Striking a Balance between Hothousing and Disengagement

(24 Posts)
OutwiththeOutCrowd Mon 30-Dec-13 10:49:45

Att100, thank you for putting the words 'fun' and 'maths' together, some might consider that an oxymoron! I wasn't aware of the books you mentioned, and having now had a quick look on Amazon, I think they would be accessible to DS (who is 11) - so a useful tip! Thanks!

I find Marcus du Sautoy to be a very engaging presenter. To add to his charms, his area of expertise is Group Theory - one of my favourite branches of mathematics.

OutwiththeOutCrowd Mon 30-Dec-13 10:22:36

Fairisleknitter, it seems clear in the case of your DS, that the tutor option was wise, given that the school was not actively intervening to stop him falling behind. Ensuring options are not limited early on is important and you were probably better placed to take the long view on matters than your DS and to act accordingly.

In the case of my DS, it is too early to see a trend, either upwards or downwards. At least half of the boys - it's actually a boys school - in DS's form come from selective primary schools and I am realising now as I think about it that this could distort the way things look initially.

I know what you mean about gaming. DS is obsessed. If a GCSE in Minecraft was the golden ticket for entrance into university, we'd be laughing!

Happygardening, if you can get to the end of the child-rearing experience with everyone still talking to each other and no one - neither parent nor child - feeling the need to dash off and consult a shrink, I count that as a success.

I was very interested to follow your link, Eastpoint. I feel as if you must know me because it sounds as if you are describing the perfect job for me. Unluckily, I don't live in London or Bristol. But you have got me wondering whether similar schemes have been set up in my own area.
(Manchester -ish.) Thanks for the info!

Att100 Mon 30-Dec-13 10:07:13

OP - how about keeping him on the scent by encouraging him to watch with you some of the fun maths stuff (not Kumon worksheets ...ugh) ...like the comedian Dara O Briain's maths shows with Marcus Du Sautoy...or some of the more interesting maths books like The Number Devil or Alex's Adventures in Numberland (not sure how old your DS is)?

Eastpoint Mon 30-Dec-13 07:30:13

Just realized people who don't live in a major city might not know that Kids Company is a charity helping thousands of children in London & Bristol. They run classes for children who have had very troubled upbringings & are totally child centric. Kids Company

Eastpoint Mon 30-Dec-13 07:26:47

I don't know where you live Out & whether this would be of any interest to you, but one of my friends volunteered initially & now works for Kids Company teaching teenagers maths. You don't have to have teaching qualifications & they work part time.

happygardening Sun 29-Dec-13 22:07:01

Definitely carry on dancing in the kitchen forget the math. We as a family laugh together and tease each other and also all regularly go to the movies whenever we are all at home together. Despite previous ups and downs and what many that's is an unconventional life we all remain very close. I personally don't think flash cards and Kumon would have done the same thing!

fairisleknitter Sun 29-Dec-13 12:15:11

My child was dropping further and further down sets in his v. laid back comp. After trying to help at home we opted for a tutor. I was previously always laid back and following his interests but as these now centre around gaming with his friends we decided to be dull old parents and insist on this extra tutoring.

He has always been bottom at English (mildly dyslexic) and since he loves science and wishes to do engineering later maths seems pretty crucial. I accept he may opt to do something completely different but we didn't want him to lose the option because he was not getting sufficient understanding / practice in his school lessons.

OutwiththeOutCrowd Sun 29-Dec-13 11:45:24

'Sort of slipping the love in sideways' ... ILoveaFullFridge, I like that comment very much. It took me a long time to 'get' maths too. In the early stages, I found I was competent but maths didn't really intrigue me. Sometime towards the end of school, beginning of university, I began to realise it was a creative subject that dreamy, arty, imaginative, somewhat sloppy me could connect to.
That's the problem with maths. It can look a bit dry and tedious to start off with.

Richmal, DS is planning to be a scientist, and although this could easily change, maths skills could be crucial to him. Thank you for reminding me about Nrich - that's exactly the sort of interesting, problem-solving stuff I had in mind for DS. I will look into Khan academy. I might try something low key in this direction if it doesn't horrify DS too much ...

Happygardening, congratulations on being - as you put it - a lax, slack parent. I think you have been just the sort of parent your DS needed. He found his own way to his natural level without being forcefed in a formulaic fashion - which may even have put him off completely.

To do well in maths exams at the stage DS is at, the Kumon approach mentioned earlier, with its emphasis on fast, accurate execution of standard questions, would be perfect. But somehow the concept leaves me cold. To foster an appreciation of maths at a deeper level - my wish - requires something different ... but maybe I should leave that to DS and his teachers and just stick to dancing with him in the kitchen.

Thank you everyone for your responses - I have found them interesting!

happygardening Sun 29-Dec-13 08:56:34

OP we're crap lax slack parent I'm proud to say I've never owned a flash card or a times table CD! We"ve left DS2 (identified many years ago as an exceptionally gifted mathematician) alone, he's had periods in his schooling where he's done ok at math but now is just flying, he was explaining something about ?Eulors rule or something similar (I'm definitely no mathematician) and how exciting this is hmm. We've found as have his school that the harder it is the better he does he makes errors when it easy.
It's early days for your DS, it took my DS a year to start to prove his ability in his super selective senior school stuffed with math geniuses and two years to be moved into the set which suits him (no easy maths) we just waited it's not done his maths any harm or him.

richmal Sun 29-Dec-13 08:48:28

I see nothing wrong in sharing your own interests with your child. If they choose a scientific career it will be really helpful to have a good ability in maths.

What about getting him to look at some websites? Nrich is good for maths puzzles and khan academy has badges and points to collect.

ILoveAFullFridge Sun 29-Dec-13 08:06:23

longer get a tantrum when we're cooking together and I (deliberately) ask them to work out modifications to recipe quantities.

Sort of slipping the love in sideways.

ILoveAFullFridge Sun 29-Dec-13 08:03:36

My dad had a similar attitude, in that he has an instinctive 'feel' for maths. It is intuitive for him. He tried very hard to arouse the same sort of delight in is, but, unfortunately, maths was not intuitive for me. I just didn't get, for example, the buzz he got from magic squares. I was good at maths, but found my teachers intimidating and dull. It was something to grind through.

My lightbulb moment came when I started Pure Maths (AO--Level?), when suddenly maths seemed to cross over into languages and art. I could not visualise it until then.

Now I, too, try to inspire the same pleasure in my dc. But I am aware that personalities and thinking styles come into it, too. So, for eg, dc2 is working at 5b inY6, yet lacks any self-confidence in their maths ability. Needs basic skills reinforcing and speeding up, but rebels against extra practice. So I found a maths app that rewards them with games and accessories for a virtual pet. Result: dc2 asks to do maths, teacher reports that they are happier and more confident in class, foundations are being laid for wider explorations. And I no l

OutwiththeOutCrowd Sun 29-Dec-13 00:21:03

Thank you for the suggestions ILoveaFullFridge. Funnily enough DS expressed an interest in origami the other day, so I think I might look into that a bit more. His spatial awareness seems quite good, thanks, perhaps, to a lot of lego building. I never had it in my mind to force DS into doing loads of Boring Big Sums, as I think he'd find it dull. (I would.) Rather I wanted to give him a taste of the more interesting imaginative bits of maths you get to after you've ploughed through basic arithmetic. (Okay, interesting to me but I don't want to inflict it on DS if he doesn't agree.)

ILoveAFullFridge Sat 28-Dec-13 23:57:23

What about doing things together which link into maths, but are not obviously mathematical? Chess, origami, working mechanical models, household accounts and other financial activities, for example.

OutwiththeOutCrowd Sat 28-Dec-13 23:48:10

FirConesatXmas, I take your point. There have been a lot of new things to get used to for DS, and I'm proud of the way he has coped.
I certainly don't want to do anything with him that would make him feel he was being pushed. I would like him to find some interest and fun in it, otherwise I don't think it would work out very well in the long run.

OutwiththeOutCrowd Sat 28-Dec-13 23:39:19

Mummy1973, I usually take my lead from DS, which is why we are often to be found cavorting around being silly and doing funny dances in the kitchen. I just don't want to let him down by being too lax or frivolous myself as I'm supposed to be a responsible adult.

Sydlexic, agreed. Actually, I'm cool with average or even bottom of the class, whatever the setting, if that equates to maximised potential. There is just something a bit sad about unrealised potential.

FirConesAtXmas Sat 28-Dec-13 23:29:09

At his first term in secondary School,any secondary school, your DS has lots of new things happening, and lots more calls on his time.

Wait a while, see how he is doing at the end of year 7, and if you think he could/should be higher then have a rethink.
I think you are definitely in danger of turning him off maths if you push it now.

sydlexic Sat 28-Dec-13 23:18:35

He is not distinctly average, he is average in a grammar, which is a different thing.

mummy1973 Sat 28-Dec-13 23:11:28

smile There...you've answered yourself. On a serious note ask your ds how he would like to spend time with you: he may surprise you.

OutwiththeOutCrowd Sat 28-Dec-13 21:40:26

Mummy1973, I do like maths. In the past, I have done scientific research with a large mathematical component. I know it's not for everyone, but I have found maths to be a very satisfying and creative pursuit. Of course, I have to be careful not to foist my tastes onto DS, who is his own person.

ThreeBeeOneGee, yes, I think your experience parallels ours to an extent. There are certainly a lot of talented children in DS's class.

With my own mathematical training, I would love to help DS, but I agree, it is much better if the impetus comes from him.

When DS was at primary school, there was a teacher whose father was a swimming coach. As a girl, she used to have to train every day in the pool. The eventual result: she developed a lifelong aversion to all sports, especially swimming. I don't want to be like Competitive Dad!

DS1 was considered a very able mathematician at his non-selective primary. CAT scores in the high 130s. We were told he was G&T at Maths.

In his selective secondary, he is in the top 25%, but only just. He hasn't become less able at Maths, he is just being taught with a different section of the ability curve.

mummy1973 Sat 28-Dec-13 21:03:13

tbh...yes you sound too keen. Do you like maths yourself? I would be inclined to encourage your sons interests but this doesn't sound like one of them. As he grows older and independent he will need to want to work at the things he enjoys and choose his own path.

I struggle with this question generally, in most subjects with most of my children.

Like you, I helped DS1 and DS2 prepare for the 11+. With both of them, this turned out to be mostly a positive experience, a shared activity that I made as fun as I could.

Now they are in secondary school, almost all of their learning is independent of me (as it should be).
But they do still need support with revision for exams, as this is something they didn't experience at primary, and secondary don't seem to teach them how to revise.

Sometimes I'm full of support, researching the curriculum and helping them consolidate their knowledge by providing relevant resources at home.

Sometimes I pretty much leave them to their own devices.

Whichever I do, I worry that I've got the balance wrong.

OutwiththeOutCrowd Sat 28-Dec-13 20:15:29

I am struggling to find the appropriate level of support to give my Y7 DS in maths.

At his non-selective primary school, DS was considered to be of high ability in maths. While the teachers did what they could to support him, he ended up helping out quite a bit with other children who were finding maths taxing rather than going further into the subject himself. DS found teaching quite rewarding and I was laid back about him not being really challenged as, with a maths/science background myself, I enjoyed working with him at home, especially in Y6 when the grammar school exams were coming up.

At this stage, DP was supportive of my input and DS went along with it all amiably as there was a general atmosphere in the house of getting into grammar school being a good thing.

DS is now at grammar school and finds himself to be distinctly average in his maths class, although maths remains one of his favourite and stronger subjects.

DS hasn't got a competitive bone in his body and is quite happy to be in the middle of the class.

Nevertheless, I would like to continue to help him with maths in a fun way and perhaps compensate a little for his non-optimal primary school experience. My idea would be to do a 10 minute maths puzzle together every now and then to 'tickle' the mathematical thinking part of his brain. The emphasis would be on logical, creative and lateral thinking.

I would NEVER present DS with sheet after sheet of Kumonesque maths problems, as I feel that sort of repetitive stuff, while probably necessary and useful to a degree, is more soul-destroying than fun - and can be done in class if need be anyway.

DP says I should leave it completely up to DS whether we do any mathematical activities whatsoever outside of school stuff and that all of his education should be left entirely up to his teachers now. He thinks I am trying to massage my own ego by attempting to boost him up to the top of the class whereas 'average' might be his natural position.

I know DS is not going to come up to me voluntarily and suggest we do maths together. He'd much rather mooch around and do his gaming. He has also been influenced by DP's negative reaction to the idea of maths puzzles so it would be hard to get him to even have a go now.

I still believe DS has a gift for maths but, the question is, am I being too keen?

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