Maths help

(87 Posts)
mathsmum314 Fri 13-May-16 17:36:30

New to MN...

Son in year 9, very academic, loves maths. Last year he became bored in class, wasn't progressing. Teacher explained he was working at highest level but would give more extension work.

New GCSE, harder material, new grades 8+9, not allowed to do it early, additional maths unlikely etc It sat uneasy with me but didn't see any other options, trusted the teachers/school, and hoped the harder GCSE would be enough of a challenge.

Choices made and started GCSE material. My son wants to be either a mathematician or physicist, he loves both. On way to school today he looked at his timetable groaned and said "oh no I hate maths class". I can't let him spend another 2 years hating maths class and destroying his love of the subject.

For example, he spent all last week doing indices, and all this week doing standard form. He usually finishes the work within 5 minutes and gets extensions doing ... more indices and standard form. He might as well have spent two weeks practising his 2 times tables. What he really needs is to move into the sixth forms AS maths class but school says that's not feasible.

Any suggestions on what I can do, what I can realistically press the school to do, because its heart-breaking to see something my son loves being destroyed.

noblegiraffe Fri 13-May-16 17:44:59

What he really needs is to move into the sixth forms AS maths class

This would be a really bad idea for various reasons.

If your DS loves maths ask the school to get him on the UKMT mentoring scheme - he can work through their monthly problems when he has finished the classwork.

claraschu Fri 13-May-16 17:56:15

I have a son like this. What he needed was to do AS maths. Extension work and Mentoring schemes are ok, but they don't address the problem of being bored and turned off by the school maths classes. People who don't have children who are really really good at maths don't understand this, and that includes a lot of teachers.

Mu son was put off maths because of too many years of uninspiring and repetitive teaching. It was like putting a person who speaks French into a beginning French class, and expecting him/her to do lots of very simple homework; young children don't tolerate this well, even if they get a little bit of extension work in addition to what the rest of the class is doing.

My daughter has a boy in her school who is doing a maths A level in year 7 (small, very alternative, private school, sorry). He is learning and having fun. Some kids are just like that...

mathsmum314 Fri 13-May-16 17:56:57

Thanks Noble, I know its not sensible to move in an AS class, was trying to indicate what level he is actually at.

Can UKMT actually be done in the class regularly? He does massive amounts of stuff like this outside of school, NRICH is what he is in his bedroom doing right now. So really what your saying is instead of extension material I should press for something completely different?

claraschu Fri 13-May-16 17:58:26

Sorry OP I don't really have any advice, just a lot of sympathy. Schools in the UK are not set up to challenge children who have a great intuitive understanding of maths. The national curriculum is very restrictive for this kind of child.

mathsmum314 Fri 13-May-16 18:00:42

Yes claraschu you have described it quite well. A simple solution would be to give him an advanced maths text book and let him get on with it in the corner of the room but school wont do that for some reason. He is well behaved, works on his own quietly, wont need any teacher help so I don't understand why school is so against him doing different work.

mathsmum314 Fri 13-May-16 18:01:56

I have been round all the other state schools in the city but none of them offer anything more than one he is in.

claraschu Fri 13-May-16 18:05:46

It is crap, because when they are little, kids continue to want to learn outside of class, but from about age 13, they get too much homework, and their social life becomes very absorbing. My son started just being bored and put off. It was sad.

Schools are determined to keep people in the right year group for maths; often they only care that a child who is good at maths will get an A* on his GCSE, and don't see beyond that to the wasted enthusiasm and lost joy.

noblegiraffe Fri 13-May-16 18:07:39

People who don't have children who are really really good at maths don't understand this, and that includes a lot of teachers.

Actually I do understand this having taught exactly such a child who was sitting in A-level classes in their uniform alongside sixth formers. Socially it's not great, and when they're that good, maths A-level won't present much of a challenge either. Sitting A-level early and running out of secondary maths way before finishing secondary school causes problems with timetable get, teaching and uni entry.

The UKMT mentoring scheme is ideal, I'm presuming that a natural mathematician is doing well in the maths challenges. This is training material for the follow-on rounds. If they excel nationally they will be invited to maths training camps for international competitions.

The UKMT provides monthly problems with solutions for junior, intermediate and senior levels. They can also assign a university undergrad to mentor the student through the problems via email.

claraschu Fri 13-May-16 18:23:01

Hi Noble sorry to disagree, as I you are clearly vastly more knowledgeable than I am about maths teaching.

Can I just say that it is different to teach able children for a year or two and get a snapshot of their life than to be the parent of such a child, and watch them be gradually disenchanted. I really think the system fails them. If a child has an unusual aptitude for maths, it can be very harmful to them to go through the UK system.

They have to do a lot of work which is boring and obvious to them starting when they are very young. They are MUCH better at maths than the other children in the class, often better than the teacher. This is very off putting.

My son's teachers all thought he was doing wonderfully, that he was excited and eager; they didn't see the gradual process of him deciding that maths wasn't as interesting as he had thought.

titchy Fri 13-May-16 18:29:55

Unless they're going to go to university aged 16 putting them in for A level when their peers are going GCSE just shifts the problem. What do they then do at sixth form if they've already done A level?

mathsmum314 Fri 13-May-16 18:31:57

He does find the math challenges fun, sadly he was sick when they did it this year, got a copy and he did it later at home but wasn't admissible...

He has been allowed to move up a year group in another subject, caught up and overtook the year 10's pretty fast. He was also allowed out of school to do a computer engineering module at university, fitted in really well with the students and joined in with some of their social/weekend revision sessions.

Head of school is very supportive about doing something but it just doesn't filter down to concrete change in the class. I dont even blame the teacher, its like they are in a straight jacket.

claraschu Fri 13-May-16 18:32:54

In other countries, kids can take university level courses in maths. I think the UK educational system could think about what happens to very able maths students. It is really not that great.

noblegiraffe Fri 13-May-16 18:38:15

claraschu I don't want children to be bored and lose a love of maths, of course I don't, but maths is such a huge subject and the curriculum so narrow that I can't agree that merely accelerating a bright child through the curriculum is the solution to the problem, especially when it will cause other issues.

I've already mentioned the social aspect. However accepting the sixth formers are, the Y10 in their uniform will not be able to interact with them in the same way. Then there's also timetabling. It's highly unlikely that AS maths will run at exactly the same time as Y10 maths so the student will have to be taken out of other lessons to study with Y12, which can affect those subjects which have to be caught up and they then still have to attend Y10 maths and work independently.
Then there's sitting A-levels early and running out of secondary school maths before the end of Y13 which will not look good on university applications.

Then there's the problem that AS maths has got exactly the same indices questions as GCSE. It's not going to challenge a really bright student.

Then there's the point that finding Y9 maths easy doesn't mean that the student can simply skip Y10 and 11. There is the issue of a GCSE which needs to be sat, and I can't see from the OP that the DS has actually learned all the GCSE content, just that the pace of the class is slow.

mathsmum314 Fri 13-May-16 18:38:58

claraschu, yes its like you are saying. He does correct the teacher (and the teacher isn't stupid, I like him), isn't believed when he gets some answers right because the question was supposed to be to hard for anyone. He doesn't put his hand up anymore because teacher knows he is always right, which is fair but has hit his enthusiasm.

claraschu Fri 13-May-16 18:40:23

The reasons given for kids not to go ahead in maths is usually either it's not good socially or what to do when they don't fit the system (run out of classes). Socially, it isn't great to be 4 or 5 years ahead of the other kids in your maths class; you either dumb yourself down, or run the risk of looking obnoxious or geeky.

As for the inconvenience of having to teach school kids past A level, I think this is like any other SEN situation; the child is entitled to an education which is appropriate to him/her. Children with autism might have a TA; Children with dyslexia are entitled to extra time, a laptop, and a reader/scribe for exams.

I think being able to get 100% in a maths GCSE at age 10 is a comparable SN, and provision should be made for these kids.

mathsmum314 Fri 13-May-16 18:42:15

titchy, I agree with your comment. I am not talking about qualifications or exams. He could just sit in a corner and study the maths books he carries everywhere, no exams or teaching needed, he could then do the GCSE with his peer group without having his sole destroyed in class.

claraschu Fri 13-May-16 18:45:41

X post with you Noble, you sound very sympathetic, and I don't mean to be so in-your-face with my opinions.

This is just a very frustrating situation for parents, and most schools and teachers don't understand. My son is grown up now, and I am no longer involved, but I really feel for the OP, as the school system really doesn't do well enough for these unusual kids.

GeorgeTheThird Fri 13-May-16 18:45:48

My son is really good at maths and is finding A level a bit dull. He seems to find loads of interesting maths stuff online and also has a couple of good books recommended by the school.

Can your son start with stuff like the Alex Bellos books (Alex in numberland or something) and the Simpsons maths Secrets books? There's one about Fermats Last Theorem that's quite approachable too, I think.

noblegiraffe Fri 13-May-16 18:46:46

As for the inconvenience of having to teach school kids past A level

It's not about inconvenience. You cannot expect secondary teachers to be able to teach uni level maths. There are not even enough who can teach A-level. Besides, we were specifically told by a top university not to teach our student uni-level maths because then they'd be bored when they got to university hmm

noblegiraffe Fri 13-May-16 18:51:14

Has the teacher specifically said that your DS can't sit and study his maths book in lesson when he finishes early?

mathsmum314 Fri 13-May-16 18:55:43

noblegiraffe , I agree with what you have said, I am not suggesting merely accelerating a bright child through the curriculum is the solution to the problem.

I also agree he might not know all the curriculum, but he could nail down any gaps very fast in his own time.

Any exams and qualifications are really irrelevant, its hating the maths class that has worried me.

claraschu Fri 13-May-16 18:58:28

Sorry Noble again, I don't mean to be annoying. I am American, and found the British system to be a bit limiting to my son.

The whole attitude of the top university which told you "not to teach our student uni-level maths because then they'd be bored when they got to university" seems wrong to me. Surely in an ideal world kids should forge ahead, learning as much and as quickly as they want, and a top university should be eager to accommodate and encourage this.

There is plenty wrong with the US system, but when you get to university, you can take very advanced classes if you are ready for them.

Again, I really don't mean to be annoying..

OhYouBadBadKitten Fri 13-May-16 18:58:43

UKMT mentoring, their books etc is absolutely perfect for this situation. I can absolutely guarantee, that no matter how good your child is at maths, there is material available for them that will keep them occupied from ukmt.
Going forward with as maths and beyond early does them no favours - it doesn't encourage a deep understanding.

OhYouBadBadKitten Fri 13-May-16 19:01:49

ukmt book shop

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