As the largest provider of primary 1-to-1 Maths interventions for Year 6, we speak to hundreds of schools each week. Each has their own questions and misconceptions.To help with the latter, we’re going through the 5 biggest Maths intervention myths we hear on a daily basis, to better inform your practice.

To help with the latter, we’re going through the 5 biggest Maths intervention myths we hear on a daily basis, so buckle up!

If you're looking for an in-depth breakdown of how to plan, manage and teach Maths 1-to-1 (or in small groups), you can download this free resource

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Third Space Learning Guide to Effective 1-to-1 Interventions

How to plan, manage and teach 1-to-1 and small group KS2 Maths interventions to make best use of the resources you have

What the research says about 1-to-1 interventions for primary schools

The notion that 1-to-1 is an effective way to provide quality learning tailored to the needs of individual pupils is neither new nor unfounded. Teachers know that if they could sit down 1-to-1 with a pupil in their class for an hour, they would progress much quicker than in a class of 30.

Of course, 1-to-1 is not a perfect medium. There’s always the risk of providing too much support and facilitating “learned helplessness”, but if done right (as per the guidelines in this free comprehensive Guide to Effective 1-to-1 Interventions) these problems can be avoided.

Still, you shouldn’t just take our word for it. There’s plenty of research that shows how 1-to-1 tutoring is an especially effective form of intervention. Three recent evaluations of 1-to-1 found average impacts of between three and five months additional progress in 12 weeks. According to the Education Endowment Foundation, the evidence to back this up is ‘consistent and strong […] particularly for younger learners who are behind their peers in primary schools for subjects like reading and Mathematics’.

Specific, targeted 1-to-1 interventions, such as our intervention programme have clear benefits:

  • They make it easier to target and address specific gaps
  • They offer more flexibility to adjust the pitch and pace to the needs of the pupil
  • There is more opportunity for the pupil to talk through their Maths
  • They develop problem solving and reasoning at each stage of learning
  • They make it possible to design specific questions and activities in line with the pupil’s interests
  • They allow you to gain a clearer insight into the pupil’s abilities during the lesson
  • They build confidence for the pupil in a low pressure environment

Yet, many schools do not have 1-to-1 interventions – so what’s happening? While the resources and provisions available in your school are contextual, we often hear several “misconceptions” about 1-to-1 that stop teaching staff across the UK from introducing one of the best forms of intervention in their school.

To this end, we’ve created a breakdown of the five main misconceptions about 1-to-1 intervention. If you’re a fan of 1-to-1 but don’t have it in your school, this is a great one to send to your head or purchaser!

Misconception 1: ‘Primary 1-to-1 Maths tuition is expensive’

The biggest concern most have over 1-to-1 is affordability. We know you can be charged up to £250 an hour or more for 1-to-1 tuition with ten pupils, which is not cheap by any standard. Yet there are alternatives options. For instance, we provide 1-to-1 Maths intervention online, meaning we can dramatically cut the cost.

In fact, our lessons cost as little as £160 for ten pupils a week, while maintaining high quality teaching. To quote a recent interview with the Headteacher of  ‘Outstanding’ school, Trent Primary in Barnet, ‘to take a child out of a lesson with the teacher, the intervention has to be better than the learning in class. Having 18 children doing a Third Space session at the same time was more cost-effective than hiring a mid-range teacher for a day a week to work with individual pupils’.

Pupil premium can offer the best scope for funding 1-to-1 and means the pupils who need targeted teaching the most receive it. If your school is on a budget, look around for alternative forms of tuition. Technology has come a long way and providers now can offer good quality tuition for less than ever before.

Misconception 2: ‘1-to-1 is difficult to organise in my primary school’

Understandably, the next concern that we hear from schools is time constraints. We often hear from teachers that there just isn’t time to organise 1-to-1 in their school. After all, it is probably the most valuable asset of any teacher and (sadly) quite scarce. However, if you choose to provide 1-to-1 Maths intervention through external, it will keep your teachers free to do what they do best.

A good provider will be aware of how precious time is to a teacher. This is why teachers who use Third Space Learning 1-to-1 tuition can select target pupils, choose their lessons and a timeslot in as little as ten minutes. In short, they can organise a minimum of 10 hours teaching time per week in just ten minutes.

If you’re looking resource interventions externally, get the inside track and avoid mistakes with this free Guide to Effective 1-to-1 Intervention; a how-to guide on how to plan, manage and teach 1-to-1 (and small group) Maths interventions in Key Stage 2.

Misconception 3: ‘I’ll use a TA for informal primary Maths intervention’

Unsurprisingly, when we speak to schools many leave interventions to their teaching assistants. While TAs can have a huge impact on learning for many pupils (read this blog for more on this), evidence is building to suggest this might not be the best use of their time:

Ofsted’s 2010 intervention review found that TAs are only successful in interventions when they are ‘thoroughly trained, work closely with class teachers [and] have good subject knowledge’. Plus, for TAs delivering interventions NCTEM research demonstrated that CPD is a real need. It also showed that when delivering interventions, TAs often feel ‘under-confident’ from the start.

Without a coordinated effort between senior management and staff to provide TAs with subject knowledge and training, they are not necessarily the right person to deliver effective interventions. For more on supporting your Teaching Assistants in leading more effective 1-to-1, download this Guide to 1-to-1 Maths Intervention.

Misconception 4: ‘I’ll conduct small group primary Maths interventions, instead’

Some schools opt in favour of small group interventions, usually due to budget. While you can group 3 or 4 pupils with similar targets together, pupils still work at different paces. This can limit their progress throughout the session. Plus, in a group environment making mistakes can be just as daunting as in a classroom.

Moreover, the EEF report on interventions showed that small group interventions offer an average of 3 months progress, as averse to the five you may see with 1-to-1.

Misconception 5: ‘External intervention providers won’t know my primary maths policy’

Many schools worry that external intervention won’t align to their school’s Maths policy. However, a good provider will have processes in place to adapt to your calculation policy, preferred teaching method, or scheme of work. Especially if your school takes a mastery approach to Mathematics.

As the largest provider of 1-to-1 Maths interventions in the UK, we are adept at adapting our personalised lessons to support your school’s Maths policy.

Ultimately, we recognise that implementing 1-to-1 in your school is down to context and a wide range of variables. However, if you were concerned about pricing, organisation, or any of the above – we hope you come realise that in many instances these concerns can be overcome.

Ready to get started on your own intervention? We’ve got a quick and easy roadmap perfect for those first few decision: our free 10-step checklist for maths interventions.

For our part, we work hard to make it possible for as many schools as possible to introduce cost effective 1-to-1 in their school. This is because we have seen the fantastic impact it can have on confidence and attainment. Or as Millie from Worcester’s puts it:

“My tutor understands when I don’t get things right. She helps me through at a steady pace and always believes I can do it 🙂 “

David Leighton , Content Team , Third Space Learning

A former secondary teacher, David keeps a weather eye on the educational horizon. He's responsible for making sure our blog posts and Maths resources reach teachers far & wide.