available throughout the week. We chose to arrange ours for a Saturday morning knowing that both myself and Jacob would be around to help with any technical difficulties or questions that our boys might have. We set them at the same time to make managing them even easier. You can choose from sessions lasting 25 or 50 minutes depending on your preference, and perhaps taking the age and ability of your child into account too. We went for the 50 minute option for both of our boys.
Now I’m not a fan of homework or anything that feels like it. I don’t think that reams of exercises sent home from school have a place in modern childhood, which is already overloaded with constraints. Choice though, is different. I think if used to support but not pressurise children, additional sessions in any subject can be enjoyable and rewarding.
I know first-hand how exciting learning can be. I recall making little project books when I was around 8 years old, writing poetry and reading at every chance I got. No pressure. Not set or marked. Just thoroughly engaged learning with one of my favourite subjects. For this reason I do want my children to learn and not just through their classroom experiences. To be switched on to and enthused by academic subjects but in a gentle and measured manner and in an encouraging and relaxed environment.
Based on just two lessons to date, Matr are getting this right. Before I dive into the how, let me tell you a little about my boys.
Chief is aged 8 and in Year 3 at school. Maths is perhaps not his favourite subject and I wondered if he would be fully engaged with the Matr tutorials. Somewhat to my surprise I found him counting down during the week between his first and second session! He was so excited to learn more. This was in contrast to how nervous he was initially. We even had a few teething problems with the tutor joining during the first week (later put down to an internet connection issue) but he wasn’t put off at all.
Munch is 6 and in Year 2. Although Matr primarily works with children in KS2 they assured me that they had worked with several children in Year 2 previously. I watched him go through the assessment questions, nervous that the whole thing might put him off. He is very capable but not very confident when it comes to maths. His assessment suggested he start with the harder level of questions for his age group. I wondered whether to continue with Matr’s recommendation or drop him down to the medium level to give him extra support with his confidence. In the end I felt that the true test of the system would be to go with the results provided and trust that the tutor would guide him through in both an age appropriate manner but also with lots of reassurance and encouragement. I need not have worried. 10 minutes in to his first lesson his face was awash with delight and enthusiasm. By the end of the lesson he didn’t want to stop.
So now for the how. When you sign up for Matr tutorials you get a parent log on. In your area on their site you can see the profiles for your children. Before the sessions are set up your children complete a short assessment to gauge their current ability in maths. Once completed Matr suggest a maths level for them, although you can override this and choose something different. You can also provide feedback to the tutor before they start to let the tutor you are matched with know a little more about the child. Knowing that I was reviewing these sessions I didn’t actually give very much away aside from the absolute basics.
Having submitted the results and our preferred day and time for the tutorials, we were then matched with tutors by the team at Matr. We were given the details of the tutors ahead of time, and reminder emails and text messages were sent ahead of each session.
Matr say that they want the focus to be on the maths, so they don’t have a live video link between the tutor and child. I have to say that I felt this worked really well. Munch is very sociable and happy to chat to anyone but Chief is slightly more reserved and I think might have found a video link a little off-putting. Instead both boys glided happily into their sessions and thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
Both the child and the tutor have clear arrow heads on the screen to help point out what is being discussed or questioned. Smiley faces pop up when the child does well by way of encouragement.
Chief came away from his first lesson saying that maths had clicked into place and he felt much more confident with his mental arithmetic.
After only two sessions Munch’s teacher mentioned to me that his maths had suddenly come on and he had found his enthusiasm for the subject again.
With Matr not only does the price feel reasonable but there are many more bonuses too. The time is quiet and focussed. The tutor works at the pace of the child and it is clear having listened in to the sessions that if there is an area that the child is a little uncertain of an abundance of praise and encouragement is given whilst mathematical problems are resolved together. Whilst my boys were fully aware that they were in conversation with a teacher, they also seemed to feel part of a team. The activities were fun and, from my point of view, nothing like the dry homework that is pulled from school bags at the end of the week. Despite this the sessions are in line with the National Curriculum and tutors are trained using a framework that has been designed by the Institute of Education.
Putting the sessions themselves to one side for a moment, I also felt very relaxed. I didn’t have to tidy and clean my house, worry about keeping The Loud One out of the way or whether the tutor was averse to dogs. Chief and Munch both used desks in their bedrooms with Bluetooth headsets which worked very well. I think they feel quite grown up!
Everything you need for the tutorial is online, although children are encouraged to use a pencil and paper if needed to work things out in greater detail. I like this aspect too. Writing things down always works well for me when I’m learning something new!
Regular readers will know that I like to bring a balanced view to you and will always give you my honest opinion. On this occasion I really cannot find anything that I would fault or change. More importantly, neither would my boys. Whilst some learning feels like pulling teeth, with Matr they have asked without prompting if we can continue their sessions and I am happily organising this.
What do you think of online tuition? Is this something that you have tried yourself or would consider for your child?
To find out more about Matr along with up to date offers and pricing information, please click here.
N.B. I was gifted sessions in exchange for sharing my honest opinions with you. For more information please see my disclosure page.
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