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maths in schools

(159 Posts)
var123 Sun 25-Oct-15 07:56:55

I know this isn't a G&T thing specifically, but its come about because I've started working through a maths GCSE textbook with DS1 and I really don't fancy having to explain and justify that decision as I would have to on other parts of mumsnet.

So, I started teaching DS1 yesterday. The first thing we did was go through and mark what he already knows. He has learned some sophisticated stuff at school. However, he didn't know how to do long multiplication! He can do the grid method, but not the method that generations of children have learned.

Ditto long division.

So, the first thing I have to do with my highly able 13 year old is to teach him the stuff that I learned halfway through primary school

DullUserName Sun 25-Oct-15 14:37:20

Long division and multiplication were off the primary curriculum for many years. Chn were taught a number of methods, but it didn't matter what they used so long as thy got the right answer.

New primary curriculum now insists that grid and chunking will not get the marks in SATs, even if the answer is correct :-(. Only prescribed written methods will be accepted.

bruffin Sun 25-Oct-15 14:56:30

My ds has a gold senior UKMT and A at A level maths plus B further maths and now at uni doing a heavily maths based degree and still cant do long division. As Dullusername says, the method doesnt matter as long as they get the right answer.

madwomanbackintheattic Sun 25-Oct-15 15:03:28

Yep, they just don't do it that way any more. Still get the right answer though. grin Teaching him an alternative method is unnecessary if he is comfortable with the method he uses. And tbh, I have zero interest in learning the new method. So everyone in the house can get the answer, but we have two generations of folk who work it out differently.
It feels a bit weird that 'my' method has been superseded, but in the long run it isn't about quality of teaching or of a lack of knowledge, the methods have just changed.

So, we are obsolete. grin

noblegiraffe Sun 25-Oct-15 15:04:28

Barely any kids use the column method for long multiplication because it's a bit crap and they always forget to add the zeros. I don't personally like the grid method, but it at least conveys an understanding of what the calculation is actually doing. So your DS can actually do long multiplication, just not with the method you were taught. Kids are usually taught all the methods then pick their favourite.

Long division hasn't really been taught for ages. IMO that's what calculators were invented for.

However you'll be pleased to know that prescribed methods for both are now back on the primary curriculum.

var123 Sun 25-Oct-15 15:21:27

"you'll be pleased to know..." how do you infer that from my OP?

FWIW I think if I am going to teach DS1 GCSE maths, then I had better not leave anything out, in case something is important. Using the long multiplication method is in the the text book, and Ds1 didn't know it so I taught him it yesterday. Then, curious, I asked DS2 (age 11) about it this morning and he didn't know either, so I taught it to him too.
Now, if it comes up in the exam, they'll be able to do it. If it doesn't then the time used is no great loss as it only took about 10 minutes, plus another 10 of practice.

If it is necessary for the exam though, then I am wondering why it wasn't taught in Y4 or 5 when they were bored going over and over the times tables that they already knew back to front and inside out?

After school, I guess they will probably use their phones, or pc to calculate any basic sum, just like the rest of the world.

balletgirlmum Sun 25-Oct-15 15:23:56

Ds & Dd have been taught all three methods but are told to use the one that suits their learning style best.

So Ds uses the grid method & Ds uses the Chinese kite(?) method.

noblegiraffe Sun 25-Oct-15 15:35:13

I inferred that you would be pleased to know that because you appear, from your OP, to place some importance in knowing them, and that you are shocked that your 'highly able' DC didn't know them.

They didn't know them because they didn't have to.

What textbook are you using for GCSE? If it's not a 9-1 GCSE one then you'll need to upgrade.

RueDeWakening Sun 25-Oct-15 15:35:37

DD in year 4 has just come across this in her primary maths curriculum. She was set homework, half of which said to use this method, but (according to her) they hadn't covered it in class. I taught her, she did her homework as quickly as she normally does.

So I guess they're at least intending to teach it again!

randomsabreuse Sun 25-Oct-15 15:42:18

Actually I needed long division at A-Level - had to learn it in L6! Needed for division of polynomials.

Suddenly it made sense.

Suspect long multiplication has its uses in algebra later as well but can't remember for sure!

var123 Sun 25-Oct-15 15:59:50

Collins :Edexcel GCSE, 4th edition Higher, Student Book (published 2015)

I think its the one I need, but is it?

var123 Sun 25-Oct-15 16:02:13

I think the class teachers had difficulty differentiating enough and it seems to me that this sort of thing would have been an easy win. i.e. once the more able students had mastered the grid method, they could've learned another method and answered a few weeks worth of worksheets on multiplication questions using the long multiplication method. That's all.

noblegiraffe Sun 25-Oct-15 16:09:27

Win for what? I always give Y7 some long multiplication questions when they start secondary school and the (few) who attempt the column method invariably get it wrong. It's not a method that is easily remembered, and when you start multiplying bigger numbers together, it is easy to get the numbers that you are carrying muddled up.

I'm actually pretty annoyed it's now prescribed. What's better? A method that the kids get right and understand or the one that Gove did at school?

If the GCSE textbook has 9-1 on the front then it's the right stuff. Unfortunately the new textbooks were published before the sample assessment materials were approved, the sample assessment materials they were working towards were eventually rejected as being too hard, so the textbook might be pitched a bit high.

var123 Sun 25-Oct-15 16:26:13

Did you not notice that this thread is in the G&T section? One of the major problems that our children face is insufficient differentiation. It causes boredom and potentially disengagement.
The easy winwas finding something to keep the G&T children occupied whilst waiting for the rest of the class to be ready to move on to learn something new.

var123 Sun 25-Oct-15 16:36:46

I will bear the advice on the book in mind. Thanks.
FYI I am not making plans to actually have DS1 sit the GCSE early. The teaching of the coursework is for the purpose of keeping him engaged and keeping his self confidence off the floor. He has a tendency to distrust himself and feel unimportant if he goes a year or so without making progress and recent conversations with the head of maths indicate to me that the school has no intention of teaching him anything this year that he didn't know last year.

DS1 asked me to do this BTW. I said to him yesterday that we can do as little or as much as he wants. Anything he doesn't do with me will presumably get covered in school in year10 or 11.

noblegiraffe Sun 25-Oct-15 16:39:23

I did notice this is in the G&T section. My point was that kids are usually shown the column method in primary, but choose to use other methods. The ones that choose the column method usually get it wrong. Just because generations of children learned it, doesn't make it better. So my experience is that teaching the column method isn't an 'easy win' but actually makes them more likely to get long multiplication wrong in the future.

var123 Sun 25-Oct-15 16:43:33

They'll still know the easy methods and can use them if they get a choice.

Ds1 needed me to do a whole example before he got it. Ds2 saw me do one line and finished it for me whilst eating breakfast.

BertrandRussell Sun 25-Oct-15 16:46:55

Could he get the right answer by whatever method he used? If the answer was yes, surely an able child would find having to learn other methods deeply tedious? Unless it was mathemAtically interesting in some way?

noblegiraffe Sun 25-Oct-15 16:47:42

I'm surprised that he remembered to add the zero on the second line, that's where kids normally fall down.

Anyway, in the new GCSE there is a big focus on problem solving which is very different to the old GCSE. It's unlikely that they'll get enough practice at school. If you have time for extra maths, rather than teaching new material, unstructured problems are probably the way forward.

There's a free book here, along with other resources:

var123 Sun 25-Oct-15 16:52:14

Not as boring as practicing the same method for months! Or was it years?!

Yes they got it right.

I posted on G&t so I didn't have to justify myself. What caught your attention Bertrand? I know you typically post when you have the idea that the state sector is being criticised.

var123 Sun 25-Oct-15 16:54:29

We did a three digit by a three digit. Ds2 does 2 digits in his head by choice so the point would have been lost if I had not chosen something harder.

var123 Sun 25-Oct-15 16:57:29

Noblegiraffe - thanks. Will have a look. He just needs to feel challenged from time to time.

BertrandRussell Sun 25-Oct-15 17:51:27

It was the word "maths" that caught my eye- then I was a bit puzzled at the idea of challenging an able mathematician by going back over basics. Isn't there loads of more exciting stuff you could be doing with him than that? Are there TED talks about maths? I know someone posted a link to a series of American videos for mathematicians a while ago- I'll see if I can track them down.

Have you been in touch with the governor responsible for g&t in the school, by the way?

var123 Sun 25-Oct-15 18:00:43

No, i havent gone any higher. I spoke to the head of dept and I got the runaround. It's happened before ( at primary school), so I know it when I see it.
What I really don't want is to start falling out with the school. Plus I strongly believe that some teachers have the view that able students will do well anyway and that, as a parent, you can't make them help your child if they don't want to. So, I decided to home teach this year instead and yesterday was day 1.

BertrandRussell Sun 25-Oct-15 18:18:15

oK- but I think a note to the G&T governor might be helpful.

Bear in mind that your child will be studying the GCSE curriculum at school anyway- won't it be even more boring if he's already done it all at home? There must be ways to engage him with maths without doing stuff at home and at school?

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