# Mumsnet Talk

## to draw these conclusions from this event (education related)

(50 Posts)
pickledsiblings Tue 19-Mar-13 12:14:06

So, DS1's homework is to find the area of shape A (and B and C). These are drawn on a grid. They are irregular shapes with curves, in fact C is a circle. Anyway, he doesn't remember how he is supposed to do it so I ask him what area means, he says 'how many squares it covers' (owtte) so I say, 'count the squares then', which he does. He adds up any half squares to make wholes as he goes along and pairs of bits of squares that he also thinks will add up to whole squares. It is easy for him but he has the feeling that he is doing it wrong...

Thanks if you are still with me .

I saw this piece of work in his folder at open book evening yesterday and nothing on the sheet is marked right. DS1 says that he is cross with me for making him do it wrong! I decide to ask the teacher how it should have been done and it turns out that they were supposed to draw a rectangle around the outside of the shape and work out the area of that . What DS1 did was apparent Yr5 and 6 work (he's in Yr4).

My problem with all of this is how DS1 reacted when I asked him (in front of his teacher) how he found the work - he said that he thought it was DIFFICULT. He did NOT, it was NOT!!

My conclusion is that my child has been institutionalised somehow to think that things are too difficult for him (when they are not) and so he sets his expectations of himself way too low. Can that be right? His confidence seems shockingly low given that he is a bright boy.

Sorry it's so long but I would really appreciate some responses...AIBU?

SneezingwakestheJesus Tue 19-Mar-13 12:21:17

YABU. Maybe he thought the whole overall thing was difficult. I mean, the trying to remember what to do, doing the actual work (while fighting the feeling he was doing it wrong) and then when he found out it was wrong and he felt the time was wasted. That all sounds a bit draining for a child and maybe the word "difficult" covered how he was feeling.

noblegiraffe Tue 19-Mar-13 12:24:10

Maybe he thought it was difficult because he couldn't do it and needed to ask you for help.

A bit that it was marked wrong for giving a better answer than the one expected. That's not wrong!

diddl Tue 19-Mar-13 12:24:35

Well if he couldn't remember what to do-isn't that difficult?

I mean he could easily do it when you told him what to do-but that's not the same, is it?

DeWe Tue 19-Mar-13 12:26:12

Well I think counting the squares makes sense and drawing a rectangle round is a load of rubbish.
I know dd1 (who liked to be accurate) would have absolutely hated that because it would be clearly inaccurate.

And I'd be having a serious word with the teacher about marking something wrong simply because he'd done it at a higher level than she wanted.
If the work had said "by drawing a rectangle round the shape, work out..." the teacher would have a point to make about reading the question.
As it was the point made is "using his own initiative to solve the question more accurately than needed-is wrong".

I'm not surprised he's lacking confidence in himself when he is marked wrong for being too accurate...

pickledsiblings Tue 19-Mar-13 12:28:15

OK, you're probably right sneezing. You are also right that the whole thing was 'draining' for him when it should not have been. He did his HW, did a good job of it and was left feeling 'like a failure'. Is there no problem here?

pickledsiblings Tue 19-Mar-13 12:32:32

giraffe and DeWe, the work wasn't marked wrong (they don't do that at his school), it had a dot at it. I spoke to the teacher and said exactly that about the wording on the worksheet. She said in a slightly sarky way that she would have to take more care with her worksheets in the future. I was perfectly polite when speaking to her btw.

pickledsiblings Tue 19-Mar-13 12:34:43

diddl, I'm not surprised he couldn't remember what to do as there was absolutely no logic in it, not for him anyway - perhaps there would be for those DC that struggle with the concept of area?

Fakebook Tue 19-Mar-13 12:37:28

I'd be angry that correct work was marked wrong. Talk to the teacher about this. This used to happen to me in school. I was taught at home to write answers to division questions using decimal places instead of writing "remainder 2,1 etc". All my work was marked wrong by the teacher because it wasn't the answer she wanted.

I hated maths anyway and this just knocked be back a few notches. There is no wrong or right way when figuring out an answer in maths, I hated it when in school they'd teach you one way is the only way, and any other way is wrong. I hoped things might have changed, but it must still be like that.

DeWe Tue 19-Mar-13 12:39:32

But "Pickled" if the work gets a tick for right and a dot for "not right" then actually it has been marked wrong just as much as if it's a cross.

Children aren't stupid, if the teacher decided to put a tick for wrong and a cross for right they'd soon look at a tick and think "oh dear that's wrong". "A rose by any other name would smell so sweet" and all that.

I would have expected her to have complimented him on finding a more accurate method, and added the way she expected him to do it for your future reference.

I see problems next year when he is expected to use the count squares method and is drawing rectangles round shapes because he's afraid of being worng again.

Tailtwister Tue 19-Mar-13 12:42:49

This sounds really odd. How is drawing a rectangle around it and using that to calculate the area accurate? I would find this confusing.

pickledsiblings Tue 19-Mar-13 12:46:26

Fakebook, 'What DS1 did was apparently Yr5 and 6 work (he's in Yr4).'

This was her response as to why she hadn't marked it right. She was not encouraging in any way but started telling DS he'd get to that in the end.

I have a parents' meeting on Thurs but I'm not sure what I can hope to achieve by talking about it further.

Sorry to hear you hated maths.

pickledsiblings Tue 19-Mar-13 12:50:40

Tailtwister, I guess it is a step along the way to working out an accurate method and as such I don't really have a problem with the methodology. I do have a problem with DS1 feeling bad for doing something a few steps ahead and getting it right.

pickledsiblings Tue 19-Mar-13 12:53:13

The drama queen concerned parent in me is wondering if there is the potential for long term damage if DC are consistently being required to do work 'below' the level at which they are capable.

Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

diddl Tue 19-Mar-13 13:00:40

I do agree that there should have been some credit given for attempting to find the area.

But I also see that work was set to be done in a particular way & wasn't.

I do think that the teacher should have been more encouraging, though.

Where was the work that he had done in class to refer to-or a textbook for reference?

pickledsiblings Tue 19-Mar-13 13:04:46

I tried to find an example of it amongst his books but couldn't. She offered to photocopy the relevant page from her workbook but I fear she missed the point of why I was concerned.

WilsonFrickett Tue 19-Mar-13 13:09:11

If he's being taught one way and you then showed him another way, I imagine he would find that 'difficult' because he now knows two different ways to do something. That's bound to be confusing. You are taking your knowledge of the 'end point' and projecting that onto your DS. At the moment he only knows the building block (iyswim. Is this analogy even working?) so it's natural he's confused and now thinks finding the area is a hard thing to do.

My uncle used to help me with my maths homework and get me very confused, my DF thought that geography was all about capital cities which got me very frustrated - different methods do confuse children.

But in terms of long-term damage? I think he'll probably be OK.

diddl Tue 19-Mar-13 13:11:41

I think that I would raise the concern of him becoming completely discouraged.

In this case, he couldn't remember & nothing could be found in his books so he did his best.

Was it written on the board & he should have noted it down?

DeWe Tue 19-Mar-13 13:15:03

I wouldn't thought there would be "damage" from being required to do work below the level at which they were capeable.

However I think there could be damage done by being told work is "not right" (if you prefer that term) because it's done at a higher level. Discourages them from thinking for themselves, and from improving on an answer by using their brains.

And I'm sure we did area by counting squares in year 3. Because I remember chalking the playground into metre squares with our teacher.

diddl Tue 19-Mar-13 13:20:26

I would have thought thought that if the shapes involved just about filled the rectangle, then it would be more accurate to have the area of the rectangle and takeaway the areas not filled by the shapes.

Although I would have thought that that was higher level than just counting the squares in the shapes??

tiggytape Tue 19-Mar-13 13:22:28

If difficult means 'unclear' then that homework was difficult though.
Many children would have got that homework wrong because who'd guess that counting squares could accurately reflect the area of a curved shape?
Most younger children would see that this method was definitely not going to produce accurate results and maybe try what your son did.
Most older children would have been wracking their brains for the pi r squared area of a circle formulae and applying that.
His method was at least as good as hers though, so it should not have been marked as incorrect (or have it implied it was incorrect).

Goldmandra Tue 19-Mar-13 13:23:44

It's a shame that the teacher didn't manage to ensure that there was an example or that the wording wasn't clear enough. This was no doubt just a slip up on her part.

She could have given your DS a bit of credit for working out a way to do it even thought he point of the homework would have been to practise a method they had learned in school.

Did he really think it was hard or was he saying what he knew the teacher wanted him to say, perhaps even repeating something she had already told him? My DDs wouldn't have been able to say it was easy if the they knew the teacher would disapprove.

Tue 19-Mar-13 13:23:56

What an absolutely shite way to teach the concept of area. And how depressing that the stupid teacher couldn't praise your son for working beyond his year. This is what I hate about school.

I disagree that damage wouldn't be caused by constantly working below ability. It is a sure fire way to turn a child completely off learning.

bachsingingmum Tue 19-Mar-13 13:24:10

I doubt if it will cause any damage and it'll be fine when he has a "proper" maths teacher. When my DD1 was about the same age the homework was division, and included a number divided by 0. The answer according to the teacher was 0 . We wrote back in her book, no, it's infinity. Answer "That's too hard an idea for 8 year olds." I took DD through the idea in stages (divide 10 by 5, then divide 10 by 2, then by 1, then by a half etc) and she understood it very well. But, really, if it's too hard for that age group don't teach them the wrong answer, teach them something else!

pickledsiblings Tue 19-Mar-13 13:28:30

Wilson, he has got passed feeling that finding the area is difficult and now thinks it's easy and realises that the teacher's method is completely inaccurate. DD and I have explained to him the importance of working through the steps to ensure a thorough grasp of the subject but I am fairly confident that the pace of moving through the steps is way too slow for him.

pickledsiblings Tue 19-Mar-13 13:38:49

Goldmandra:'My DDs wouldn't have been able to say it was easy if the they knew the teacher would disapprove.'

This is what I find so sad. It is as if my bright son has been 'institutionalised' to use his brain how the teacher sees fit and if he doesn't he is a failure.

Callisto: 'This is what I hate about school.' Me too!

I agree with praising effort vs praising ability but he had made a good effort and just because his effort was linked to his ability it seemed fine (to the teacher) to overlook it.

Thank you all for your responses, you are helping me to get this clear in my head.

I should add that I am a Governor at my son's 'outstanding' primary and we pride ourselves on how we teach maths, lots of dialogue and good use of mathematical vocab. etc. [not sure what emoticon to put in here].

pickledsiblings Tue 19-Mar-13 13:42:48

"That's too hard an idea for 8 year olds."

Why do we underestimate what are DC are capable of understanding - the dumbing down sure starts early, doesn't it.

pickledsiblings Tue 19-Mar-13 13:44:10

Well done you bachsingingmum for saying something. Now, what shall I say on Thurs??

Inertia Tue 19-Mar-13 13:58:47

Bachsingningmum - would it not be more accurate to teach that division by zero is undefined , as it isn't a mathematically feasible operation ?

Pickled - i would take the approach that the calculation is not wrong if it is mathematically sound but more advanced than what the teacher expected. If she wanted the area of a rectangle enclosing the shape, then that should have been specified. Problem solving is an important skill in Maths, and it 's important to foster your son's initiative. Often there are several ways of tackling a problem.

Inertia Tue 19-Mar-13 14:02:00

Pickled - does your school produce a guide for parents outlining the mathematical strategies taught at different stages? A lot of methods will be very different from the techniques the parents learnt , such as division by chunking rather than long division - a guidance booklet for parents could be helpful.

pickledsiblings Tue 19-Mar-13 14:13:41

Inertia, the school are pretty good at sharing their strategies for the basic operations with parents.

pickledsiblings Tue 19-Mar-13 14:20:52

Inertia, I'm not sure how much initiative fostering goes on and I find that worrying.

We are not too far away from a superselective grammar school so that's on our radar for DS. As such, I down loaded an 11+ maths app and DS will happily work away on the ipad problem-solving for fun. I've been impressed by what he can do with just the briefest of instruction. He is not a maths whizz or anything but he certainly shouldn't be feeling insecure about his ability and I think the ways things are done at school are impacting on his confidence.

pickledsiblings Tue 19-Mar-13 14:31:52

It's a bit like he's 'having his wings clipped' iykwim. DD said she always felt like that until this year (she is at an academically selective school). I'm sure there must be lots of DC that this applies to, not just mine. Can we not hope for more from our education system?

Goldmandra Tue 19-Mar-13 15:13:19

I know exactly what you mean pickled

There are many things which make me feel uncomfortable about our education system and this is not the least of them. I also dislike that the children are herded into playgrounds en masse for long periods without adequate supervision which breeds social exclusion and bullying.

However I have also never been brave enough to remove my children from the system and educate them my own way.

DD1's wings are less clipped now she's doing well in her GCSEs - the school have something to gain from helping her to fly.

I try to help DD2 work at home in ways which complement the skills she learns in school. She could progress much more quickly in the national curriculum but she would then be even more bored in school.

mungotracy Tue 19-Mar-13 15:34:01

"My problem with all of this is how DS1 reacted when I asked him (in front of his teacher) how he found the work - he said that he thought it was DIFFICULT. He did NOT, it was NOT!!"

Erm with respect he couldnt remember how to do it. YOU couldnt do it so his summation that it was difficult is correct isnt it? The teachers method was difficult because it sounds pretty insane!

HOWEVER.....

Im also aware of a method that initially involves a rectangle.... and starts with 'rough' area and moves on......... its not as you expressed simply a matter of counting the squares in the rectangle so i suggest you have a lengthier conversation with the teacher.... that way you can be certain they are either teaching incorrectly..... or that you understand the method used...

If the teacher is flawed then you need to raise this with the head of centre not on mumsnet.

Tue 19-Mar-13 15:40:38

I am missing the point but why not either teach them (easy) regular shapes and their areas, and not irregular shapes, or just teach them how to calculate the area of a circle? (Properly)

SneezingwakestheJesus Tue 19-Mar-13 15:44:52

It sounds more like a way of teaching them the concept of area rather than being able to calculate it accurately. You can't calculate area until you understand what area actually is in a maths sense. Maybe the teacher was introducing them to the idea of what area is by doing this rectangle thing and the calculating area accurately will come next.

cakeandcustard Tue 19-Mar-13 16:02:08

As a maths teacher I wouldn't have marked it wrong - that's crazy! He was right, he'd just used a different (more accurate) method. It doesn't sound as if it was beyond his level of ability either. The teacher was crackers not to applaud him!

Smartiepants79 Tue 19-Mar-13 16:28:34

I teach year 4 and I've. Never used that to teach area. What he did seems much more sensible.
Very odd response from his teacher as well.
I would bring it up at parents evening as it is clearly bothering you. Try and do it in as calm and non- finger pointy way as possible.
Explain that you are very confused that this work was not marked correct when in fact the answers given were correct. That is utterly pointless in my opinion.
If they were supposed to be working to a given method an example should have been given.
Him using a different method is a very good teaching opportunity. She should have been impressed that he was using more advanced methods!

pickledsiblings Wed 20-Mar-13 09:30:35

Thanks everyone for sharing your thoughts. I think your post sums it all up nicely Smartiepants and I intend to take your advice.

choccyp1g Wed 20-Mar-13 11:40:20

Pickled siblings "I've been impressed by what he can do with just the briefest of instruction" But presumably the teacher gave him instructions how to do the homework (albeit a rubbish method) and he couldn't remember.

He might be switching off in maths lessons because it is actually too easy. Or because it is too hard, but if he can do 11+ maths, more likely that it is too easy.

pickledsiblings Wed 20-Mar-13 11:49:06

One of the problems with remembering what to do for homework choccy is that they only get one piece per week (also get spellings and time tables) on Wednesday for next Wednesday. Lots of time to forget in between especially as they will have probably moved on to something else in lessons.

I suspect there is an element of switching off. He certainly doesn't do his work quickly - it's almost as if it's making him lethargic iykwim.

aldiwhore Wed 20-Mar-13 11:50:55

I have found that sometimes the 'baby steps' that build up to working things out properly usually cause more confusion for my 9 year old than enlightenment.

I think I would prefer them to be shown the target "How to work out the area of X shape" = get boggled, think it really hard, and THEN be shown how to break it down. That way they understand the purpose of inaccurate 'baby steps' and estimates.

The amount of times I've seen the lightbulb ping when I explain that what the homework is trying to do is prepare them to solve X problem... then it makes sense in context. Rather than teaching inaccuracies that seem pointless.

I am RUBBISH at maths, but I'm better when I know the big picture and work backwards. One question that rarely got answered when I was at school was "WHY".

TeWiSavesTheDay Wed 20-Mar-13 11:58:05

I wouldn't be happy either, especially that it was marked wrong when it wasn't.

pickledsiblings Wed 20-Mar-13 12:25:50

Aldi: 'I have found that sometimes the 'baby steps' that build up to working things out properly usually cause more confusion for my 9 year old than enlightenment.'

Yes, I find this and DS sometimes things that what he is being asked to do can't be right as it's too easy/unchallenging.

This week's HW was to find out the capacity of 10 containers around the house. Poor thing thought that he was supposed to be experimenting, working out them out rather than just reading the side of the container. So I let him experiment with a few (the kettle and a mug, things that didn't have it written on). I wonder what the teacher will make of this. I also suggested that he have a guess first before looking and he has written the guess on his sheet as well as the 'answer'.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Wed 20-Mar-13 12:28:34

Well I think given that you told him how to do it and then he did it but still wasn't sure it was right, he did find it difficult!

Well done DS for getting the harder work, I'm sure he will be fine.

diddl Wed 20-Mar-13 12:40:02

Perhaps when given the homework sheet he could write the required method on it in future!

noblegiraffe Wed 20-Mar-13 13:01:37

When marking maths it is very easy to memorise the right answers, then simply go tick tick tick cross very quickly through a set of work. It's possible that she marked them incorrect simply because they weren't the answers she was expecting, rather than taking the time to look carefully at what was done and mark that.

I think in the future if he does homework without any clear given method and you have to tell him how to do it, perhaps put a note on saying what you did do so she can mark it properly.

I do think that she should talk to your DS about the area homework and agree that his work was correct and then in front of him mark them correct so he doesn't get confused about methods and think he did something wrong.

pickledsiblings Wed 20-Mar-13 13:29:28

noblegiraffe, I have in the past done the little note on the HW thing. Could have done it this time I suppose, will do so in the future.

She has talked to DS about it (in what I can only describe as a patronising way), telling him to 'take it easy, that's Yr5 and 6 work, you'll get there in the end' <grrr>. She may even have said whoa, slow down, you'll get there in the end owtte. I was too busy biting my tongue to get it exactly.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Wed 20-Mar-13 13:56:48

I may be missing something, but what's wrong with the words she used to reassure him there?

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