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Maths tutor or not

(31 Posts)
aliasjoey Mon 22-Apr-13 12:53:36

My DD (11) has always had trouble with maths, and has had a tutor for about 18 months. Her confidence seemed to be improving. She had moved up a table at school.

Yesterday we went to my in-laws, and suddenly my FIL asked daughter what 12 x 6 was (they were writing out a cheque for something) DD panicked and started guessing. When she answered some ridiculous sum, PIL told her she was stupid. I then lost my temper with him (how fucking DARE he tell her she is stupid!) and we left shortly after.

This morning DH has emailed me to say, maybe we should stop the tutor because she is not gaining anything from it, she should be learning her tables. I'm really angry that her confidence which was just building could be destroyed like this <I may be projecting from some incident in my own childhood about being called stupid confused > but maybe he is right and we are wasting our money. We do practice tables as well, but I guess not enough.

Do we continue with the tutor? It's difficult to have a rational conversation with DH right now, he is cross that I lost my temper with his parents. I'm furious about the way she was talked to. And yes she is PFB and I over-reacted.

Sorry if this is long and not coherent, I'm still a bit upset.

aliasjoey Mon 22-Apr-13 12:54:30

I didn't actually swear at PIL... although I kind of wish I had...

OldBeanbagz Mon 22-Apr-13 13:01:29

Gosh, what a horrible FIL you have. Calling her stupid must have been a massive knock to her confidence.

Personally i wuld let you DH calm down a bit before you talk to him. The tutor is obviously helping your DD so i think you need to stick with it. Surely your DH can see that she's improved if she's moved up a table at school? Maybe he's just upset because of his parents?

My own two DCs are both very good at Maths but can quite easily be thrown by simple times table questions. My DD's teacher says it's often the easy questions that catches children out on the test papers, not the harder ones which they have to think about.

TeenAndTween Mon 22-Apr-13 13:16:06

Ah, lots of things here.

1) Children aren't expected to know their 12x tables any more, so this isn't particularly a 'learn by rote' question.

2) I wouldn't expect a tutor to be doing 'learning times tables' anyway as that is something that can be practised at home anyway.

3) There is a lot more to maths than times tables and mental maths. My elder DD struggles with this area a lot. For her y6 SATs I agreed with her teacher that any marks she got for that test were a bonus, she just can't do it when under pressure or a time constraint.

4) I do think a lot of maths is about confidence. If the tutor is helping your child be more confident, and helping with written maths then they are doing a good job.

(My elder DD effectively had a tutor (me) for 2 whole years from end y4, where we did maths nearly every day in summer holidays etc. It made a tremendous difference to her confidence and ability. She has now been managing mainly on her own at secondary, with just help in run up to assessments. BUT her mental maths is still very poor).

5) Notwithstanding the above, mental maths is important, as are times tables / division facts. If children can't do these then it does make secodary maths harder and slower (think common denominators for adding fractions, or working with ratios). If you can practice it then do.

Terrible behaviour from FIL.

aliasjoey Mon 22-Apr-13 13:41:19

Thanks for the responses. I think the answer is to continue with the tutor, but also practice her tables more. I guess we have neglected them a bit.

We have been told that 12x isn't necessary anymore, because we no longer use imperial measures. It's easier to do 10x and add 2x. But, you know PILs generation...

I can maybe ask her teachers advice as well. After writing this down, I realise we should continue with both. Maybe what I really wanted from Mumsnet was how to get my DH to admit that his parents were rude and could have knocked her confidence.

rrbrigi Mon 22-Apr-13 13:53:20


I am so sorry what happened with you and your DD. But I think you were absolutely right to stand next to your DD and help her out. And if your husband did not do the same, he should be say sorry for you and for your daughter and not the other way round.
You should not stop the tutoring, even if it does not help her a lot at this moment she needs to build up her confidence again. So you should tell your husband that your PIL throw out to the window all of the money that you spent on the tutoring earlier with that saying.

Acinonyx Mon 22-Apr-13 14:19:58

I don't think you over-reacted at all. My dd is good at maths but I despair of her ever knowing her times tables - and I have heard that the requirement for tables up to 12 is going to be reintroduced. I have also had a tutor when dd's confidence was low. Maths is a subject where individual attention and encouragement can make big improvements, IMO.

aliasjoey Mon 22-Apr-13 14:46:01

Thank you. I know we need to work harder on her tables.

I just got so emotional when I could see the fear and panic in her eyes. I think I will not discuss it tonight with DH otherwise I will get upset again. Cannot understand how he could sit there and let them say that.

StuffezLaYoni Mon 22-Apr-13 17:39:02

How horrible. It's not fair putting a child on the spot like that. I once had a mum of a year six class who told me she sometimes tosses out multiplications to her daughter in the car and at the table, then got angry when she couldn't or wouldn't answer! Madness!
If you think your daughter genuinely benefits from the tutoring, let her carry on. I tutor maths and although I know the importance of times tables, we certainly don't sit there for two hours a week hammering them over and over again.

jgjgjg Mon 22-Apr-13 20:47:57

Obviously the rudeness was entirely out of order and I'd be expecting an apology from the FIL before we went anywhere near him again. That's just plain rude by any standards.

But at risk of playing devil's advocate here though, surely an average 11 year old should be able to work out 6 x 12 pretty quickly in their head even though they don't know it by rote. Or are my expectations of maths at that age wildly unrealistic?

StuffezLaYoni Mon 22-Apr-13 21:18:23

I agree, jg, they definitely should. I think it's just when you're put on the spot all logical thought sometimes escapes you, doesn't it?

aliasjoey Mon 22-Apr-13 21:29:38

jgjgjg maybe an average 11 year old could, but DD goes into a panic when put on the spot. She probably could have worked it out if she'd stayed calm. PIL find it hard to grasp that she is below average, and seem determined to push her instead of encouragement.

I've also tried to work on getting her to stay calm. She is a bright kid, but seems to have a mental block which I thought we were managing to overcome.

DH and I have agreed to do mental maths practice daily. Neither of us has mentioned the tutor, or what his father said.

Acinonyx Tue 23-Apr-13 10:11:13

My maths is extremely good TYVM and I totally freeze if I have to do mental arithmetic on the spot. The more you fight it the worse it gets! I never volunteer to work out the bill in a restaurant.

learnandsay Tue 23-Apr-13 10:49:22

Well, I presume he's not a genius if he has to ask an eleven year old.

aliasjoey Tue 23-Apr-13 12:01:53

learnandsay grin

Clearly my DD is below average for maths, but PIL seem to wilfully misunderstand that.

I accept that we should be doing more to help her mental maths. We assumed that because she had a tutor, we didn't need to do much else (although we do practice tables)

But if its the fault of DH or me, they still shouldn't have humiliated HER like that.

learnandsay Tue 23-Apr-13 12:14:06

Aren't there books, websites and things of that sort dedicated to helping struggling maths pupils? The BBC had a page on how few adults can do primary maths and they had things like multiplying fractions and heaven knows what else. I guess it's possible to get really far behind quite quickly. But I'm also guessing that there are quite a few basic building blocks like mental arithmetic, times tables, basic fractions and so on which are (can be/can be made) simple and are vital to have a grasp of. Personally I would separate the FIL from the maths and treat them as two completely separate issues. The maths you can fix. The FIL you probably can't. Carol Vorderman's website?

aliasjoey Tue 23-Apr-13 13:04:51

A few years ago we did use Carol Vordemans books, but I guess we got complacent after getting the tutor and stopped using them blush I know that's our fault and we're going to work harder on it.

She has a couple of games on her iPod and over time I have bought various cards and games etc... it's just a matter of using them. Maybe FIL has done some good because its made us sit up and do something.

I just feel a bit shit because I over-reacted and now relationships are strained. Can't change FIL, he is old, old-fashioned and can be very rude towards women. He sometimes tells MIL she is being stupid. Most of the time I try and ignore him, DH sits on the fence and MIL herself (although not stupid) does say silly things and almost encourages him. We are all complicit in his behaviour.

Now I feel stupid for losing my temper...

learnandsay Tue 23-Apr-13 13:31:49

Well, nobody's going to call my girls stupid and live to tell the tale.

aliasjoey Tue 23-Apr-13 19:44:05

oh dear I've just realised that my DD is actually 10, not 11.

Clearly, she is not the only one struggling with maths blush

<thinks deeply, born in 2002 counts on fingers>

learnandsay Tue 23-Apr-13 20:22:16

If she's got another year in primary school before she goes up to secondary then you've got time to fix the problems but you'd better get weaving. I'm sure the dept of ed website has a list of what she should be able to do. But don't ask me where they keep it.

aliasjoey Tue 23-Apr-13 21:58:42

Only 1 term of primary left, but the teacher just told me they have extra funding for her (Premium Pupil thing, actually for last year but only just come through now) and I have to go in on Thursday to discuss how to use it (I've no idea)

We were looking at probability on the BBC website and she had completely misunderstood the most basic principles - I'm ashamed that we've let this go on for so long. She has been desperately confused for too long. sad

GettingGoing Tue 23-Apr-13 22:02:23

'I just got so emotional when I could see the fear and panic in her eyes' Aww, poor girl.

For tables, I find a bag of their favourite (small) sweets with one given for each correct answer tends to concentrate the mind. From hating tables, I find them begging to do tables!

PastSellByDate Thu 25-Apr-13 17:06:07

Hi aliasjoey:

Well to be fair to your DD she is too old for the new changes coming in which will require all 9 year olds to know their times tables to x12 (I guess from 2014 - propsed by Gove:

Why is knowing your times tables helpful - well it ultimately allows you to work swiftly through real life situations like I want to buy X gadget - it costs £557 how much will I have to save over 6 months to buy it - so 557 divided by 6 = 6 into 55 = 9 (9x 6 = 54) and 6 into 17 = 2 (2 x 6 = 12) remainder 5/6 - so in effect you will have to save 93 pounds a month over 6 months to afford it.

In much the same way knowing your number bonds (all the ways to make numbers between 1 and 20 - so for example for 8 it's 0 + 8, 1 + 7, 2 + 6, 3 + 5, 4 + 4, 5 + 3, 6 + 2, 7 + 1 and 8 + 0). Learning these tricks means carrying and borrowing is relatively straightforward for more complicated division/ multiplication sums.

Now I don't know how much you are paying your DDs tutor -and how often they meet or what homeworks are set - but if she's just doing an extra hour say and s/he's mainly talking at her with very little practice for her - perhaps you need to explore other options.

many here have posted about the success they have had with on-line tutorials - maths factor, mathletics and mathswhizz. The prices vary a lot and the formats appeal to different children as well - but the advantage of these is that it's all about practice (so little bits of explanation and then off you go to try it out). Many also have games to reinforce multiplication/ division skills. Maths factor has a multiplication school - and it's format of lots and lots of practice (literally thousands of sums over and over until you really know it forward and backwards) may be what your DD needs. [It's also highly visual - video tutorial maybe 2 or 3 minutes, a game and then straightforward traditional maths problems to solve in a generous amount of time). All these can be found by using a search engine.

It's understandable, especially if you and your DH are very time pressured with work, to want to hand this over to someone else - but the question is after 18 months is there any real improvement? What do you want to improve. If it's core calculation skills and practice is the issue - consider something like Khan Academy (free - link here: which explains mathematics concepts step by step from simple addition to going right up to A-level mathematics problems (i.e. calculus).

With multiplication and division there are tons of games out there to bed down skills:

Timez Attack - is like a dungeon and dragons game where you're an ogre and race through a maze solving multiplcation problems. It's time pressured and the ogre quizzing you can be stressful but it forces you to really know your times table facts. There is a free version with two worlds and then there are other versions with more options - info here: After she's mastered that she can move on to division attack to practice those inverse multiplication skills.

Woodland Junior school has tons to support multiplication skills:

Your DD isn't 'stupid' your FIL most likely is for being so insensitive to her struggles. She's probably achieved a lot over the last 18 months - but may still lack confidence and may not yet 'get it'. It wasn't helpful to blurt that out but your FIL has possibly rightly observed that even after 18 months of work, she's still struggling.

Really work with your DD (in those small bits of time you can grab: car rides, waiting times, walks, etc...) to work through number families. Does she get that 2 times table is related to 4, 8 (and even 6, 10 and 12)? [4 is simply x2 and x2 again or double and double again/ 8 is simply x 2 and x 2 and x2 again or double, double and double a third time - or if you know your 4s just double the 4s time table answers - i.e. 5 x 4 is 20 so 5 x 8 = double (5 x 4) or double 20 = 40. With 6 it's double 3 times table - so 2 x 6 is the same as double (2 x 3). With 12 you can simply double again (so know your 3s table - double (for 6 table) and double again (for 12 table). With 10 it's double 5 times table (so 10 x 12 is the same as double (5 x 12) - often this is an easier concept applied backwards - you DD probably knows her 10s but can't always recall 5s - ask her what 1/2 of a 10 result would be - so for 5 x 4 that's the same as 1/2 (10 x 4) or 1/2 (40) = 20.] So after you're done with 2s and related. You can play with 3s family (3/ 6/ 9/ and 12). 3 is just counting by 3s and learning it and as discussed above 6 is simply doubling the 3s times table results.

The 9s times table is simple once you know the tricks:

9 x 1 = 09
9 x 2 = 18
9 x 3 = 27
9 x 4 = 36
9 x 5 = 45
9 x 6 = 54
9 x 7 = 63
9 x 8 = 72
9 x 9 = 81
9 x 10 = 90

9 x 11 = 99
9 x 12 = 108

Up to x10 - the answer to 9s times tables always starts with 1 less than the multiple - so 9 x 4 (one less than 4) - number starts 3. Now the trick is (and this works for all 9s up to x12) is that all the numbers in the answer add up to 9. So what + 3 = 9. 6 + 3 = 9. So 4 x 9 = (starts with 3 and number + 3 =9) or 36.

You can also do it by folding fingers. Hold hands palm up with two pinkies together. Start numbering 1 on left thumb and count round to 10 on right thumb. Now fold over the multiple of 9 - so say you want to work out 7 x 9. Fold over your 7th finger (you're right ring finger) you'll have 6 fingers to the left of the folded finger and 3 to the right. Fingers to left are tens and fingers to right are units.

Basically once you know all that - that just leaves 11s and 7s.

11s are great because up to 9 it's just the multiple 2x (i.e. 3 x 11 = 33). After 9 there's a trick. You split the mutliple and add the two digits together for middle number - i.e. 14 x 11 = 1 - (1+4) - 4 = 154. It works for all 2 digit numbers but bigger numbers mean you have to carry (so for example 48 x 11 = 4 - (4+8) - 8 = 4 - (12) - 8 [you'll have to carry the 10 tens] so it's 48 x 11 = (4 + 1) - 2 - 8 = 528.

The only 7 you simply just have to learn (memorise) is 7 x 7 = 49 - you've learned all the rest in the other times tables.

Keep believing in your DD. Keep up the support and encouragement but just like a sport or a musical instrument, learning these things can be difficult and takes time, patience, perserverance and I'm afraid a lot of practice. Little and often will get you there. Download apps to your mobile - 3 apps recommended by PC Advisor magazine here: - whilst your DD is waiting for you or a sibling, just hand her the phone and hey presto she's practicing.

All I can say aliasjoey is if you feel it is an important skill to multiply and divide with ease keep plugging away. She'll get there in the end!


aliasjoey Thu 25-Apr-13 19:08:21

pastsellbydate thanks for all the links, I will look into those. It's difficult sometimes because there is so much information out there, especially online, and hard to know which is the most useful.

PastSellByDate Fri 26-Apr-13 09:53:45

Absolutely know what you mean - there's all sorts out there.

My advice is this - ask about things you're uncertain about directly here on Mumsnet, at school, with friends.

do simple things like on a search engine type in Top 10 apps for multiplication or Top 10 websites for multiplication.

Use tried and tested sites: BBC (They've launched BBC learning and this is the link to their KS2 Maths zone - general link to KS2 subjects here: - just select subject arean in orange box midway down screen on left)

BBC Bitesize SATs revisions for KS2:

Woodlands Junior School Maths Zone:

Finally - it does take time search about for things and even trialling some games/ worksheets to see if they're at the right level - but it really is worth finding those resources to help your DC get over whatever particular problem they're having with understanding how to do things.

Anyway glad I can help - I've spent about 3 years doing this kind of thing with help from others & many here on MN - so very happy to return to favour.

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