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Maths- What should we do.

(44 Posts)
morethanpotatoprints Tue 25-Sep-12 15:06:27

Ok. Hi all.

I know I have posted so many times about my problems with maths. The light is on but nobodys home. My ed psych report said that any ability in Maths was down to sheer tenacity over many years, so you can see the extent of my problems. Dh is not always available and can seem to confuse dd more.
The poor kid is really struggling and I really don't know what to do.
I know she is only 8 but my fear is if I leave it until she is ready, shows an interest this may be never. If it was any other subject, (other than English) I would not worry, but we all need maths.
Its not like its a few odd aspects, she doesn't get the concept of adding, subtracting without looking at multiplication or divide. So any topic is out of the question until she can do this.
So even when shopping and cooking she wouldn't learn anything as even practical situations require addition/subtraction.
Do we get a tutor, or specialist tutor. I am really worried as the similarities between us in terms of Maths is uncanny. Older 2 dcs were not top in Maths but didn't struggle at all.
She just did some Bitesize and I was there to help but she ended up crying and said she doesn't understand at all. I explain she seems ok, I make a brew in same room, she moves onto next question and within 10 seconds crying again. Sorry this is long winded but I feel like she really needs some help. I don't feel confident to help her and don't know what to do next.

morethanpotatoprints Tue 25-Sep-12 15:07:58

Apologies. I have just read how many times I said "I don't know what to do".

GoldenLlama Tue 25-Sep-12 16:11:15

What can she do, morethan?

Can she count? Does she understand what she is doing when she counts?

Does she understand correspondence, for example, does she understand that if she is setting the table for 3 people, she needs 3 knives, 3 forks, 3 spoons.

Does she understand more, less and the same?

Can she do simple practical sums e.g. we normally have 3 chairs at the table but a friend is coming to tea so we need 1 more, that makes 4 chairs.

My thoughts (and bear in mind I'm not speaking from a position of expertise) would be that you need to lay off any sort of formal maths and really concentrate on the basic concepts like this moving on to simple, practical addition, subtraction. There is no reason why you can't do this all practically with things like: I am having 3 fishfingers for lunch, you are having 2 fishfingers. How many do we need, let's count.

We're each having 2 sausages for tea. How many do we need? Let's look, 2 for me, 2 for daddy, 2 for you, 2 for big brother. That's 12345678, 8 sausages.

We'v made 8 cupcakes. We've put cherries on five of them, how many more do we need? It's little kid stuff really but she needs to get the basic concepts right - firm foundations and all that.

Learning maths through cooking doesn't have to all be about converting a recipe from imperial to metric and then working out how to serve 9 people instead of 5 wink

You could also look into maths manipulatives like cuisenaire rods or numicon - they are hands on and a lot of people swear by them.

Another thing that you could look at are mathstart books by Stuart Murphy. They are story books with a maths story in them which teach basic concepts and might be a little less scary if she has an issue with "maths". They might be a bit young for your daughter though but you could have a look at them using the "look inside" function on Amazon.

Sorry, I've rambled on a bit, do feel free to ignore and good luck smile

FionaJNicholson Tue 25-Sep-12 16:58:46

I don't think you need a specialist tutor can't be helping if you think of yourself as terrible at maths and you believe it's some inherited thing.

I'd personally remove any element of having to get "the answer".

For example you could just watch the starter Maths videos at Khan Academy. Maybe even the same few over and over.

ToffeeWhirl Tue 25-Sep-12 17:29:56

I have had some great advice from another Mumsnetter who is a Maths tutor. Have asked her to offer advice.

morethanpotatoprints Tue 25-Sep-12 18:51:10

Thanks for your replies.
Its hard to put into words where the real problem lies. I think she understands the idea of more or less and that we add up to get a bigger number/answer.
It seems to be more a problem of understanding the system of how to do it. For example people have suggested finding a system that works for her, which is fine but when there are several, offering these to her I believe would confuse even more. Dh makes suggestions like this, well meaning but she still doesn't get it.
Adding up HTU columns, carrying numbers etc, she is lost and the similarity with me was by the time she is doing the second column she has forgotten what was done in the first. She does have a problem retaining information as I have found in all other subjects when it comes to remembering facts.

Fiona. Please believe me when I say I wouldn't wish this problem on anybody, I struggled throughout school and only passed a level 2 in 2008. My other dcs were fine but I see so many similarities with dd and my own problems. I do see your point though, I have told her I struggled to make her feel better. Maybe I shouldn't milk it too much. Its hard and frightening to think you are incapable of helping your dc in some way and really have never experienced this before, on such an important subject anyhow.

mumette Tue 25-Sep-12 21:46:15

i have similar problems with my 8 yr dd. she has dyslexia, and we think that she also has dyscalculia too. i think that she would be in yr 4 if she were in school, but we are working on yr 1-2 maths. we also do a lot of 'shop games' with real money, just 1, 2, 5 and 10p. i 'price' her fav toys etc , then give her a certain amount of money to spend. we are no where near overcoming it yet, but we are having great fun trying. btw, if i give her a sum eg, 10 + 1 =, then she is soooo lost.

mumette Tue 25-Sep-12 21:52:07

oh yes, i am also mum to an 18, 16 and 6 yr ds too who have no problems with math work......

Silibilimili Tue 25-Sep-12 22:03:35

Maths (arithmetic) is all about practice. Keep persevering. I do not see anything wrong in teaching formally if it works for your child. I am teaching my dd simple sums using a pencil, paper (oh no! ) and some beans to get the concept across.
Don't be scared. Only through practice you can be math confident. Some children are visual others learn by just hearing/imagining the problem. So I would try more hands on thnings and see if this helps and then move on to paper and pen.
Also, does your dd understand the method she has been taught?

Silibilimili Tue 25-Sep-12 22:09:37

I would also start by building up her confidence. Start with :
1. Simple counting
2. Counting and missing one. So 2,4,6,8 etc
4.counting from 100 to 1
5. Then I would try and do simple sums with her. (really basic ones ) and gradually increase the level of difficulty. Doing the simple things may build her confidence and help you understand where the holes are in her learning if any. Set aside just 10 focused minutes a day.

morethanpotatoprints Tue 25-Sep-12 22:20:51

Thanks mumette.
I do hope your daughter finds strategies and you sound like you help her no end.
Our dd is around y2 work I would guess as she was average during sats in y2. We didn't get levels for y3 and I didn't ask as didn't want to know then. Not sure its of use now really.
Its strange how some can be fine and others struggle (from same family). I have family members who are suggesting I am trying to find links with dyslexia that don't exist, but I'm pretty certain as she shares similarities to myself.
I will definitely try some more visual type of activities and as suggested at least it will be fun.

Silibilli I think part of the problem is she doesn't understand any method properly and when suggested and explained she does one sum with help but then gets stuck on the second. I do seem to remember that if I worked on the same method and did sheets (I mean many) of the same type of question, eventually I got it. But I would like to find another maybe repetitive way for dd to learn that could be fun.
Thank you all for suggestions if she doesn't feel like formal maths we are going to play.

mumette Tue 25-Sep-12 22:35:27

tbh, i dont 'get' maths myself. i dont understand it, or anything. BUT i must of done something right as my 18 yr s passed his GCSE higher lvl on a 'B' grade , and my 16 yr ds is going to college on his math abbility that ive 'taught' him too, an my 6 yr ds is fantastic at math ( for his age anyway), so unfortunatly my 8 yr dd 'maybe' like me. but it hasn't held me back at all. im part way through an open uni course atm (philosophy and psychological studies BA(h)), an im very prou of all my children and their abilities.

Silibilimili Tue 25-Sep-12 22:52:22

Maths is not genetic. It's practice. The more you practice, the better/faster you get at it.

mummytime Tue 25-Sep-12 23:02:55

You could both have dyscalculia. However there is nothing wrong in continuing to use: number lines, hundred squares, fingers, smarties or cusinaire rods (can be bought from Yellow Moon, and probably other places, quite cheaply). I would stick at one skill until you are really happy. Then when you are happy with addition move on to simple subtraction. Then move on to multiplication as multiple addition. When ever you come across numbers play with them. So try to add up the digits on car number plates, moving on to how much do two things in a shop cost. Let her come up with her own methods.
Whatever you do don't tell her she can't do Maths, resist saying you can't do Maths. If you get stuck on number then look at shapes for a while. Or practice using a ruler and weighing scales.

morethanpotatoprints Tue 25-Sep-12 23:18:01

Thank you mummytime.

I did have a full assessment half way through my PGCE and it said dyslexic and dyspraxic but no discalculia.
I scored the age of a 7 year old in the shape sorting exercise, can't remember its name. I started crying at the frustration of not being able to do it. Also got low score on the reading comprehension exercise and reading speed was half of average adult.
DD just seems slow and not there at all, like she's in a fog. I remember this well, her processing speed is that of a snail, her speech isn't right, still, and English isn't good except for reading. I know all these problems are genetic but also know she will improve with practice. My problem was what and how to get her to practice.
I would like to thank you all for such good suggestions and support. I have told dh and he too is thankful as he knows I was worried and out of my depth. He will help when he can and do most of the 10 mins a day.

notgoodatcatering Tue 25-Sep-12 23:32:13

Do you have any other home educating families around you? I wonder if you could swap skills with another parent, whose skills lie in Maths? Or 'teach' a group of children together, so there are more opportunities for playing maths games and discussing number? Otherwise I think maybe a tutor might be able to help pinpoint exactly where her problems lie.

Dd(9) has some problems understanding maths concepts too. However she is in school and resists any help I try to give her at home. She seems to have a real fear of numbers and not knowing the answerssad She will play Pontoon though!

treedelivery Tue 25-Sep-12 23:35:41

Can I suggest using stairs? Our dd has had no real issue with maths, so I can't promise it will be a miracle. However learning how numbers work by using stairs is just ace. You are learning through doing, through listening and through seeing which should meet all her learning needs.

Simply walk up them. Counting. Walk down backwards (she'll love how silly and 'dangerous' this is) counting backwards.

Go up the stairs in twos and suddenly you are starting to really understand and 'see' the x2 table.

If you have a skirting board along your stairs then buy cheap number flash cards or make them, and blue tack them on. Ask her to stick a post-it to every second one. Then every third. Then back to every one. Let her 'see' and 'live' the pattern. When she is very very very comfortable with it, let her try write down the numbers on every second step.

Start with these basics of number patterns. Let the rest slowly develop from there.

And bugger doing sums. She just might not be ready yet and that is just fine. It isn't a race, she won't stop learning maths at 16. Also there is so much more to maths than arithmetic - there is filling containers with water and looking at how weights work and seeing how bus time tables are laid out and planning pretend routes on the London underground map....lots of stuff that is essentially playing but that one day adds up into useful skills.

Also google activities to advance processing speed as working on that and forgetting the sums will surely benefit her waaay more in the long run.

morethanpotatoprints Tue 25-Sep-12 23:47:42


Fantastic, just had a chat with dh about all the suggestions and hadn't seen your post. We concluded that each one had put the practice/vision before the theory/ doing sums.
DD is unable to add/subtract in her head up to 20 let alone 100 and surely visual and practical will help her see how it works. Your suggestions are so practical we will be doing them tomorrow, many thanks.

Notgood. I haven't really attended any H.ed groups yet but I have made contact with our local group. I think ours mostly do play activities and the older ones do science and English activities regularly. I think it is certainly an idea for the future and will keep eyes open for some more younger ones joining.

mummytime Wed 26-Sep-12 00:05:18

Just to add my DD is (and I'm not bragging) quite good at Maths, and at school (at present) and in year 5. Her teachers have taken them all back to using a number line to do Maths, with the ideas of counting the jumps on and back for addition and subtraction. DD actually finds it hard, but it is very useful as it will help with higher level maths.

If you are dyslexic and your Dd is then the key things are "multi-sensory" and "over learning". I'm dyspraxic and had to "over-learn" before I could steer a car for example.

There are books on teaching Maths to Dyslexics, but you probably don't really need them until secondary. But you could make posters about what Addition means, and all the words we use in addition, and then move on to the others.

Honu Wed 26-Sep-12 06:40:03

Well, I hope I can live up to the build up Toffee has given me!

It sounds as if your DD hasn't got the hang of the number system yet. I use a tub of paperclips with large and small ones, defining a large paperclip as being worth ten small ones.

The first thing to do is count out (say) 23 small ones and talk about how difficult it is to see exactly how many are there. Then trade 10 small ones for a big one as much as you can, and talk about how much easier it is to see the 23 with two big ones and three small ones. Then just let her practice until she can get any number into tens and units. Take turns in making numbers and saying what they are.

Then make two numbers to add together without a carry. Get her to write the sum down, one number above the other, push the paperclips together, and tell you the answer.

When you get to sums with a carry then you will have more than ten little clips so you will need to trade (which is the carry).

This extends to subtraction and you have to decompose a ten if you have to 'borrow'

This will not all happen in an afternoon! Just do it all very slowly with no hassle and let her keep using the paperclips for as long as she wants.

Honu Wed 26-Sep-12 06:48:49

Goodness me, it takes so much writing to describe so very inadequately what I do! Let me reiterate what others have said and don't make a big issue about it.

If you are not happy with maths yourself you need to find someone to help your daughter who is. Not a brilliant mathematician but a brilliant maths teacher (NOT the same thing).

There are so many fun activities that help with maths, some of which are mentioned up-thread. Just to mention another - dot-to-dot books don't feel like maths but do help with counting skills. When they become too easy then get her to try starting at the highest number and going backwards.

HTH - best of luck

Silibilimili Wed 26-Sep-12 07:31:54

There are also lots of websites that are good for playing about on.

Google Komodo Math. I found that quite food. It is repetitive so you get lots of practice.

ixl is another one but somehow I find that cumbersome so would stay off that until the confidence is there. I also play with my dd on an abacus, beads etc etc. we also play a number bingo game with simple sums. So she has a card (made up at home) of numbers 4 by 4 (4 numbers in a row and 4 in a column.) I call out 2+3, and she has to then do the sum and strike out 5 on her card. When she gets a 'line', it's bingo. Make the sums harder as she progresses.

treedelivery Wed 26-Sep-12 14:30:27

Has anyone got any great tips for exploring decimal points? DD is 'meeting' decimal numbers and hadn't grasped independently that 0.5 is the same as 1/2

She usually 'gets' stuff like that on her own, so I want to make totally sure she really knows this before moving on. It came up in electronics/science so she needs to know now, really.

ALl the online stuff I've looked at has looked either dull or too wordy or plain confusing.

mummytime Wed 26-Sep-12 15:01:27

I would start decimal point with money, and do lots of it. So 50p is 0.50 pounds, the same as half a pound.

But I wouldn't stress too much we all have gaps. I was debating with an undergraduate I was teaching (at age 23) whether she had to divide by 2 or times by 0.5, before realising they were the same thing.

chocolatecrispies Wed 26-Sep-12 19:36:34

John Holt 'how children fail' is all about maths, I found it fascinating. He observed 10-11 year olds and noticed that many of them had very weak concept of number, even those who could do sums when instructed to do them a certain way did not understand why they were doing them. He also talked about how school maths often leads people to panic when they are confronted with numbers, and so they are unable to process the information. His solution was lots of maths manipulatives like the cuisenaire rods and lots of practical exploration of concepts rather than training or drilling on techniques. For example, Does she buy things? Can she work out how much two things will cost if she knows the price of one? And can you? Are you functionally numerate? Is it just abstract maths you struggle with, or do you panic if you have to work out whether you have enough money to buy 2 pints of milk or three? For some reason money maths is often easier, as long as it is real and not contrived. And in fact the same goes for most maths - if it is meaningful then it is much easier. So if you have pizza for tea and there are 8 pieces, how many pieces can you have each? I would be tempted to try to bring things back to that level for a while before you worry about tutors. It sounds like she might have maths panic and needs to be able to relax in order to be able to learn about numbers again. It is possible to learn maths informally and some argue that maths lessons for primary aged children just induce panic and maths phobia, and we would be better off waiting to teach maths until they are older!

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