I’ve lived in Chandler’s Ford for over 25 years but it was only last Sunday I went to the Hiltingbury Extravaganza for the first time.
I was fascinated by the combination of pony trekking, the dog show, the hot food stalls, the icecream vans, the giant slides and a mini bus ride, the tea and cake stands and educational stalls.
Hang on… Educational stalls? At a family fair? A fun event?
Yes… and it wasn’t the first time one particular educational stall, manned by a very familar face, had been at the Extravaganza.
Interview Bettermaths founder: Andrew Kuttner
As the adverts say, there are other Maths support groups. The local directories advertise these but there is a lot of work behind the scenes for such a support group to succeed and I thought it would be interesting for Andrew to share something of this.
I would also like to thank Andrew for supplying some of the images for this post. I took the rest at the Hiltingbury Extravaganza. And I hope, no doubt like Andrew, to be back at the Extravaganza next year!
Andrew runs Maths Taster Session at local shows. With supporter, Scarlett, he was busy all afternoon on Sunday sharing what Bettermaths was about, handing out leaflets and showing some of the worksheets so people could see how Maths is taught the Bettermaths way.
Bettermaths support Maths across a wide age range up to GCSE level but students can start much earlier…
Maths can be taught in a fun way with worksheets, puzzles and games.
Allison: It was my pleasure to meet Andrew Kuttner when, having researched what could be the best method of extra Maths help for Student X, it was decided to go the Bettermaths route.
I should add Chandler’s Ford Today has no affiliation with Bettermaths and this is a personal experience piece.
Andrew, you have a life long passion for Maths and for helping students achieve success. Tell us something about Bettermaths and its “mission”.
Andrew: My initiation into maths tuition came when I was a parent volunteer at my daughter’s school. It happened the year 3 teacher wanted me to help with times-tables. There was one pupil who was really struggling while the rest were progressing. To this day I remember the moment she counted in 2’s up to 10 and the look of sheer delight and surprise on her face, and I had an “emotional moment”.
I had the opportunity to work in and then operate private after-school tuition centres for a major Japanese provider. Then in 2006, I founded Bettermaths. Our Mission is to enable children to maximise their maths attainment in a fulfilling way.
Allison: There must have been a lot of work in getting Bettermaths up and running.
Andrew: The majority of the work was in developing and producing the study materials. I had been progressing with this as I continually needed a greater variety and more gradually advancing series of skills than I had access to. I was all set to start with the majority of my students who stayed with me when I changed to Bettermaths.
Allison: What inspires you to keep going?
Andrew: My wonderful students and staff (all current or ex-students)! It is particularly rewarding to see so many achieve considerably more than they, their parents and teachers (yes, and sometimes even me!) thought was possible. I suppose at some stage in the future I need to look at cutting back or retiring. But, this would not be until the long-term future of Bettermaths has been secured and is in good hands.
Allison: Bettermaths couldn’t run without its hardworking staff. What do you look for when recruiting staff?
Andrew: It is definitely the rapport my staff have with students that is a major factor in Bettermaths’ success. I recruit from those students who have achieved success through their own long-term dedication to their Bettermaths studies. They are very positive role-models and have great empathy and patience.
Allison: Is there a typical Bettermaths student?
Andrew: Not really. The majority, naturally come to us because they are having problems with maths at school. Some parents enrol their children to give them every advantage and there are those who enjoy maths who are not appropriately challenged at school. Not many primary school teachers can support a pupil capable of advanced algebra.
Allison: Why choose Fleming Park as a venue? Have you always been an “Eastleigh man” to make this inevitable?
Andrew: As a franchisee I had to place my centre in a location where there were no others: Eastleigh was the nearest location to where I live (Alton) with a large family population which could support a centre large enough to earn a decent living. Fleming Park was my daughter’s suggestion: I was all set to book St Peter’s Church Hall by Crestwood School. Having seen the family football at Fleming Park and the Function Room, it was an easy, and absolutely right, decision to make. I naturally carried on there as Bettermaths.
Allison: It isn’t just students who are on tenterhooks waiting for results. It’s a tense time for teachers too. Would you say the months after the exams are the worst time for you? Is the best time results day or at the beginning of a new academic year when you know you can help students? Or does the best moment come just before the exams when you see how much the students have improved and know they will face their exams with more confidence and greater chances of success?
Andrew: Most Bettermaths students have a pretty clear anticipation of their grade. The best moments come when they are pleasantly surprised by achieving a grade higher than they expected! That does happen quite a bit.
Allison: What would you say were the most crucial things a student can bring into Bettermaths? I’d say a willingness to work hard, dedication and good homework discipline, as I’m sure you would. but are there other important attributes?
Andrew: The attributes you rightly mention are, quite understandably, lacking when it comes to maths with many new students. The most important thing at the start is the sense they are starting to do something to help themselves along with trust in me (Bettermaths) that it will work for them. If they have family or friends who have achieved with Bettermaths, this makes a massive difference.
Allison: What other events do BetterMaths go to in our area?
Andrew: We run taster sessions at community events. The main ones being Fryern Fantasia, Eastleigh Mela, Hiltingbury Extravaganza and the Fun, Fit & Active event at Fleming Park in conjunction with the Eastleigh 10k Fun Run. I also do this at the Durja Puja which takes place at The Hilt every October. I have a “study table” (a study fold-away picnic table) where children can sample our study materials and activities.
Allison: One thing I loved about Bettermaths was the ease of giving feedback when certain topics needed more coverage or it was clear the item had not quite “sunk in”. I also liked going over the topic until the student did have a clear understanding (easy proof of that was in the then consistently improved marks on that topic).
Andrew: This is the central principle of Bettermaths: proving sufficient practice and consolidation of each skill/topic before progressing to the next one.
Allison: What was the one thing BetterMaths has had most success at? While results are important, obviously, would you agree the confidence boost is a major factor in success?
Andrew: Confidence is undoubtedly the most important factor. I have had numerous students who appear to struggle with maths, but do have the latent ability which is only released when their confidence is boosted. Sometime the issue is that the parent(s), occasionally even the school-teacher, does not have confidence in the child. Often these children improve by leaps and bounds at school within a few weeks of starting Bettermaths: this is even though, in maths-terms they have “only” been doing very basic mental addition with us.
Allison: How is BetterMaths run? You must have a good team.
Andrew: Apart from the staff at our sessions, the management/administration “team” is me supported by my daughter, Rachel. Most of my time is spend “setting” students’ study on a week-to-week basis as determined by their results. The most commonly used worksheets are pre-printed and others printed on demand.
Allison: You also have a venue at Alton for BetterMaths classes. Are there plans to expand?
Andrew: If I was at this stage 10 years earlier, I would have established Bettermaths centres in Winchester & Southampton and possibly even franchised it. My “problem” (as it were) is that my passion is in directly helping the children achieve, not building a “business empire”. Perhaps that’s a task for whoever takes over from me in the future.
Allison: You must feel a great sense of achievement when testimonials come in from students who achieved success with Bettermaths. What is your biggest success story?
Andrew: We have numerous (excuse the pun!) big success stories! I’ll give you two examples:
1) A boy with a very late August birthday who started with me in year 4 having had special needs intervention for maths. By year 6 he was a secure level 5 and went on to achieve a grade A in his maths GCSE (studying with me right up to taking his GCSE) and passed A level maths. He was also one of my class tutors.
2) A year 10 girl with “U” in her maths mocks. Within 6 months she was E/D then went on to achieve grade C in her GCSE.
Powerlifting Maths teacher
Allison: Away from Maths, what are your other interests?
Andrew: My main interest is the sport of Powerlifting, which I started in 1980. I was British and World Champion in 2002 (Edinburgh) and 2003 (St Petersburg) and currently hold the World Record for my weight-class & age category in the Bench Press.
Andrew: This might seem strange, but my approach to learning and progressing in maths, follows the same principles that I have always used in my Powerlifting training and to coach others: gradually advancing in technical ability and strength at the pace one’s body can recover from. Not being naturally athletic or strong, I have had to struggle at every stage of progression, hence can empathise with children who find, what may appear to be the simplest maths tasks, challenging.
Allison: Andrew, many thanks for your time and for sharing your devotion to Maths. I’d like to finish by encouraging all students to keep going. Hard work and persistence does pay off. Never be afraid to seek extra help. Look around and see what is out there and go for the help that best suits you. Good luck!