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?

MorrisZapp Tue 14-May-13 12:45:39

Because you don't communicate in numbers, you use words.

That's why.

Periwinkle007 Tue 14-May-13 12:51:09

I am not entirely sure my daughter DOES any maths based on what she tells me.... she only talks about reading and writing.

redskyatnight Tue 14-May-13 12:54:42

I've often wondered the same thing myself.

Is because most people feel happy to read but not necessarily to "teach" (which is what it would be) a subject?

I'm good at maths, but I'm very wary of helping my DC at home- especially since I always seem to confuse them by using different methods to school ones.
I'd also never dream of teaching them (say) geography in anything other than a conversational way.

Also, I guess reading is a building block to pretty much anything (including using maths in any sort of applied way), so maybe it is just more important?

TeenAndTween Tue 14-May-13 12:55:34

- to look after your finances you need numbers
- to understand the MMR debate you need to understand numbers
- to understand homeopathy you need to understand numbers
- to understand politics you need to understand numbers
- to understand science and implications of e.g. climate change you need to undertsand numbers.

People who can read well but don't understand numbers cannot understand whether much of what they are reading that is important is true, or spin, or relevant etc.

To understand homeopathy, you need to be able to read fairy stories wink

But, yes, I agree with you. Numerical literacy is poor in this country, and it is SO important.

yetanotherworry Tue 14-May-13 13:00:52

Its because we have nothing to compare. I know exactly what book band dd is on but all I know about maths is which table she is on.

Periwinkle007 Tue 14-May-13 13:01:14

I think it is possibly because for the first couple of years of school it is the only thing sent home.

I did maths at A-level and my daughters are seemingly quite confident with numbers as much as you would expect at their age but they aren't as interested in it as they are in reading a story.

I agree, maths is a huge part of day to day life and incredibly important. you need both maths and english for so many things.

interestingly the subject I feel most confident with telling my children about IS geography but it is one of my favourite subjects and always has been, geography/geology/natural history will always be easier to me than most other subjects.

I don't think it's so much that mums dont care, more that they don't feel confident to get involved, because their own numeracy isn't that great, or they don't understand the methods currently used.

Few parents are illiterate, so they are mostly fine at doing the reading practice with their child. But many have no understanding of "chunking" or "number bonds" or anything else about how it is taught in schools these days.

Personally I'm pretty numerate, but I couldn't help DS much with his school maths homework except by asking him to explain what the teacher had told him - usually by the time he'd gone over it with me he could see where he was going wrong. But the methods had nothing to do with how I "see" numbers.

TeenAndTween Tue 14-May-13 13:09:58

Is it also because schools don't provide enough info to parents on what they could do at home? And when they do send mtahs info home it is all a bit generalised and not tailored for the level the child is on?

So when they send a book home, they are effectively saying 'this book is a bit challenging for your child but they should be able to read it'. But because they don't send home info on e.g. 'please practice mental adding and subtrating single digit numbers' one week, and then 3 weeks later 'now go up to 20' etc parents literally don't know what is expected so do nothing by default?

DorisShutt Tue 14-May-13 13:10:05

My DS isn't at school yet so I may not be totally qualified to answer, but it seems (from what I have seen family go through) that it may be partly to do with the changing methods used to teach now, compared with when I was at school.

Reading is mainly the same stuff, but now we have number chunking and various other things that are different to the way I was taught and understand.

Periwinkle007 Tue 14-May-13 13:12:19

number chunking? what is number chunking?

learnandsay Tue 14-May-13 13:16:45

Our school did a literacy event for parents. But when asked for a numeracy event the head laughed and said you don't need one because you can all count.

TheSmallPrint Tue 14-May-13 13:22:36

I do maths and reading with my children. I suspect it's because people are far more confident with reading than numeracy generally - or at least they believe they are and also because they 'do' maths differently than when we were at school, tis very odd but I am sure there are very good reasons!

TheSmallPrint Tue 14-May-13 13:23:15

I agree though that the schools seem to encourage the reading at home but nothing else as per your last comment.

MadBusLady Tue 14-May-13 13:23:31

- to look after your finances you need numbers
- to understand the MMR debate you need to understand numbers
- to understand homeopathy you need to understand numbers
- to understand politics you need to understand numbers
- to understand science and implications of e.g. climate change you need to undertsand numbers."

No, not really. I worked in tax accountancy for a while and I was crap at maths at school. The kind of maths you need to deal with finances is really very basic.

On MMR and other sciences debates I outsource my thinking to people I trust, which is I'm afraid what absolutely everyone does with things they don't understand, whether they admit it or not. Otherwise we'd all have to acquire all of human knowledge before we made any decisions at all.

To understand politics (which I mostly do, and people have outsourced some of their thinking to me in the past) you need to understand (a) bullshit and (b) economics, which isn't the same thing as maths at all.

MadBusLady Tue 14-May-13 13:24:34

Saying all that, I'd certainly like to be confident enough to teach numeracy if I had DC, I imagine others would too. Do you have any suggestions on how to approach it?

MadBusLady Tue 14-May-13 13:26:58

Actually thinking about the politics one, you need to understand how parliament works, how the legislative process works, how think tanks and lobby groups work and what Westminster culture is like far, far more than you need to understand economics. I see a lot of discussions of politics between very intelligent people founder for lack of this knowledge.

DSs school certainly never attempted to explain their maths methods to us parents. We got an introductory meeting on reading practice and how they could/should practice their spellings, but that was it. Perhaps they think it would take too long to explain the methods to parents, specially because they will all be reaching that stage at different times?

littleducks Tue 14-May-13 13:31:56

I think the reason I was so concerned about reading was that to me it becomes a skill to access the rest of the curriculum. Ds is in reception he is learning to read (and is apparently learning through play). DD is in yr 2, she has almost finished the scheme and reads books of her own choosing for pleasure at home. She is now reading to learn, both in school in a formal way and all about the world stuff from the books she reads at home.

HesterShaw Tue 14-May-13 13:33:06

This does frustrate me about maths, especially amongst grown, otherwise intelligent adults. The media doesn't help - whenever maths is mentioned on, for example, a TV show, the presenter boasts about how maths is a total MYSTERY to him/her, and that anyone who is good at maths must be a bit bloody brainy. Where did this come from? People wouldn't laugh and joke about being awful at reading and writing.

I find being numerate helps my everyday life enormously.

haggisaggis Tue 14-May-13 13:33:17

Our school will not send home maths homework in case teh parents teack kids the wrong methods. I do agree gthey do not put teh same ephasis on maths. dd is dyslexic and dyscalculic. They have put alot of effort into gettting her reading up to a good level. Maths - not so much. (obviously we work at home too but need school to back this up)

VenusRising Tue 14-May-13 13:33:24

I agree the level of competence of numeracy is low.
No journalist I've ever read seems to have a good handle on statistics - but maybe accuracy is not what the press is there for nowadays.

I'm not in the UK and have to say that the literacy levels / colour coded books aren't taught here in Ireland.

Children are regularly tested on maths though, from 4 years, and on basic arithmetic to concepts.

I would say that early childhood literacy is a particularly UK, or even dare I say, mumsnet obsession grin, whereas children where I'm from only start to read when they're seven, and don't have the colour coded system, but they do a LOT of conceptual maths play before that.

Smartieaddict Tue 14-May-13 13:35:32

This isn't something I'd thought about before, but now you mention it there just doesn't seem to be the emphasis on maths that there is on reading, in Reception at least.

I have a DS in Reception. I can tell you exactly what he has learned as far as reading and writing is concerned. He has a book, which is filled in by the school with every new sound he learns, and a reading record, filled in by us at home, and the school. We have been encouraged by the school, to read with him every day, and there have been phonics workshops, so the parents understand how the children are learning.

I have absolutely no idea what maths he does, or how it is taught. He was given a password for the Mathletics website when he started school, and he goes on that once a week or so at home, but that is it really. I am sure they are learning some maths at school, but it certainly seems to take second place to literacy, and no home input seems to be required.

Are there maths levels comparable to the reading levels you hear so much about?

We are using Collins mental maths to support Y1 DS1 at home. Agree that teaching methods seem to have changed and parents can cause more confusion than they solve, but then I never learned to read with phonics.

TeenAndTween Tue 14-May-13 13:40:49

I agree that the maths you need for day-to-day life is very basic. To be honest if someone has a good grasp of primary maths that is probably sufficient.
After all, you almost only need to do percentages (for the sales and interest rates), areas (for painting walls), and ratios (for scaling recipes). Also of course adding (income) and subtractibg (expenditure).

MMR - yes outsource to people you trust, but so many people somehow seemed to trust the wrong person .... perhaps if they had had a better understanding of things they wouldn't have done so.
Politics - yes of course there is loads more to it than basic maths. But there are so many statistics bandied around by parties that if you can't look critically at them it is easy to get swept away by rhetoric.

I haven't really got any answers to my own questions. My DD is in y3 and it is only this year, having received maths homework for the first time, that I have a good understanding of what her teacher thinks she should be able to do.
I know the 'modern methods'. I know number lines, and chunking, and matrix multiplication etc. but what I didn't know was what the school was doing at any time, and therefore what to be reinforcing at home...

VenusRising Tue 14-May-13 13:40:50

I agree the level of competence of numeracy is low.
No journalist I've ever read seems to have a good handle on statistics - but maybe accuracy is not what the press is there for nowadays.

I'm not in the UK and have to say that the literacy levels / colour coded books aren't taught here in Ireland.

Children are regularly tested on maths though, from 4 years, and on basic arithmetic to concepts.

I would say that early childhood literacy is a particularly UK, or even dare I say, mumsnet obsession grin, whereas children where I'm from only seriously start to read when they're seven, and we don't have the hoop jumping colour coded system, so no one is marked down, but they do a LOT of conceptual maths and other play before that.

I think it's better, not to concentrate so much on reading, and get hung up on which level the kids are on.
i think it better to develop their brains for conceptual thinking. Reading doesn't take long to learn at seven.

learnandsay Tue 14-May-13 13:42:46

Good point. If there are no levels then how could parents compete on mumsnet about maths even if they wanted to?

I think we really let lots of our children down in this country when it comes to maths. I don't know if its because (generalising wildly) many primary teachers tend to be more on the arts side or because we've got stuck in a rut of not caring enough about it. It's the key to so many subjects in secondary.

Primary kids often miss out on basic number skills - they quite often just dont develop a sense of number and without those basic building stones, the rest of maths becomes increasingly impossible.

learnandsay's headteacher says it all really. Just as most parents can count, so they can read. What a nonsensical argument. Number skills is not counting.

Zipitydooda Tue 14-May-13 14:00:08

The school's focus is all on reading not maths.
My 8yr old got maths homework in Reception; collaborative things to do at home like weigh objects. My 5 yr old gets none and teachers brush over maths when I question it.
My 8 yr old gets a list of spelling to learn each week, why not a list of times tables too?
I know as a parent I can (and do try) to do these things off my own bat but it being given as homework from school is motivating for the children. My 5 yr old is v reluctant to do such tasks and school supporting my activities would be beneficial.

fuzzpig Tue 14-May-13 14:02:06

Reading is necessary to access a lot of other subjects I guess, eg my 5yo can do a lot more mathsy workbook type things because she can read the questions independently, sometimes she chooses non-fiction for her school reading books and this has really increased her interest in science/history because SHE can find out stuff for herself.

I love maths and I agree there is much less focus. We were invited to well-attended phonics sessions at school but despite my suggestion of numeracy sessions (I would like to know more about how they teach it) they haven't happened due to lack of interest.

When DD started the school was appealing for parent volunteers to do reading. I said actually I'd really love to help with numeracy if that's ok, they practically bit my hand off and apparently the teachers were fighting over which class 'got' me grin I ended up doing Numicon activities with a few from each yr1 class who were struggling, it was a great experience.

lynniep Tue 14-May-13 14:22:29

We care about maths. Far more so in fact than literacy - possibly because DS1 school put more emphasis on reading and writing. DH and I both have maths backgrounds - he is now an accountant and I'm in software. I consider it extremely important, and he does extra maths on home as the stuff he brings home from school is very simple.
I think its fair to say thought that the school sneaks in maths when the children don't know about it - DS1 comes home and says he hasn't done any counting, when in fact he may well have done but just wasnt aware that thats what was going on ;)

BabiesAreLikeBuses Tue 14-May-13 14:28:39

Think the drive to get them reading is stronger earlier on. Where i teach (upper ks2) kids are tested half termly in reading, writing and maths so parents can compare levels (if they have nothing better to do!) And it's not true at my school that more staff are arts background - my strengths and interests are maths and science (and i ask help from others to make my displays look more artistic ;-))
I also think there is more uniformity in the way numeracy taught from one school to another because of a lack of book banding!!

TeenAndTween Tue 14-May-13 14:39:58

Do you think the methods issue is about the progression in maths that is required for understanding which just isn't there for reading?

e.g. a child learns to read the word clown: c.l.ow.n using phonics. That is the method taught at 5 and it is still the method taught at 11.

But a child learns to add say 16+5, first by physical objects, then a number line, and then column addition. If a parent attempts to teach column addition before number lines have been understood the child can get the answer but doesn't understand why?

I'm coming round to thinking there should be colour banded prompt sheets for parents saying 'if you want to do maths at home, please consider doing this type of thing ...'. (5-10mins per day). So not homework, but optional, (in the same way that reading at home is optional). Maybe starting at y1. General background maths competency, not paper and pencil strategies. Would that be helpful? Or just yet another way that 'mumsnet' children will get ahead of others?

TeenAndTween Tue 14-May-13 14:43:05

Oh I agree with lynniep, schools do sneak in maths so the children don't notice.
In yR our school counts up packed lunches v school dinners, looks at the difference between them etc. Also throughout infants loads of board games which are just maths in disguise.

meglet Tue 14-May-13 15:06:18

I'm care about how well the DC's do in maths. We practice it at home and I explain all the different ways we use numbers in real life.

MomOfTomStubby Tue 14-May-13 15:44:53

All of use use literacy skills every day of our lives if only to read the instructions on the tin smile

Maths is different. Sure you need to be able to count out coins when shopping but how any of us really use serious maths in our daily lives? Is it therefore that surprising that we don't attach that much importance to math skills?

learnandsay Tue 14-May-13 15:51:49

You don't even need to count out coins when shopping any more. I don't know how useful multiplying mixed fractions, algebra and trigonometry have been for you, but they haven't helped me much lately. I suppose you'd use a bit of geometry if you're a carpet fitter. But I'm not a carpet fitter.

MomOfTomStubby Tue 14-May-13 16:02:40

For tips I always make it 10%. Move decimal place one space over et voila. It got a bit complicated when we went to the USA though. There you are supposed to tip 15% to 17%. 10% of bill, halve it and add it onto the 10% gives you 15%. Easy peasy.

randgirl Tue 14-May-13 16:11:16

Ooh im so glad to read this post as this is something that has been on my mind a little while. Im not in the UK so the schooling is most likely a bit different. But when some family were over recently from the UK they said that the times tables are being brought back into the curriculum again now, as they were not being taught in the schools previously.. Is this true? I cannot comprehend why tables will have been taken out of the curriculum, as imo they are the building blocks of being able to do any maths.

Reading and maths are the two subjects prioritised here. Every day they have reading and maths homework from the very first day of school. Now that ds is in high school they do have homework but not every single day like dd who is still in primary school. Im not so popular at times wink, as an extra mural my dc go to Kumon maths as well twice a week. They do a Kumon book every single day including holidays and weekends....

But, ultimately it is all for a reason. Ds is 100% certain that he will be doing BSc when he goes to university (he is 14 now). Our grades at school do differ from UK's but the year he is 16 he can choose his subjects, BUT if he did not obtain a minimum of 70% in maths and science in the previous year, he is unable to pick those two subjects for the next two years. If he doesnt have maths and science then, he cannot proceed with BSc degree.

If the pupils do not pass Maths or English or Secondary Language, they do not progress to the following year, and have to repeat the year again.

I do understand that reading is crucial, if the reading is poor then the child could misread an exam question etc- so i think they are equally important.

Alibabaandthe40nappies Tue 14-May-13 16:29:13

DS1 is in reception and his numeracy is very good. They do quite a bit of maths with them, lots of which the children don't even realise they are doing.

I do think reading is so important at this stage though, because until children can read then they are totally dependant on an adult helping them with everything. Once they can read then they can begin to learn independently.

Our school send Maths info home at the beginning of each half term with some ideas for doing work at home. Most of it at the moment centers around getting children familiar with the terminology of maths and numeracy, which I imagine helps a great deal when it comes to classroom work.
We also get one maths thing to work on with them after each parents evening, which is targeted to the individual child.

HesterShaw Tue 14-May-13 17:01:58

No don't move the decimal point! It stays where it is - it's the digits which move <pedantic>

Decoy Tue 14-May-13 17:07:11

YANBU, I couldn't agree more.

I'd be pleased if they would include a maths book in the book bag, as well as reading books.

MadBusLady Tue 14-May-13 17:13:03

HesterShaw That could be quite alienating, you know. If someone has been taught a methodology to use basic maths in every day situations that they're confident with, I'd have thought you should applaud it, not insist on conceptual purity.

I only point this out because in a previous post you seemed to be saying how you hated the culture of people boasting about how crap they were at maths. You can't be an evangelist and a pedant, it doesn't work.

AlvinHallsGroupie Tue 14-May-13 17:15:39

to understand Homeopathy you have to understand numbers
im not sure I follow ???

learnandsay Tue 14-May-13 17:26:47

Ratios in homoeopathic remedies, maybe.

sittinginthesun Tue 14-May-13 17:50:34

My experience of my dcs' school is that maths and reading are given equal weight. We have equal amounts of homework for both and, if anything, there is far greater time spent differentiating work for each child in maths.

The only difference is that parents can visibly see the reading schemes in infants, and so compare. By the time they are in juniors, most have finished the schemes anyway, and the competitive parenting re: reading stops.

Decoy Tue 14-May-13 18:05:06

Maths is valuable for keeping options open later on. If maths skills are weak, then physics will be difficult too, for example.

Wishiwasanheiress Tue 14-May-13 18:10:32

I was taught maths really badly. I am not looking forward to any work on that. I'm confident in every other subject.

Incase you are wondering, how badly, I avoid maths at every opp. I'm not even sure I know xtables.

I'd blush but I'm so past it I can't be bothered. Dad will do maths ill do every other subject. I will be boring them to tears in every way including maths (but without it being obvious!)

I absolutely agree, but I know I'm one of the number who fall into this.

Reading is my passion, and as such it's been second nature to me to read with both boys since their birth. Aside from books with numbers in, and counting things on a page, however, maths never really entered my head as something to think about.

And yes, I have The Fear where maths is concerned. In primary school we were taught to use our fingers for counting, and as such even basic maths is difficult for me because I've never got over that barrier. I scraped a C at GCSE purely because I had a tutor for a couple of hours prior to my exam, so everything was already "in my head" when I went into the exam.

We too have had literacy evenings and spellings evenings at DS's school, but no numeracy. We get reading books sent home, but no ideas of what to do with maths. I appreciate that for some people maths is second nature, but I have no idea where to start at home. I should research it more, but I think we should be able to get support from the schools too - particularly considering that, as far as I know, methods in teaching have changed so much since I left.

Growlithe Tue 14-May-13 18:30:17

Our Infant School have a 'Maths Library'. This sits alongside the reading library, so that when the child changes their library book (shared reader not reading practice book), they also get a maths board game to play. This is a laminated sheet with a game suitable for their age and ability.

The teacher that set this up is a maths consultant for the LEA, so I think we have been quite lucky that great importance has been placed on Maths in the school. She runs workshops for Year 1 parents which I haven't attended yet as DD is in Reception, but I think they show the kind of vocabulary they are using for Maths at school, and some of the techniques being taught.

Really, though, I think a child starting out at school needs more of a push for reading, since that is entirely a new skill to them. They have (mostly) been read to before school, whereas they are learning maths from the minute you sing '2 little dickie birds' to tem as babies.

My school did do a maths evening. It was really useful because the methods used in early primary differ so much from years ago. They explained the use of number lines and partitioning for addition and subtraction, both pre-column methods, and the grid method of multiplication, a pre-long multiplication method. Chunking is used for division. None of these methods were used when I was at school.

The methods seem long winded but they are breaking down the shorter methods (like column addition and subtraction, long multiplication and division) and giving the DC the understanding of how and why the shorter methods work, rather than just saying, 'use column addition, do it like this because I say so.'

pointythings Tue 14-May-13 18:41:44

DD1's previous school (middle school) held a maths workshop for parents when she was in Yr6, and DD2's school runs numeracy groups for parents so they can come in and find out what the DCs are working on. SO it does happen, but it should happen more often.

I was bad at maths at school in the sense that I failed my (Dutch) A-level, but have got much better in the years since - I'm confident that I can support the DDs through GCSEs quite easily and be able to help them access appropriate resources if they should choose to take Maths at A-level. I actually like maths a lot these days, and working in health research I'm pretty good at statistics.

mrz Tue 14-May-13 18:42:34

I don't think they don't care about maths but they may feel more confident supporting reading than maths.

sittinginthesun Tue 14-May-13 18:57:17

We have maths workshops for maths.

In reception, the children had little maths challenges (they took one out of the box and swapped it when it was done). Things like, working out how the house numbers worked in your road. Counting how many different colour cars you saw on the way to school.

Mind you, my dcs are into maths - my youngest in particular. As preschoolers they would ask to play a board game as often as they asked for a story. I think board games are the equivalent of bedtimes stories so far as maths goes.

MissBetseyTrotwood Tue 14-May-13 19:44:03

My DSs love Reading Eggs.

Just saw they've started 'Maths Seeds' now.

TeenAndTween Tue 14-May-13 20:33:33

I'm back.
Someone above wrote to understand Homeopathy you have to understand numbers. I'm not sure I follow ???

OK, that comment was a bit tongue in cheek.
I guess what I really meant was
to understand what a load of rubbish homeopathy is, it is helpful to understand concepts such as placebo effect, regression to the mean etc for which an understanding of probability / statistics is useful

I really like Growlithe's comment about a maths library. Just think, if children were coming home with simple games and a 'maths record' even parents who aren't that confident with harder maths would maybe find time to have a go and then get their child to do mental maths etc.

mrz - I agree people are more confident supporting their child in reading. But isn't that partly because the expectations set up by schools are much clearer for reading than for maths?
I would have done more with my DD during infants if only I had known what they were doing at school that week, and/or what types of things they wanted me to focus on.

AlvinHallsGroupie Tue 14-May-13 20:40:41

Erm that was me !
agree that its rubbish though.
My DC had maths sheets every week alongside reading books.

fuzzpig Tue 14-May-13 22:09:02

Maths library sounds great!

I have had to stop my degree due to health, but had I carried on, being a primary teacher and then something like a 'maths consultant' as Growlithe mentioned would have pretty much been my dream job.

fengirl1 Tue 14-May-13 22:20:32

Interesting.... <rubs chin thoughtfully> Just looking through the few posts so far, it seems people feel very strongly about maths. It's the only 'academic' subject I've come across where parents feel able to say 'well I was never any good at it either!' I don't have the statistics to back it up, but I suspect many primary school teachers feel less secure in explaining some maths concepts than they do in other areas... Certainly there are a lot of people out there who don't really understand how basic maths works, but have learnt the 'recipe' or method - teachers definitely wouldn't think it was ok for children to learn to read in this way. <wanders off to ponder some more.....>

learnandsay Tue 14-May-13 22:31:17

No, there are lots of weird and wonderful ways of learning (or failing to learn) to read. Lots of people are happy to admit they know nothing of history, art, chemistry, computing you name it (Americans, geography, what's geography) It seems to me that literacy is one of the few subjects that everybody in the Western world agrees that it's embarrassing to admit no knowledge of.

learnandsay Tue 14-May-13 22:40:34

I don't know about everybody else, but the Sam Cooke song Wonderful World, where he admits to being a complete high school failure in a litany of subjects www.youtube.com/watch?v=xE6UrZMb71o would not be charming, but would be shameful if one of the lines was

donno how to read a reading book.

I think one can only take ignorance so far...

TheOriginalSteamingNit Tue 14-May-13 22:43:31

Ah, but the angst about secondaries is often couched in terms of maths. Oooh the top set maths group won't do maths GCSE at 13 in a comprehensive etc. There's a lot less fretting about English after primary.

TheBuskersDog Tue 14-May-13 22:53:07

I work in year 3, we send home maths homework every week, it will usually consolidate what the children have been working on that week. The children will know any method required, parents will only really be expected to help if the homework is e.g. a game which involves 2 players. The problem is that some parents try to 'teach' their children different methods and end up confusing the child.

Our children all have termly targets which they know and which are also sent home,could be to learn certain times tables or doubles/halves up to 10/20/50 or number bonds for example.

Ilikethebreeze Tue 14-May-13 22:53:35

Maths has changed, reading hasnt.
I love maths, but even I gave up trying to teach mine long division, as they were taught differently.
Now multiplication has changed, but is changing again.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Tue 14-May-13 22:55:03

My girls faces when I try to do long division..... confused

Ilikethebreeze Tue 14-May-13 23:04:22


piprabbit Tue 14-May-13 23:17:26

With reading, I help my children read their books in a vaguely phonics way which would probably have some people turning in their graves and I provide them with lots of genuinely enjoyable books to read and share at home. I feel confident in what I am doing.

When maths homework comes home, there is never any information for parents on the techniques that their children are meant to be using to complete the homework. I can do the homework. I can teach my children how to do the homework using the concepts and ideas that I've been using all my life but I am not confident that I am using the right techniques.

What I have come to realise over the last couple of years is that homework at my DCs school does not seem to be marked, nor do they get any feedback on how they have done. So, I now feel free to help them in anyway I please because the homework is clearly of no value to the school, but I can choose to make the experience of doing the homework a hopefully fun and positive learning experience. Realising that the school isn't judging DD for working the 'wrong' way when I've been helping her, is very liberating.

learnandsay Tue 14-May-13 23:36:41

My children are too young for them to have encountered conflicts in maths methodology. But if I show my daughters something which is likely to have lots of methods I'll try and make sure I can do it it more than one way at the time. With a bit of luck it'll show them that there are lots of ways to reach the "right" answer.

Ilikethebreeze Tue 14-May-13 23:44:36

That is likely to confuse them learnandsay. The general rule of thumb used to be, I expect it still is, that it is best to help them in exactly the way that they are taught at school.

Tiggles Wed 15-May-13 10:19:29

I am as interested in my DSs maths development as I am their reading/writing development, but I don't tend to post about either on here, as I don't see the need to ask how to extend them further in either subject, they are chugging zooming along at their own speeds, learning loads and I feel competent to help them with out asking for help. The school is doing a good job in teaching them at their appropriate levels and I just back that up with the mental arithmetic questions, or listening to them read.

crazeelaydee Wed 15-May-13 10:32:34

IME Pressure only ever seems to be put on Literacy! It's all about the writing, and the reading has a large part to play in the writing. Every time I have spoken to my Ds's CT's through the years Ds's literacy has always been the 'be all and end all', the fact that he was were he should be for maths or even when he was way below average this was always swept under the carpet.

iseenodust Wed 15-May-13 10:36:19

DS has been at two state primaries. Both have held numeracy for parents sessions to explain 'new fangled approaches'.

Our HT reiterates reading, telling the time and times tables as something parents can help with at home every single term.

DS is in yr4 and homework tends to alternate between numeracy and literacy, usually worksheets. A maths game is probably homework once a month. The last one was aimed at understanding weights eg. 1/4 kg is less / more than 200g. Jolly useful for food shopping.

MrsMelons Wed 15-May-13 12:50:54

I think the emphasis is on reading etc at a young age as without being able to read, everything else is very difficult. Also, the children come home with a reading book every day. As they go through the years I think this emphasis changes.

I love Maths so I do try to encourage the DCs with it but they would rather read to me each night than do maths questions.

I don't believe Maths is secondary to literacy at the DCs school and I think as many people I know struggle with English as much as basic Maths.

TeenAndTween Wed 15-May-13 13:11:06

I do accept that literacy is the gateway to other subjects.
My elder DD (y9) cannot always show off her knowledge well for subjects such as history as she struggles to add detail in her writing, and order her thoughts well. This is an ongoing project for her/us.
So literacy affects every academic subject at secondary, whereas maths really only impacts maths, science and sometimes geography.

However, I still feel uneasy that at primary we have reading records all the way through, which both parents/child and school are expected to look use, and yet nothing nearly so regular/structured for maths, (except maybe times tables in y3/4).

learnandsay Wed 15-May-13 13:31:33

Personally I think it's a social issue. The inner workings of some subjects like science are obscure to most people and yet scientists hold a privileged position in Western society. Mathematicians don't. (Writers do too, but it's artificial and heavily promoted.) Whereas, on the other hand, the writing which genuinely affects us on a daily basis is all around us.

If we wanted maths to be more evident to people every day we could either heavily promote it, as we do with writing, have a Costa Maths prize and a BBC Meet the Number Cruncher, weekly interview, or we could make mathematical jobs and procedures evident, The Royal Chelsea Maths Show, and Ascot Ladies Maths Day,

but we don't.

DS1 (Y1) enjoys being let loose on BBC Bitesize!

Is 'chunking' what we used to call 'short division'? According to Wikipedia, number bonds have been in use since the 60s.

ijustwant8hours Wed 15-May-13 13:55:15

I thnk there is confusion about what maths is. Maths is problem solving - we all do that all the time. It uses logical methods and is vital for encouraging logical thought. So you can't remember how to calculate the length of a hypotenuse - so what. What is more important is whether given a method and a problem you can put the two together.

I have heard teachers in ds's school say that they can't do maths because their brain doesn't work that way - personally I think they shouldn't be teaching. We do a lot of maths at home to make up for it!

I help my dc with maths at home, their school have started using mymaths.com which is a pile of junk imo, but there you are.

What makes me cross (as someone with a level maths and a degree partly in economics) is that when they are comfortable with the concept of matrix multiplication (for example) they are not then shown the computationally much faster and more accurate column method.

This seems to be effectively saying to children 'ah, but that way is hard and you cannot understand it, you must do this less efficient method' and that is fucking stupid.

PastSellByDate Wed 15-May-13 14:06:04

All sorts of interesting points.

Do mathematicians get less respect than scientists? Depends who you are asking? But also depends on who is speaking. Part of the problem with mathematicians is that often what they are discussing is impenetrable - the math they work with day to day is far and away beyond 'mainstream' ability in student/ adult population.

But government funding in Higher Education is related to STEM - and very definitely includes mathematics. This is a bit beyond primary level - but there is a uk website about careers using mathematics (starts addressing 11 year olds and up: www.mathscareers.org.uk/.

Now in terms of being a Mum on Mumsnet and caring - trust me (and I think many hear will agree) I regularly try my best to explain the curriculum, give feedback and help at various common hurdles. Multiplication is a popular topic (at the moment) but we've had long discussions about how to help with carrying over numbers in addition/ subtraction, problems with adding/ subtracting big numbers and 'the column method'. People have also asked about telling times and game suggestions. There also was a great 'tricky problem' posted a while back - which involved closing doors in a certain way 1000 times and then working out which doors were open and why. Took me a while to work out with DD - but we really enjoyed ourselves.

Mumsnet also put me on to Woodland Junior School mathszone: resources.woodlands-junior.kent.sch.uk/maths/, as well as many other fab resources. It was also a joy to be pointed in the direct of NRICH Math from Mumsnet: nrich.maths.org/frontpage - fabulous programme and all sorts of brain teasing/ maths exploration work to play with.

Communication from schools could be better. Our schools official curriculum - as published on their website - for maths is TERM 1 - A1 - C1, Term 2 - A2 - C2 and Term 3 - A3 - C3. Trying to ask them about more work/ practice ideas/ workbook recommendations led to a stream of abuse (I presumed I must have asked in a rude way, but DH was so offended by the abuse he received when he attempted similar to try and help our DD1 - he was so offended that he refused to deal with 'that woman' for the rest of the school year.)

Now the point many raise here and which I do totally agree with is that without core maths skills (calculation skills, initial geometry understanding [things like shapes (2D/3D)/ area/ perimeter and regular problem solving work] - children will really struggle to fully engage with science and maths curriculum in senior school.

Is maths important? - yes. Should parents get more directly involved? Yes. But I suspect - poor communication from school, personal uncertainty/ insecurity of maths skills/ appropriate techniques on the part of parents and frankly unapproachable teaching professionals all corroborate to put maths on the back burner, which is a crying shame!

maillotjaune Wed 15-May-13 14:06:26

My sons' school seems to focus more on literacy in Infants, although obviously they are doing some maths - but in Juniors, maths is a big deal.

Badges for times tables and division tests, which you can lose on re-testing, MyMaths homework every week so parents can see what and how their children are doing if they want, maths week where they use maths to solve problems...

The Head in Juniors still teaches Y6 maths regularly and this really makes a difference I think. Obviously she can read and write as well, so literacy doesn't suffer!

maillotjaune Wed 15-May-13 14:10:26

Scone I was typing slowly so hadn't seen your comment - my DSs have been shown column multiplication after grid method. I don't know what's in the curriculum, but again it is probably to do with how comfortable the teacher is with the material.

Miggsie Wed 15-May-13 14:17:16

Maths is important - stats is very important if you are trying to work out the best school for your child or any rubbish the government is going on about - you need to understandwhat numbers are beign compared with what and the context, otherwise these things are meaningless.

I would also say maths is incredibly important for personal finances. DH has a member of staff who bought a car and a house but totally omited to think about the ongoing running costs of them compared to their salary. He spends more on petrol a month than we do on all our bills combined - this lack of basic numerical thinking is one of the reasons so many people are in debt.

DH is annoying in that he can glance at a supermarket bill and immediately spot a mistake.
I have witnessed a scene in Starbucks where the cashier asked a woman to pay £400 for a coffee and a cake. She didn't seem to think this was an issue - the till otld her it was £400 and that is what she kept repeating to the customer (who didn't pa) but they had to get the manager in. Basic maths should have toldthe cashier tat £2 plus £2 is not £400!!!!!

Startail Wed 15-May-13 14:23:36

Between YR andY5 I could count on the figures of one hand how may pieces of maths have come home for my two.

Until SATs revision HW was total literacy based, reading, spellings and written projects. Except for learning tables almost nothing maths based at all.

Very frustrating as DD1 is dyslexic and literacy HW was always a depressing struggle as are tables.

Conversely we had a lovely chatty fun time the TWICE a maths sheet came home. I'm sorry to shout, but that really is what we got two maths sheets alternating weeks with English sheets before the teacher gave up.

Either people didn't do them or she hated marking them I don't know.

blueberryupsidedown Wed 15-May-13 14:25:03

Both Dss good at maths at school, but when I ask them 'what did you do in numeracy today' they'll say something like 'we didn't do numeracy today mum, we learned about quarters'. Or 'we measured stuff in the classroom with rulers and figured out which desk was the biggest and which desk was the smallest'. Kids don't see it as numeracy (yet). They are in y1 and y2 and I am always suprised how little emphasis is spent on maths homework and reviews during parents' evenings. We do a lot of maths at home, mostly games, board games such as Numbers Up, Pole Position, Deadly 60 board game, Nubbles, or play with cuisenair rods or Numicons.

MadeOfStarDust Wed 15-May-13 15:01:31

My girls have had maths homework every week since Y1 - reception was devoted to phonics and reading and counting to 10....

In Y1 they brought home a list of 10 number "facts" to learn starting with maybe a few number bonds to 5 (4+1 =5, 4+?=5) and "+ means to add them up" they needed to be able to do simple reading before these were given out.They were meant to look at them daily and learn them just like the word lists.

They were also given maths weekly "homework" e.g. weighing things like a toothbrush and a litre of milk/ dividing a tube of smarties into 2 "fair" piles

In Y2 they progressed to number games and more homework.

Maths has always been structured with learning lists/sheets just like literacy at our school - I did not think it was different elsewhere.... learn something new every day....

learnandsay Wed 15-May-13 15:40:42

On the radio:

Customer: Please could I exchange this ten pound note for five pound notes?

Cashier: Certainly, sir. How many would you like?

Ilikethebreeze Wed 15-May-13 15:46:32

I can see that there is going to be further problems as regards jobs that require maths.
It has much helped mine that they can do maths, while others struggle.
They are able to do even aspects of jobs that others cannot do.

I do think that Maths is the 2nd most important subject at school.

BabiesAreLikeBuses Wed 15-May-13 20:36:32

We teach maths for 75 mins a day, we set homework every week which is always marked, we have targets every half term... I work in ks2 it's def the same down to y2 at school. Am surprised others get away without maths homework!! And once grid muktiplication done we do vertical expanded then vertical compact NOT based on the teacher's whim but on the progression through the 4 calculations sheets that we have. These are sent out to parents so they know what method their child is on and what next. We've done this for years am surprised it's not standard... Lots of our kids love maths and it's definitely cool to be in the top set...

Hulababy Wed 15-May-13 20:41:01

We do the same amount of Numeracy lessons as we do Literacy lessons - in Y2; did same last year in Y1 too.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 ]]

AnnIonicIsoTronic Thu 16-May-13 08:52:46
AnnIonicIsoTronic Thu 16-May-13 08:53:07
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.

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 09:29:02

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.

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.

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!

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 21:16:35

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

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!

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