These are the most frequently asked questions about our approach to teaching Maths, Coding and Robotics, Holiday Camps and Science Workshops, taken from an interview with Mums in the Wood as well as additional practical information.


Mathematics

How does your Maths programme differ from other programmes on offer/tutors?

We’re teaching a deep understanding of the subject and, importantly, enjoyment of it. By offering a small classroom experience as opposed to one to one, children can learn from each other and are much better motivated. This happens when a pupil goes to the board to write up a solution and the class finds there may be several different routes to the same answer. The question then is, which is the most elegant and efficient? Tutors are very good at filling in gaps, coaching exam techniques and helping pupils to catch up on missed classes and we can occasionally offer individual tutoring.

 

How is your approach to maths relevant to children and parents in London today?

The burden of constant tests and exams can drain any child and their parents’ enthusiasm for school subjects today. Our aim is to change children’s perception of maths, make it fun, show them how they can succeed in the subject and achieve academic excellence. One way we do this is by introducing children to olympiad style maths questions. Given that this type of question is appearing ever more frequently in 11+ and 13+ examinations we’re at the same time providing children with a competitive advantage.

 

Who are you aiming the programme at? What ages do you cover?

Children from 4 to 18 of every ability, from children who are not enjoying maths and are falling behind to the gifted who are insufficiently challenged at school.

 

 What does it offer to children who are struggling with math and/or children who are gifted at maths?

For those struggling, it’s an opportunity to see beyond the numbers and to start to appreciate the beauty of mathematical logic and how they too can understand it. For the gifted, we’re offering them new challenges beyond the curriculum, fostering their curiosity for the subject and steering them to academic excellence.

 

Is it geared towards achieving specific academic goals or is it more an extra-curricular maths club?

Yes (to both points) and more! We’re geared to helping children understand maths better and enjoy problem solving. That could make us an extra-curricular maths club I guess. Academically, once a pupil has been with us for a couple of terms their performance at school usually improves too and children are praised for original thinking.

 

What sorts of competitions and challenges do you organise for children as they go higher up in the school?

We think the concept of competition in academic subjects is every bit as important as it is in sport. This is why we are great believers in holding Maths Battles where teams from within our school, or between us and other schools compete to demonstrate their skills. In the last six months alone we’ve organised maths battles with St Paul’s boys and girl’s schools, the Grammar Schools of High Wycombe and Sutton. With the support from the UK Mathematical Trust we are preparing a mathematical team tournament between 20 British schools in March 2018.

It is very important to point out that we invite everyone to participate in our maths olympiads. Every September we run our Open Mathematical Olympiad "Otkrytka" for children aged 7 to 16. The challenge is verbal for children aged 7 to 10 and written for older ones. "Vertical" is another famous Russian-British Maths Olympiad that we help to run.

In a first for London, this year we held the International Mathematical Olympiad Tournament of Towns at our school for children aged 13 to 18. Children from more than 100 cities in over 25 countries take part in this tournament each year and 2017! We invite everybody with an interest in maths to join us. Children who perform best in this competition receive prizes and recognition, while the cities themselves are competing in a world-wide ranking of young mathematical ability. Go London!


Coding and Robotics

How is the Coding programme structured?

Our programming classes have two aims; to teach pupils how to code and for them to gain a better understanding of how programmes and computers work. For ages 7 to 11 we usually use Scratch, MIT’s wonderful coding environment designed to help younger pupils learn the fundamentals of programming. From 12 and upwards we offer classes in Python. Python is a professional programming language but it’s a bit more approachable than many other ‘industrial strength’ languages. We also use C++ and JavaScript with our advanced robotics students.


What is the essential difference between the Robotics course and the Coding course?

In both subjects, pupils develop algorithmical skills and learn programming. However, Robotics is also about engineering and cybernetics and a pupil’s coding effort is translated into the actions of a robot – which can be very satisfying. Pupils can also compete to see whose programme produces the most effective results for their robot. It is incredibly exciting!

On Sunday 25 June 2017 we organised the first cross-platform robotics competition "Robotics Triathlon" as part of the UK Robotics Week. The event was unusual because it placed no constraint on the types of controllers, construction sets or languages used by the teams. Challenges representing the traditional robotics tasks of autonomous navigation, pick-up and delivery, as well as remote controlled operations, all in a collaborative environment, create the opportunity for children to apply their programming and robotics skills.


How do you help children who don’t have a natural inclination towards a subject like coding to develop an interest?

Robotics is an ideal way into programming for the reluctant pupil. Children are fascinated by robots. Seeing a robot execute the commands you’ve programmed it to do encourages the child to write more code to see what else can be done.

With maths we encourage each child and their parents to approach the class with an open mind. They may well not have seen maths taught this way before and it may draw them in from the start or take a couple of lessons for a child to enjoy the difference between what they do in school and what we are about.


What level of coding would you expect a child in each age group to have achieved by the end of the course?

Seriously, children can become highly proficient programmers in their early teens. Our focus is to build very strong foundations in the subject, a sound understanding of software engineering and a desire to learn and achieve.


Holiday Camps and Workshops

What sort of events/workshops do you organise and from what age?

We run camps every half term and holiday for ages 7 and upwards and organise regular science workshops. Our first Summer camp teaches STEM subjects and includes a packed schedule of science, technology, engineering and maths. It is open to children aged 8 to 18.

This is followed by our Maths and Programming Camp for ages 7 to 17.  Classes are divided by age and experience and cover both curriculum maths and olympiad style problem solving. Specific areas of coverage are: maths for 7 to 8 year olds, exam prep for 11+, 13+, GCSE and A level. Programming classes cater for beginners through to experienced coders. Students look at how computer games, animations and apps are constructed.


Practicalities

Joining the school: fees are paid termly in advance and provided there are spaces left we always invite new children to join us for a trial class before comitting for the full term. This allows us to make sure that the child will join the right group for their age and ability. There is a flat fee of £20 paid via bank transfer, cash or cheque for a trial class which is deducted from the termly fee if the child decides to join us for the current term. If the pupil joins the school in the middle of the term, the fees are prorated. There is 10% sibling discount and scholarships are given to pupils performing outstandingly at our Open Maths Olympiad "Otkrytka" each September.

Homework: If the child is given some homework, please do not help him or her to complete the task. First of all it is quite normal not to be able to solve an olimpiad style problem straightaway. It might take time and several goes and secondly we would always prefer to get some wrong ideas of the pupil's own rather than a solution achieved by their parents. However, there is a very important way in which you can help your child. When given homework please make sure that time is allocated to think about it during the week - usually 30-45 mins will be enough.