From education to employment

Success in maths needn’t be exclusive, says NI tutor

Mannix McAlister may stand out for his A-or-above guarantee but the Northern Ireland–based maths tutor also has a refreshing approach to education.

The 26-year-old’s own life experiences have taught him the importance of making maths accessible and engaging for all, particularly at a time of widening educational inequality.

It all started as a teenager for Mannix who said: “I began mentoring my peers when I was 16 and quickly realised I could teach maths professionally.

“I was always passionate about Maths but I noticed teachers often didn’t display that same passion and the lessons could be very dry. For my students, I try to use a lot of metaphors and jokes in order to keep the work engaging.

“When I first started out, I got chatting to some of my friends about whether achievement in maths could be attributed to nature or nurture.

“I believed anyone could succeed  with the right guidance and wanted to stand out in the market so that’s where the A/A* guarantee came from.”

But Mannix, who hails from the Belfast area, said the government and exam boards could be doing more to bring maths to everyone.

He said: “The government and exam boards could easily make a big difference in opposing educational inequality by setting up a centralised platform for accessing additional learning materials.

“Students who want to put in extra effort could go online and learn maths on a course made for their specification. It could include videos and interactive exercises like games, and artificial intelligence has the potential to help students fill gaps in their understanding.

“The work would only need to be done once and could be used by hundreds of thousands of students for years to come.

“Different students are motivated at different times. By putting the content online a motivated student can make a lot of progress at a time of their choosing, whilst also allowing students who have missed school with sickness to catch up.

“Teachers may not have the time to explain the same idea to students multiple times, but videos can be replayed until the content is understood.”

Mannix, whose online service has reached out to pupils in China and the USA during the Covid pandemic, offers free support to those who only need limited help or are unable to pay for tuition.

He explained: “I offer free advice to anyone who needs it because I might help someone with a particular problem and save them hours, time which they can then dedicate to tackling other areas.

“Over many years in my life I have relied on the help, advice and support of friends, family, teachers, lecturers, strangers and others. I therefore feel an obligation to pass this on.”

Mannix believes in providing affordable private tuition for all so he established the remote learning service Covideo Learning alongside Maths with Mannix.

He said: “I wanted to set up Covideo Learning to replace the learning lost during school closures. The service pairs pupils with talented university student tutors who might have lost out on part-time work as a result of the pandemic.

“The lessons are extremely good value – just £10 an hour whereas full-time tutors can sometimes cost £40 to £50 an hour. We don’t take any commission and if it doesn’t work out with your tutor we’ll find you another one for free.”

Outside his work, Mannix is still dedicated to helping others. He made history in 2016 when he travelled the length of Ireland on a scooter, raising £400 for Macmillan Cancer Support.

When able, he plans to split his teaching time for GCSEs and A Levels between Northern Ireland and London.

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