Teacher Talk: Calculus – Super or Scary?

IMG 20171115 WA0008 - Spark Academy

This week’s Teacher Talk comes from Spark’s KS5 Maths lead Chris, who is determined to show us that calculus is not as terrifying as you might believe…


What’s involved in A-Level Maths?

IMG 20171115 WA0014 - Spark Academy

Since the start to term in August, our Year 12 students have been revising and improving on the knowledge of several topics. These include Completing the Square, Surds, Coordinate Geometry, and Factorising Quadratics.

Now that this introductory period is over, we will now begin to look at the first really new topic in KS5. This is the first topic to break away from the regular GCSE curriculum: Calculus.

Calculus is an umbrella term for two key topics: Differentiation and Integration.


The History of Calculus


One popular topic in KS3 and 4 was to determine the gradient of a straight line. This would be rather easy considering that the gradient would be constant throughout all values of x on the graph.

What do you think would happen if you tried to find the gradient of a curve instead?

From the animation below, you can see that the value of the gradient (sometimes called a derivative) will alter, depending on the x-value on the graph.

Tangent function animation - Spark Academy


So instead of a constant value, we need to find a general equation for this gradient. How is this done?

Well, with differentiation of course!

We can date the first evidence of gradient dates back to Euclid (c. 300 BC) and Archimedes (c. 287 – 212 BC). However, we credit the modern development of calculus to two mathematicians. These are Isaac Newton (1643 – 1727) and Gottfried Leibniz (1646 – 1716).

Historically, it has been long debated over whether Newton or Leibniz was actually the first to “invent” calculus.


Newton vs. Leibniz


Newton had begun working on his investigations into physics and geometry in 1665 – 1666. He used calculus as the scientific description of the generation of motion as time changes. He had called these “fluxions”, rather than derivatives.

However, he did not publish his work officially.

In 1684, Leibniz had published a book explaining the concepts of calculus for differentiation, and another in 1686 for integration.

One year later, Newton had published his book Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica (or: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy). This is widely considered as one of the greatest science books of all time. The book contained Newton’s three laws of motion and Newton’s law of universal gravitation. These both help to form the foundation of classical mechanics (but this is a story for another day!).

Throughout the book, Newton uses mathematical methods included in modern-day calculus. However, the notation that we use in the 21st century was largely absent in Newton’s book.

It is actually Leibniz’s notation such as

differentiation - Spark Academy

 for differentiation


integration - Spark Academy

for integration


that we continue to use in classrooms and lecture theatres to A-level and undergraduates throughout the world to this day.

Newton began to discredit Leibniz’s reputation. He used his newly found status and influence from his latest book. This came to a head in 1715.The Royal British society decided to settle the infamous argument once and for all.

The President of the society in 1703 was Newton. He appointed an impartial committee to decide the issue. The committee concluded in its official report that Newton was sole inventor of calculus. Newton was the anonymous author of the report.

What a coincidence, you might say!

IMG 20171115 WA0015 - Spark Academy

Parent Perspectives: Learning is ‘made fun’

images - Spark Academy

This week it’s time for another parent perspective post. The support and feedback from our parents is invaluable, so we like to showcase you wherever we can. We have caught up with Mrs Upple, whose son Rohan is in Year 5, to find out how she feels about Spark Academy and the fun Rohan is having in our lessons.

Rohan started studying English and Maths at Spark in September of this year. He joined a Year 5 group which was small at first, but is now growing to include a variety of students. All of the students in his class are individuals growing in confidence with the support of our teachers and each other. It’s a pleasure to teach a group that are so willing to help each other in every way they can! As teachers, we strive to create learning environments which are collaborative and friendly, so it is great to see that Rohan experiences this in his class.

20171112 204707 - Spark Academy


Mrs Upple told us that she looked for tuition for Rohan as she felt he


needed support


in his literacy and numeracy. For his teachers, it is clear that the extra support he receives at Spark is developing Rohan’s confidence and his ability. He is growing keen to answer questions in lesson and is often correct when he does.


Why Spark?



It’s often helpful for us to know why our students and parents chose Spark Academy to be their tuition provider, and Mrs Upple’s reasons were similar to those of many of our other parents. She told us that her cousin recommended Spark to her. After Rohan’s trial she felt she didn’t need to look anywhere else. Recommendations like this are just one way that our parents show their support for Spark and we feel very honoured to say that Mrs Upple would recommend us herself. We’re glad that the hard work and effort our teachers put in to every lesson does not go unnoticed!


What does Rohan like most about Spark?




enjoys English as it is made fun


20171112 204752 001 e1510520127769 - Spark Academy

Our students come to us after a full school day and we understand that they are often tired. That’s why we try to make our lessons fun wherever possible. We find that the more our students enjoy coming to Spark, the more they learn. It’s fantastic to hear that Rohan enjoys learning from us as much as we enjoy teaching him!

Mrs Upple told us that she is very happy with the


good teachers


who work at Spark. As a tuition service, we value our teachers very highly. It’s good to know that the quality teaching provided in both Maths and English is valued by our parents just as highly.

We’d like to offer a big thank you to Mrs Upple for all of her kind words. We also hope Rohan continues to find Spark useful, educational and enjoyable.

The Spark: Top Sparkie’s Super Award Nomination

Great British Entrepreneur Awards 2017 - Spark Academy

Tuesday is News-day and this edition of the Spark reports on another fantastic award nomination for Spark’s founder Mital Thanki.

Top Sparkie’s Super Award Nomination

Spark Academy’s owner and founder Mital Thanki has been nominated for Small Business Entrepreneur of the Year at the Natwest Great British Entrepreneur Awards 2017.

The Awards


The Natwest Great British Entrepreneur Awards 2017 is a national business award. These awards have been running for five years and recently expanded to hosting ceremonies in five cities: Cardiff, Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh and London.

The Awards


acknowledge[] the hard work and inspiring stories of British entrepreneurs and businesses in Great Britain.


New Enterprising Women In Business Award 2017 - Spark Academy
A regional award won by Mital Thanki

There are many categories, including Small Business Entrepreneur, Start-Up Entrepreneur and Young Entrepreneur of the Year among many others. A panel of experts choose the winner for each category from thousands of worthy applicants.


The Nomination


Mital has been nominated for Small Business Entrepreneur of the Year. This is a category that celebrates businesses that Natwest describes as


key mobilisers


due to the influence that these businesses can have on the industry they belong to. The Natwest Awards class a small business as one with fewer than fifty employees. The Awards also want to reward and celebrate those who dedicate their lives to the success of their business.

natwest 3 - Spark Academy
Another award received Mital and Spark Academy in 2017

Mital expertly manages Spark Academy’s ten employees. Furthermore, she oversees all areas of the company and is part of everything that Spark does. Her dedication to the company and its management is one of the reasons she has been nominated for this award. There are six nominees in total, which means that Mital has some fierce competition for the award.


Who are the other nominees?


The other nominees include: Adam Chapman, from Allvalves Online Limited; Amy Cunningham, from The Strings Club Limited; Emma Adams, from the Brit Pop Shop; Kasim Choudhary, from ThinkFest; and Matthew Innis, from Fitnniss. All of these nominees work incredibly hard since they have been able to build their businesses to be so successful.

These nominees come from a wide variety of small businesses. The Awards have over one thousand entries for each category, so it is clear that every nominee truly deserves to be in the running for this award. Moreover, it is infamously difficult to run a small business and each nominee is doing fantastic work.

Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2017 1 - Spark Academy
A regional award won by Mital Thanki.

When are the Awards?


The Awards ceremony in Birmingham will take place on Thursday 16th November. Mital will be travelling there to enjoy the evening, as well as the nail-biting wait to discover whether she has won her category. In addition, the Spark Academy team will be waiting anxiously to hear the news all evening.

Mital said

I feel honoured to be a shortlist amongst so many brilliant entrepreneurs. I wish everyone the best for the night!


Student Thought: ‘Great Experiences with Spark’ A-Level

About Us - Spark Academy

science 1 - Spark Academy  We value all of our students and we love to know what they think about us. For this Student Thought post, we spoke to some of our A-Level Biology students.

Of course, at Spark most of our A-level students study more than one subject with us! Shivam Jiven studies Biology and Chemistry, and Bhupinder Walia studies Biology, Chemistry and Maths. It’s great to see how manybio dna - Spark Academy of our A-level students choose to come to use across our range of A-level subjects.

We asked our A-level students what they most enjoyed about Spark…


The style of teaching – how’s its broken down into parts with teaching and past paper questions

Shivam Jiven

We know how important exam practice and learning to tackle exam questions is for our A-level students. It’s great to see they appreciate the effort our teachers put in to balance their lessons between learning and exam practice!

The teachers are supportive and the work extends past school work

Bhupinder Walia

Studying a topic at Spark before looking at it in college can often give our students a big boost of confidence. They have their basis for the topic before the rest of their class and can work to further their understanding.

What did they have to say about teaching during lessons?

calculator character - Spark Academy


The teaching is clear, well detailed and allows for a fun experience instead of us being confused. The teachers are nice and extremely friendly which makes asking questions fine.


Our Biology specialist Gemma is always happy to create an environment where students feel they can question their teachers – it all goes towards our greater understanding.

You get a greater understanding and the teachers help identify strengths and weaknesses so you know where to improve.


Being able to assess your own strengths and weaknesses is incredibly important at A-level. When you are freer than ever before to direct your own learning, it’s important to be able to pick out what you really need to work on. Mital, Gemma and Chris are very happy to find they’re supporting their A-level students in this self-assessment!

MonkeyMediaProductions 7 - Spark Academy

Anything else to add?


Keep up the good teaching!


beaker character - Spark Academy

Thanks Shivam! Your participation and willingness to learn is just as important when it comes to our successful lessons.


Who is Spark’s first Student of the Month?

20171101 172849 e1509559751452 - Spark Academy

Now we are all well a truly settled in to the Autumn term, we have decided to celebrate our first Student of the Month.

Why pick a Student of the Month?


book character - Spark Academy

All of our students work hard every week. As teachers, we are using Class Dojo to keep track of the fantastic work our students are doing in lessons. However, sometimes it’s nice to celebrate one student who has consistently performed and worked well in our lessons.


How did you choose?


It wasn’t easy! All of our teachers choose a student that they felt deserved to win Student of the Month and then we had to make a decision. Each teacher had a very good reason for the student they nominated, which made it hard to choose just one.

So… who is Student of the Month?


October’s Student of the Month is Neha Patni. Neha is a Year 9 student at the Belgrave site.

Neha was nominated by her English tutor, Rebecca, because of her unfailing positivity. She is always willing to put her mind to whatever task and whatever topic she is learning that week. Neha’s positive attitude is infectious and she is always able to lighten the mood of others in the class.

IMG 20170927 WA0004 - Spark Academy
Neha (left) giving a speech with the rest of her group.

Neha’s English class has been studying Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing for the past few weeks. It is a complicated and sometimes challenging play, but Neha has put 100% effort into understanding it each week. Neha is willing to participate and discuss in every lesson. This makes her a fantastic addition to every English lesson!

Furthermore, in recent lessons Neha has always been the first to volunteer to read and roleplay. In plays with tricky plots, roleplay is a brilliant way to help the whole class understand. Neha’s passion and enthusiasm has helped everyone around her to understand Much Ado.

Next month we’ll take another vote, but for now…

Fantastic work Neha! Keep it up.

Who is Spark’s Star Employee for October?

employee of month - Spark Academy

Why have Employee of the Month?


At Spark Academy, we like to celebrate our team as much as possible. Each team member works incredibly hard throughout the term to provide our students with the best lessons possible. That’s why we’ve starting nominating an Employee of the Month.

September’s Employee of the Month was Vikz Chauhan, who was nominated for going above and beyond to make Spark as good as it can be. This month the whole team voted again…

Who won for October?


Chris Nelson, our KS5 Maths lead, has been voted Employee of the Month for October! Chris dedicated October to personal reflection and development to improve his lessons and his own teaching practice even more.

employee 3 - Spark Academy

Here are some of the reasons why so many members of our team voted for Chris:

For working tirelessly on his own personal development and succeeding at achieving his goals

Chris has

improved a lot and tries his best with everything

He is

showing more improvement in his teaching and is able to take on feedback well


is always positive and always tries his best


What did he win?


Chris has won the coveted Spark Employee of the Month badge. He also took a spin on the employee 2 - Spark AcademyWheel of Prizes and will be getting some chocolates to celebrate with.


What happens now?


Throughout November our team will continue to work hard to make our lessons fun and educational. At the end of November we’ll vote again on Employee of the Month… who knows who will win next time!

Well done Chris! Keep up the fantastic work!


Headteacher Talk – October’s Principle Focus

gemma - Spark Academy

Here at Spark we’re very proud of our new Headteacher, Gemma. In fact, we’re making it a principle that we focus on our ‘principal’ each month. We’re dedicating one Teacher Talk each month to Gemma to let us know how everything looks from her point of view.

Well. First let me start by saying, ‘WOW’ – what a busy start to the new academic year we have had! We have welcomed new staff (including myself), a brand-new staff uniform and in the not too distant future, a new and improved Spark Academy Headquarters at our Belgrave site.

Registration Process Step04 - Spark Academy

Who am I?

I’d like to take a moment to introduce myself to you. My name is Gemma and I have joined Spark Academy as Headteacher.

I have come from a Science teaching background and am continuing to teach Science at Spark. My specialism is Biology, so along with teaching KS3 & KS4 Science I am taking the Year 12 & 13 students for their A-level Biology lessons.

I taught for over 10 years in state-run Leicestershire Secondary Schools before coming to Spark. Because of this, I have been fortunate to have had many proud teacher moments, from seeing former students continue their learning at university and the pursuit of alternative avenues of education to reach their desired goals and careers.

Why I came to Spark


I have developed a passion for teaching and learning. Enjoyment of your work is an important principle for me, and a key reason I pursued a position at Spark. In particular, I have a keen interest in making the current curriculum accessible to all students. Very few people are naturally gifted at academic subjects. For most of us it is something we have to work hard at. It is important to develop resilience as part of your learning, because we often learn better from making mistakes. Many people are afraid to make mistakes, even from a young age,

For some reason from a young age we are afraid to make these mistakes. It is my goal to create a supportive learning environment where students feel comfortable making mistakes and, ultimately, where they can learn from these mistakes. Whatever the background, or ability of students, my desire is that they are able to reach their full potential.

It is important to me that all students have the confidence to discuss their ideas and question the world around them. It is not only independent learning we wish to encourage but also a self-assurance to ask questions and to be inquisitive. We believe at Spark that it is this element to learning that is key to becoming a successful learner.

In addition to the development of our students at Spark, I also have an interest in continual development of our amazing staff. It doesn’t seem that long ago when I was mentoring a bright ambitious young lady and having exciting discussions of what teaching and learning meant to her. I’m proud to say she is now our CEO and founder of Spark, Mital Thanki!


Capture - Spark Academy
Some of the amazing science Gemma has already taught included making volcanos!

Looking to the future

I believe that teaching is a vocation rather than just a job. We expect students to develop and improve their learning. In the same way, we as teachers also need to continually develop and improve our own practice. This ensures our learners are getting the very best experience during our lessons.

I aim to keep you updated on the teaching and learning strategies we are researching and implementing here at Spark Academy.

What makes a successful student?

theodore teddy roosevelt 1a - Spark Academy

This week the Spark Ideas wheel has been turned over to Mital – what are the qualities she thinks all successful students should have? 

It’s tough being a student! So many expectations from others. However, most people find that the biggest critic is actually themselves. At Spark Academy, we tutor hundreds of students that go through the same emotions, year in year out. Many people think that the key to academic success through doing physical studying, but actually it’s much more than that. It’s your mindset.

The 5 Core Student Values are attributes that pupils must have in order to achieve their best. It’s how you feel emotionally that contributes greatly to your success and we would like to share this with you!

1. Endeavour

Lionel Messi - Spark Academy


Your motivation is key to your own success. Really sit down and think about what it is that you want out of life. If you have no clue about what you want to become, have an immediate goal in mind. Having such goals will make you want to work harder. Always endeavour to achieve your goal and set realistic targets to achieve it. All successful people have a thirst and drive to attain their desires. Be one of them.


“You have to fight to reach your dream. You have to sacrifice and work hard for it.” – Lionel Messi



2. Aspire

Lady gaga - Spark Academy


This links back to having an immediate or long-term goal to attain. Really think about where you want to be in the next 5 years and set realistic targets to achieve it. Do you want a nice car in the future or a big house? How will you attain these things? Think about how you will get there. If you can’t think that far ahead, then think about something more immediate. Would you like to achieve the highest score in your class? How will you attain this? These are all aspirational goals which, if you put a plan in place, can be achieved. All successful people have a vision of where they want to be. They may not know the actual specifics immediately, but always keep it in the forefront of their minds. Be one of them.

“Every bit of me is devoted to love and art. I aspire to try to be a teacher to my young fans who feel just how I felt when I was younger…I want to free them of their fears and make them feel that they can make their own space in the world.” – Lady Gaga



3. Optimism

Michael Jordna - Spark Academy

It is hard at times to stay optimistic when you have piles of homework to complete or when life starts to travel in the wrong direction. You have to remember to stay positive through these testing times. See the benefit rather than the negatives. Keeping a positive disposition really helps you feel happier and drives that ‘can do’ attitude. The piles of relentless homework now, will be the foundations of your future. Your school years shape you to achieve greatness. Relish in the opportunities that lie in front of you.


“I hope the millions of people I’ve touched have the optimism and desire to share their goals and hard work and perseverance with a positive attitude.” – Michael Jordan



4. Discipline

theodore teddy roosevelt 1a - Spark Academy


Maintaining self-discipline is vital if you want to succeed. Simple things about how you present your work to how you manage your own time, is incredibly vital if you want to be ahead of the game. Many athletes undergo heavy self-discipline only to succeed at what they do. Keeping mentally fit helps you to keep a strong mind and stay focused on your goals.


“With self-discipline most anything is possible” – Theodore Roosevelt



5. Inspire

Kendrick Lamar bw march 2016 billboard 650 - Spark Academy

Inspire others around you. Set a good example and serve as a role model. Take charge of your own learning and development, as  ultimately it will shape your own life and future. Surround yourself with individuals that share the same energy and passion as you do. All successful people surround themselves with people that they inspire and are also inspired by. This will further not only your studies but also shape your character.


“My whole thing is to inspire, to better people, to better myself forever..” – Kendrick Lamar

The Spark: Terrific Team Building

22637667 495859510790966 1144645493469478912 n - Spark Academy

   Welcome to this week’s edition of The Spark. Tuesday is News-day and this week’s article ‘Terrific Team Building’ details the entertaining tales of Spark Academy’s team-building trip to Escape Asylum…

Terrific Team Building

Diwali was a day off teaching, but the fun never stops at Spark Academy.


Thursday 19th October was Diwali Day. Many in Leicester gathered to celebrate a new year. For Spark Academy, this meant an unusual day without teaching. Instead the team gathered to celebrate together.

The academic year began with the introduction of four new members of the team, and due to Spark Academy’s busy start this term not much time had been available for team building. Diwali Day offered a perfect opportunity for the team to get together and strengthen their bonds further.escape room - Spark Academy

Mital Thanki said

The aim of the day was to enhance relationships within the team as well as to work effectively together on something completely non-work related. This helps us feel more connected, form tighter bonds and work in a unified manner. This is exactly what we’re about at Spark Academy – team work definitely makes dreamwork!


The Team-Building Activity


The decision was made to go to Escape Asylum in Leicester, where groups are placed in a room and given 60 minutes to escape. The rooms are full of puzzles, mazes and ask the group to work together as a team to escape. Firstly, Spark Academy team split into two groups and headed into two different escape rooms: Asylum and the Cabin.

22637551 1160549647409342 855841125003427840 n - Spark Academy
(Left to right) Nic Hey, Chris Nelson, Mital Thanki, Barb Herbert and Charlotte Perrott celebrating their win in Aslyum

The Asylum team needed to solve a murder in order to escape, facing terrifying ordeals (including crazed clowns) along their way. The Cabin team worked tirelessly to escape from Eyeball Bill, piecing together clue after clue to try and make it out on time.

Nic Hey (Aslyum) told The Spark that she learnt

the perils of blocking our success, and the challenge of overcoming your own weaknesses in order to succeed. These are valuable lessons I think we can apply to our working lives at Spark


Those who faced the Asylum escaped with five minutes to spare. The Cabin team, however, were not as lucky. Their last moments in the room were filled with desperation, trying to work out the last clue to escape. Unfortunately, escape was not on the cards for them that day.

Gemma Kirby (the Cabin) argues that

despite being unable to escape, we really pulled together as a team to make it as far as we did – just a few seconds longer and we’d make it!


The Aftermath


Although one team was riddled with disappointment, they did learn the value of working together. In both groups it was clear that they would not have been able to complete as much

22581980 147904059279783 4932822707424198656 n - Spark Academy
(Left to right) Rebecca Rowland, Katherine Young, Gemma Kirby, Nidhi Rana and Vikz Chauhan commiserating after being caught by Eyeball Bill in the Cabin.

as they did without the contribution of every team member.

Charlotte Perrott (Aslyum) said

having to discover solutions for ourselves was invaluable. Developing the skills to do this in Asylum has helped me learn how to approach and overcome challenges in my working life


The outing was like a microcosm of Spark Academy itself – without the valuable contributions of each staff member, Spark Academy would not be able to provide the incredible service it does. Now that Diwali is over, and all celebrations have been had, it is time for teaching at Spark Academy to resume as normal. The positive outcomes of the team building exercise will surely be seen as the term continues.

22637333 124369751615053 5017202743022977024 n - Spark Academy
The whole team at the end of the trip



Parent Perspectives: ‘In-depth and thorough learning’

dhruv - Spark Academy

At Spark, it is important to us that we hear the views of our parents. Ultimately, our parents make it possible for us to keep providing the level of education and service we love. We always want to check in to see what you think. Every so often it’s nice to celebrate the lovely things you have to say! We have been chatting to the parents of one of our Year 9s, Dhruv Mamnani, to find out what they think about Dhruv’s time at Spark.

Dhruv has been with Spark for English and Maths for nearly three years now. Last year he was finding that Year 8 was a step up from Year 7 and wanted the extra support Spark can provide. In particular, his parents told us they wanted

to enhance his foundations in subjects like English and Maths


We find this is a theme when it comes to asking parents why they looked for tuition, especially at Key Stage 3. The

jump from primary to secondary education can be sometimes be hard to bridge, which is why we work hard to cover the foundation content across all year groups. This can help our students approach GCSEs with more confidence, which is exactly how Dhruv’s parents feel too; they told us they hoped Spark could help Dhruv

so that he feels more and more confident as he progresses through


The Teaching


Dhruv originally attended lessons at our Belgrave site, and swapped to Oadby later in the year. This means he’s in a

calculator character - Spark Academy

unique position of having seen our well lessons work at both of our sites! It’s wonderful to hear high praise from his parents about all of his teachers, as they told us

the standard and level of teaching is always at its best and the attention given to students by the tutors is highly admirable


It’s fantastic to hear that everything we work so hard to achieve during our lessons is paying off!


The Content


We also wanted to see if Dhruv’s parents felt that the content of his lessons was as worthy of praise as the teaching he had received. Their response didn’t disappoint:


The in-depth and thorough learning programme is well focused on the syllabus and is equally balanced between classroom teaching and homework


20171009 200122 - Spark Academy
Dhruv (left) and fellow student Aman before giving a political speech in a recent English lesson

Our teachers, particularly our heads of department, have all spent a long time thinking carefully about our schemes of work. As we only have one lesson a week with our students, it’s paramount that we plan our lessons and arrange the content we teach carefully to make sure we are able to cover everything. That means it’s wonderful to hear that our parents recognise how much we have worked to make our lessons as useful and effective as we can!

Knowing that our balance of homework and classwork works well for Dhruv is also very useful for us. We are keenly aware that our students attend tuition as extra support and that sometimes their workload from school can be quite high. We strive to ensure we strike the perfect balance when it comes to homework, and it looks like we might have achieved it!

book character - Spark Academy


As parents, would you recommend us?


Spark’s reputation and ability to serve ever growing numbers of students really depends on one thing: do our parents value the work we do enough to recommend us to other parents and students in need?



was the response from Dhruv’s parents!

We appreciate the support and hope Dhruv continues to find his time with us useful and enjoyable. Thank you for the kind words!

To find out more about the work Dhruv has been doing lately, have a look at our recent Teacher Talk post.

Has our parent perspective encouraged you to try us out? Find out more here and book in for your free trial today!