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Urgent entrance test help needed (not public school)

(36 Posts)
LaLaLaLayla Tue 09-Aug-11 04:40:38

Hi everyone, we live in Dubai where the schools are very over-subscribed. Our son has an interview on Monday; he will also have an entrance test. There are 60 children going for one place, so not only do I have to ensure that he is as charming as he can possibly be, but I also need to ensure that he is up to speed academically.

For Maths, he can add up quite large numbers, but always uses either a number line, counters or rods & cubes. It is possible that he may have to use his fingers for the test. How do you add up 3 + 8 on your fingers, for instance? Can anybody advise?

His reading is fine, but what should I get him to practice in terms of writing?

Also, if anybody has any advice for us at all, I would be really grateful. I am desperate to get my son into school.



mnistooaddictive Tue 09-Aug-11 04:49:17

3+8. 8 in my head (bigger number) 3 fingers , count up. I would say number lines are hive too.

LaLaLaLayla Tue 09-Aug-11 05:00:44

That sounds good! Do you think a 6 year old would be able to do that?

LaLaLaLayla Tue 09-Aug-11 06:19:48

[shameless bump]

mnistooaddictive Tue 09-Aug-11 08:08:25

My 4 year old can do it with 2 single digit numbers. Numbers are her thing though

LaLaLaLayla Tue 09-Aug-11 08:25:12

What does she do when the answer is +10? We only have 10 fingers, so I don't know which method to teach him. Thanks.

Ladymuck Tue 09-Aug-11 09:22:50

Rather than panicing, stand back and look at the big picture. No sane school tries to academically test 60 6 year olds for a single school place. It is a hugely inefficient waste of time. Yes, you test lots of children when you have lots of places available, but not a single one. It doesn't make good business sense (if you reject 59 children at 6 after testing, then you end up losing their potential custom forever - you could test 10, and still have 50 on the waitlist for the next place).

Have you spoken to the school and asked what they are looking for? I suspect that they are more interested in parents who are supportive of their aims, and I would hope that these would not include having parents teaching maths "methods".

mrz Tue 09-Aug-11 09:38:45

4 year olds in reception are taught the counting on method 8+3... say 8 (3 more) 9,10,11

mrz Tue 09-Aug-11 09:42:51

six year olds in my class are working on
456 + 278 =
312 - 149 =
45 x 5 =
73 4/ 5 =
30 x 80 =
type calculations

teacherwith2kids Tue 09-Aug-11 10:59:05

Echo mrz in saying that at age 6 (so presumably going into the equivalent of English Year 2?) then single digit + single digit number addition, especially if the child requires manipulatives such as blocks, would be quite a low expectation if the school is selective.

DS is very mathematically able, and could add and subtract 2 and 3 digit numbers mentally before he started school at 4.5, and perform calculations involving negative numbers at 5 (so if the selction is as stringent as you suggest, then he was probably at your 1 in 60 type level). DD is less mathematically able, but could certainly carry out the calculations Mrz suggests mentally or using pencil and paper methods as appropriate at 6.

However it would obviously depend on the normal school starting age - though certainly when we were there as children the schools were very much 'English model', starting in the year the child turns 5.

mummytime Tue 09-Aug-11 12:10:52

teacherwith2kids you seem to have no idea of what normal kids can do at 5/6. As the parent of a child designated as gifted in Maths (and another who is on target to get A* at GCSE but isn't gifted) you seem to massively over estimate what kids can do at 5/6. Mrz is far more reasonable.
Admittedly I would never put my kids in for a test where there were 60 kids after one place, I'd give up and home educate, its too much pressure. (I also wouldn't want to be in Dubai, but that is my prejudice.)

teacherwith2kids Tue 09-Aug-11 12:15:09

Mummy, as a teacher I have a very good idea of what normal kids can do at 5/6.

And as a teacher and a mum, I also have a very good idea of what very able children can do at 5/6.

As I say, my 'normally able' child could do mrz's list at 6, and agree that that is 'reasonable' for a 'normally able' child at that age. My 'exeptionally able' DS could do more. In a very competitive scenario such as the OP suggests, I would expect that something closer to the 'exceptionally able' might get the 1 in 60 place UNLESS school starting ages are higher in Dubai.

teacherwith2kids Tue 09-Aug-11 12:20:39

I should add that as Year 3 teacher, the least able 7 year old SEN children in my class can do as the OP suggests her son can do - add e.g. 8 + 3 using blocks or counting on, the slightly more able SEN children know number bonds and can do such calculations instantly mentally and can use manipulatives to add and subtract 2 digit numbers.

What I am saying is that a non-SEN child a year younger might be expected to do rather more than add single digit numbers using manipulatives to help them.

LaLaLaLayla Tue 09-Aug-11 13:40:48

Admittedly I would never put my kids in for a test where there were 60 kids after one place, I'd give up and home educate, its too much pressure.

I have been homeschooling, but the Ministry do not recognise HS so when your child does eventually go to school, they have to rejoin where they left off. For instance, my son left school a year ago at the end of K2. He has been HS'd for the past year, so now instead of going into Year 2, he will have to go into Year 1. If I HS'd him for 3 years, he would still have to go into Year 1.

This is the reason we have decided to send him back to school. If you live in Dubai you will understand.

teacherwith2kids Tue 09-Aug-11 13:57:22

Ouch! Which school?

Many, many years ago I attended Dubai English Speaking School, which I gather now is highly desirable but at the time was just 'the school which taught in English' and my dad was involved with Miss Miles and the Sheikh in finding land for the Jumeirah ESS...

LaLaLaLayla Tue 09-Aug-11 14:01:32

Not a particularly popular one teacherwith2kids, there is just such a shortage of places. To give you an example, we visited ASD (American School Dubai) and in spite of wanting fees in advance (ie now) of AED 100,000, they had over 70 on their Wait List.

Does your dad have any school wasta?

teacherwith2kids Tue 09-Aug-11 14:04:23

Afraid we left Dubai oooh, almost 35 years ago now.... (shows age emoticon)

I know a family where I live now where the mum + daughter choose to move back to live in Endland while dad remains in Dubai, simply because they couldn't find any kind of school place for her. It's really hard.

LaLaLaLayla Tue 09-Aug-11 15:32:38

Yes, it's hard. Which is why my son has to sail through this exam on Monday.

I just need to know what method to teach him to add up, where the answer is >10. Can you help TeacherMommy? He uses a number line or counters at home, but I think he may need to use his fingers in the exam. But we only have 10 fingers, so I am not sure how they do it?

teacherwith2kids Tue 09-Aug-11 16:29:59

If he's adding a single digit number to a larger number, put the bigger number in his head. Use his fingers to 'count on' the single digit number.

e.g. 18 + 6. Put 18 in his head. Count on 6 more fingers, raising or lowering one as each number is counted
19 (finger 1), 20 (finger 2), 21 (finger 3), 22 (finger 4), 23 (finger 5), 24 (finger 6).

This is the 'counting on' method rather than the 'counting all' method (pooling two groups and counting them all) which it sounds as if he has been using up till now

Or, if he is used to prepared number lines, he can draw his own blank one:
Draw a line, put the larger number on it:


Draw 6 '1 jumps', counting as he jumps or after he is sure that he has drawn 6, so that he gets to the right total in his head. If he needs the security, he can write the number after every jump.

Or, if he knows how many it is to the next multiple of 10 he can simplify that:
18 plus 2 (draw jump of 2) equals 20. That leaves me with 6-2 = 4 left to jump, so that must be 24.

Nothing to stop him drawing his usual counters or rods and cubes either.

If the number to be added is also greater than 10, then the blank number line method will still work OR you can teach him to partition the numbers so that he adds 10 first, then adds the remaining units.

The calculation policies linked to from this page:,index

are quite useful in illustrating what I mean (there used to be an excellent 'progression in addition' paper on the National Strategies site but it has been archived and I can't find it)

LaLaLaLayla Tue 09-Aug-11 16:48:35

*If he's adding a single digit number to a larger number, put the bigger number in his head. Use his fingers to 'count on' the single digit number.

e.g. 18 + 6. Put 18 in his head. Count on 6 more fingers, raising or lowering one as each number is counted
19 (finger 1), 20 (finger 2), 21 (finger 3), 22 (finger 4), 23 (finger 5), 24 (finger 6).*

Perfect! Thank you smile

LaLaLaLayla Wed 10-Aug-11 05:05:29

And do you have any tips for doing subtraction using your fingers? Thanks!

foxinsocks Wed 10-Aug-11 06:37:21

Surely you need a back up plan here? Chances are, no matter how bright he is, you're not going to get this place with odds like 60 to 1?

Not meaning to be negative, just realistic?

mrz Wed 10-Aug-11 07:08:19

Subtraction is the reverse of addition

Put the biggest number in your head (say it) and count down using your fingers putting a finger down as you say the number.

17 in your head put up 9 fingers (say 17) 16,15,14 .... 8

In the UK children are expected to know pairs of numbers that add up to 1-20 and to know that subtraction is the inverse operation and to apply known addition facts
so knowing that 9+8 =17 means that 17-9=8

I'm afraid foxinsocks is right they are extremely high odds against getting the one place

LaLaLaLayla Wed 10-Aug-11 07:37:01

So what would you suggest as a back-up plan, foxinsocks?

exoticfruits Wed 10-Aug-11 07:45:30

With 60 applicants for one place you might as well just have a lottery! The chances are so slim that you might just as well send him along-it is unlikely that he will suddenly pick up enough in 5 days to beat 59 other DCs if he hasn't already got it. (especially as the other 59 will be doing the same). Good luck.

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