If mumsnet Mums cared as much about maths as they do about reading ...

(115 Posts)
TeenAndTween Tue 14-May-13 12:43:50

...would there be much high levels of numeracy in this country?

There are so many threads on here about reading and reading levels, and yet so very few about maths, apart from the occasional one concerning times tables.

Why is this?

Do parents just not care about maths, think it is less important? Or is it because schools don't send colour coded maths to do at home so parents don't get competitive about it?

Why is it still socially acceptable for otherwise intelligent people to say they're not much good at maths when they would never dream about saying that about reading?

SlippersAndPipe Thu 16-May-13 21:59:44

Totally agree OP. Maths is such a critical subject, and getting the foundations right are so important. I hate hate hate hearing people say they are rubbish at maths. You need good maths skills for everyday life, it's the basis for problem solving and logical thought which is notoriously hard to teach.

Dd's school has maths workshops, as well as workshops for literacy and reading, for both parents and children in reception and throughout the school years. But there is a huge problem in the UK that very few primary schools are fortunate enough to have well qualified maths teachers.

It's easier to see where the children are with reading and literacy, but sometimes they don't realise they are even doing maths. My Yr 1 dd told me she hadn't done any maths today, but then proceded to tell me about the cooking they'd done and the measuring ingredients!

BabiesAreLikeBuses Thu 16-May-13 21:16:35

You don't have to enjoy it, don't all adults know how to fake it? wink

ZZZenagain Thu 16-May-13 20:38:45

I am happy to help dd with any literacy based subject or even to take it further whether she needs help or not, but I have no interest at all in getting involved in the maths side of things. I did get to grips with her addition/subtraction/multiplication/division basics because she was a bit lost and struggling with it.

I cannot honestly say I like maths as a subject, find it interesting or am at all keen to help with it. If we have to, we have to but you cannot enjoy all the things your dc do.

BabiesAreLikeBuses Thu 16-May-13 20:28:25

You can spend all week arguing about how important maths is vs literacy... Personally i think the important thing is to foster an interest in both, however useful you deem maths to be your kids have to study it for at least 11 years which will be much less painful if they enjoy it! As many of you say there's loads of hidden maths in recipes, board games and real life problem solving... And even kids who find it tough get satisfaction from solving mathematical puzzles, we all like to win! As a teacher my number one request to parents would be to be positive about it even if you're faking it and to teach them to tell the time (this is a nightmare to do with a class of 30 even though we set, it's very much a one to one is best skill). You would not believe how many parents have said to me in front of kids 'i'll have to get dad/mum/grandad etc to do it with him/her as i'm no good at maths' cringe! fine if we were talking about differential calculus but not primary maths!

Growlithe Thu 16-May-13 09:32:29

Ann I think I got what you meant and didn't think you were sneering.

I think a lot of parents don't realise they are using maths constantly with their children from an early age. When DD1 was in Reception (she's y4 now so a while ago) the parents were shown a quite old fashioned video that showed all the maths you use with pre-schoolers (Example I used upthread was 2 little dickie birds - subtraction for babies). I've tried to find it on YouTube but had no luck.

You don't have to say 'now we are doing maths', you just do it in life. All the time. Even before they can read, and in fun stuff they like doing like board games and computer games.

Same with reading. You don't need to rattle through colour banded books at home to teach a child the point of reading. Read a recipe with them, the Sky telly guide, computer games, instructions, signs at the zoo or the museum etc.

AnnIonicIsoTronic Thu 16-May-13 09:29:02

My point is that there was a 'cult of the expert' that meant that the mathematical details were substantially filtered out before the decisions were placed before the executives.

I think that someone who is making decisions involving large sums of money should be required to demonstrate more than a 'balancing the books' kind of numeracy.

Joe Public comes into it when lives are destroyed through not appreciating how compound interest works.

learnandsay Thu 16-May-13 09:21:23

I'd be far more inclined to blame all sorts of financial crashes on people who can both speak financese and also authorise risky investments than a general lack of maths speak in the population at large. Joe Average's ability to spout statistics makes absolutely no difference to how investment banks operate.

AnnIonicIsoTronic Thu 16-May-13 09:02:35

I didn't mean to come across sneering - I was a bit taken aback that there wasn't a challenge to the idea that mathematics is not communication.

Early literacy is for sure important to access curriculum - but by the same token it will be continuously re-enforced as you go through schooling and life.

I think it is highly unlikely that (SN aside) the children of the motivated 'mumsnet mums' this thread is referring to will be held back by a lack of literacy.

However - judging by outcomes - I think it is perfectly possible to grow up educated, yet mathematically illiterate.

Lack of being able to 'speak' mathematics-ese is a strong contributor to society problems ranging from the financial crash (which demonstrated that people at the very top of our companies and government just 'turn the page' when tricky quantitative concepts come up), to unmanageable personal debt. From xenophobia to diet scams.

I feel strongly that we let down the next generation if we let them grow up believing that maths is something they can delegate to the boffins.

AnnIonicIsoTronic Thu 16-May-13 08:53:07


AnnIonicIsoTronic Thu 16-May-13 08:52:46

AnnIonicIsoTronic Thu 16-May-13 08:50:37

learnandsay - zebras - start from a ball of cells and grow outwards - with some white pigment skin cells and some black pigment skin cells.

How do they manage to organise themselves so that they are in regular black and white stripes - but never grey?

[[ http://plus.maths.org/content/how-leopard-got-its-spots ]]

GladbagsGold Thu 16-May-13 08:48:41

Our school runs sessions for parents on How Maths Is Taught Nowadays, its really useful and means I can understand what DC are doing and support them. And they do Mathletics/MyMaths.

I agree that numeracy is as important as literacy BUT reading is so much more fun as a book is a whole exciting imagined world.

PrideOfChanur Thu 16-May-13 08:44:20

"multiply (not just times tables, but to 2 and 3 digits) and divide (not just inverse times tables, but up to 3 digits divided by 2 digits)."

This is fine,*PastSellByDate*,and probably very useful - but I can't do it and I've managed good GCSEs ,science A levels, a science based degree,and my job.SoI can't help feeling that in modern life,you really don't need to be able to do that.There are maths concepts that I think are important,I do think it is important to have a grasp of how numbers work,but nowadays people do not need to be able to calculate like that - we have calculators.I think teaching time would be better spent on other parts of the curriculum than on arithmetic.

Literacy is more important from my point of view because it underlies everything else - a DC with poor arithmetic skills will flounder in Maths lessons - a DC with poor literacy skills will flounder in everything.

learnandsay Thu 16-May-13 08:30:24

The fact that you can try to explain the survival of zebras in terms of probability owing to the fact that their stripes break up their outlines and therefore make them less visible to predators does not tell the whole story. Other factors will be involved such as the number of animals present when European hunters arrived with guns. Tasmanian Tigers and Quaggas were also striped and have now gone. Maths is only one factor in the explanation of lots of things. How property is distributed, and to whom, is as often down to politics and influence as it is to proportion. And those things have nothing to do with maths.

lljkk Thu 16-May-13 08:26:54

I don't decide priorities on basis of what is popularly discussed on MN. Can't comment on the rest of the world's sheep.

DH & I love to set the kids math problems. Teachers gush over DD's writing ability but I don't want her to be pigeonholed & tell her she'd probably like maths even better because it will be more of a challenge. That's how it worked for me, anyway.

I still think literacy has to precede maths; I helped out in an assessment session once (yr3). All I could do was read aloud the question to the children. Point is, they had to read in order to be able to do the maths, and those who couldn't read well were delayed and handicapped, waiting for an adult to read the question to them, and the adult couldn't stand there forever so every time child wanted to refer back to the question details they had to try to remember what adult said or call adult over again.

One of the best things our school did was a little 1 hour session last autumn on maths strategies in upper phase (yr4-y6). Sad part is that only about a dozen parents attended; we all found it very useful, though.

MadBusLady Thu 16-May-13 07:56:03

AnnIonic I think part of the point is that a lot of people truly don't instinctively understand what maths is for. I hope you're less sneery with your DC when explaining new concepts than you are with other posters.

Ilikethebreeze Thu 16-May-13 07:47:35

Ann, with respect, I have been on a thread with you before. Can I just say that the post above is very strong?
And while you are here, how did your nanny hunt go?

CouthyMow Thu 16-May-13 07:45:10

It's definitely a lot to do with the fact that schools don't send enough things home explaining the methods taught in school now.

I got moaned at by the teacher for teaching my DS1 long division and long multiplication when he was in Y2. He had asked me to show him how to do these things with 'bigger numbers'. Apparently they teach these things in a different way now. confused

(Though DS1 says that the school's method is 'clunky' - his word - and he still does it the way I taught him, even at 11!)

It's a moot point with DS1 now, though. He is working on lvl 7 Maths now, and he IS better than me at Maths.

His passion for Algebra knows no bounds...

I work with DS2 now.

I can understand why DS1 feels the current methods are a little 'clunky' tbh, the old way makes far more sense to me.

Even my DD with SN's finds the old methods far easier than current methods, and she only learnt to 'do' Maths at all once I taught her them.

AnnIonicIsoTronic Thu 16-May-13 07:17:41

Poster who claimed "you don't use maths to communicate" - have a biscuit . What the hell do you think maths is for if not to meaningfully describe some of the most important and beautiful ideas? How do I deal with cancer/ why is a zebra striped/ how does an aeroplane fly / have I been cheated on that business deal/ why does the earth go around the sun / should I buy a precipice bond for my pension - its all maths.

I love doing maths with DC. I go totally off-piste - and make them navigate all their decisions through being able to demonstrate that they can anticipate and understand the underlying maths. The fallacy is thinking that it's a formal 'hovering over their shoulder while they do long division' type of thing. If we share a pack of biscuits, they have to tell me how many they get each; if we bake; I make them double the recipe on the fly - it's a game.

mrz Thu 16-May-13 07:04:36

I don't think the 15 homeworks have anything to do with it PastSellByDate but obviously the quality of teaching and communication within school is poor

PastSellByDate Thu 16-May-13 04:23:06

Hi Buskerdog:

Let me put a rhetorical question to you. When in the space of the entirety of KS1 your child has only had 15 homeworks sent home in maths (and I've documented that with OFSTED) and is physically unable to work out how to add numbers over 20 and subtract at all (this is March Y2) - please explain to me what you would do as a parent?

Sometimes doing more at home is the only solution if you personally want to ensure that your child can add, subtract, multiply (not just times tables, but to 2 and 3 digits) and divide (not just inverse times tables, but up to 3 digits divided by 2 digits).

I will say that had they been at a school like BabiesAreLikeBuses clearly teaches at - then obviously I would have left it to the school.

Ilikethebreeze Wed 15-May-13 22:36:03

Maths is important in many many jobs, particularly those that are in demand in this country.

GuinevereOfTheRoyalCourt Wed 15-May-13 22:05:50

I love maths and I want my dc to grow up to love maths too.

HOWEVER, much as it doesn't float my boat as much - literacy is FAR, FAR more important in those first few years. I have a dc with a specific language impairment and trust me, without solid literacy skills, a child just can't do maths.

TheBuskersDog Wed 15-May-13 22:05:42

Is it only on Mumsnet that all parents seem to feel a need to make their children do extra work at home, so many talk about teaching their children at home. Also this seems to have become more prevalent in recent years.

My son is 16, currently doing his GCSEs, we always supported his school work, read with/to him when younger, were interested in what he was doing at school, made sure homework was done etc., but we never felt any need to try and teach him anything ahead of what he was learning at school. Of course we practised maths/science/reading as they came up in everyday life or helped him learn about things he was interested in, but I wouldn't have dreamt of making him do extra maths work. I don't think we were unusual amongst his friends' parents in our attitude. I only know of one of his friends who had a tutor for a while because he was falling behind a bit.

I can understand if a child is struggling working with them to catch up, I just don't understand why some people want to push their children to get ahead by making them learn things that they will have to do again in school. I had a parent say to me last year that of course all the children on the top table were doing extra work at home, in her mind they had to be in order to be there. That certainly wasn't the case in my son's year group.

Oh and despite not hothousing what would now seem to be a laissez-faire attitude on our part, he is expecting an excellent set of GCSE grades.

FionaJT Wed 15-May-13 21:48:46

My dd is Yr 3, and in my experience her school hasn't let maths lag behind. They did workshops in numeracy and literacy at the beginning to explain teaching methods, and since Reception weekly homework is a maths sheet, as well as a reading book. And now they have weekly list of spellings and tables, and weekly tests on both.
I am more focussed on the maths side of things for my dd because she is good at it and likes it, and I am not and don't. So encouraging her is an effort for me whereas talking about books/language is second nature.

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