Maths. The word alone is enough to make many a top lip break out into a sweat.

That’s before any mention of algebra, trig functions and exponentials.

But they’re all part of a day’s vocabulary for maths wizard Colin Beveridge who can breezily switch from talk of polynomials, to partial fractions, to parametric curves.

Happily, he can also ease the frazzled nerves of those struggling with even basic maths. Realising he had a gift for doing so, he traded his position as a top scientist for that of a maths tutor because, quite simply, he wanted to help people.

And that he has done, in spades.

On why so many people struggle with maths, he says: “A lot of it I think is about confidence. Maths is about building on basics so if you have missed a step you can’t get on to the next one. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and the person gets further and further behind.

“I've dealt with blank stares, panic attacks, total lack of self-belief and more. I think my job is more about calming students (and parents) down than it is about delivering content.”

The majority of his current charges are A Level students, but he also helps adults going into teacher training or a job that requires a basic maths test.

Colin has been a full-time maths tutor since 2008 and his company Flying Colours Maths is based in Parkstone. There’s not a tweed jacket in sight.

On his bookshelves are titles such as Basic Maths for Dummies; Numeracy Tests for Dummies; The Little Algebra Book and Glorious Resolution of Forces in Equilibrium and the newly-minted Teacher Training Tests – all penned by his own fair hand.

He’s also an accomplished musician, picking up his guitar whenever he can, although he admits he’s rubbish at drawing and throwing.

“When I used to play cricket I had to keep wicket because I couldn’t throw but I could catch.”

He can’t remember when exactly he realised he was good with figures, but recalls a secondary school teacher describing him as the best mathematician she had ever seen.

Little wonder he spent several years as a physics researcher at Montana State University.

“I studied the structure of magnetic fields around the Sun and how they might store energy for release in solar flares. My main contribution to science was an equation that was named after me.”

He adds: “But those papers were only read by about a dozen people around the world. As a tutor I have helped hundreds.”

Enthusiasm oozes from every pore.

“To make the subject accessible, I try to find different ways of explaining things and engaging people, from football fans to music lovers,” he says.

“If you work in things people care about they become more relevant.”

I speak to him on his birthday and ask his age: “Yesterday my age was semiprime; today it is square. First time in 20 years. Probably never again.” (Answer below).

So the million dollar question is: Can anyone get to grips with maths?

Colin thinks so.

“Everyone can learn it. I don’t back that people have ‘maths brains’ – only when it comes to high-level maths. Everyone can run, but not everyone is Mo Farrah, for example.

“You need to have a positive attitude and a belief you can do it.

“Then it’s easy and you can see its beauty.

“There’s nothing quite like a lightbulb moment when a student suddenly says: ‘Oh! That’s easy!’ and we both know they understand.”

(answer: Colin is now 36)