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Boosting 9yo dd's confidence in maths and writing

(12 Posts)
maggiethecat Sun 12-May-13 10:26:37

9 yo dd lacks confidence in maths and is not keen on writing either. I've been reading the summer born/exams thread with interest as she is August born. From about year 1 she would say things like I'm rubbish at maths but we would try to encourage her.
However, we are finding that there are some concepts that she struggles with - decimals, fractions, sometimes simple reasoning.

She doesn't like to write, and she can take an hour to do what should be easily done in 15 mins. For eg, she is doing an award scheme at school and after finishing an activity she had to write how she got on with the activity (playing violin) and she was happy to write 'I got on fine'. I explained to her that she needed to provide the reader with a bit more information/insight on what she did and she genuinely struggled to figure out what she could say.

She switched on to reading in the past year and enjoys a range of books, reads quickly and understands text. She writes in a diary although I have not looked at what she's written.

I think I may have turned her off me helping her with maths or writing as sometimes I do get impatient and cannot hide my exasperation.

Any tips on how to help her boost her confidence in maths and encourage a bit more interest in writing?

sibleymum Sun 12-May-13 23:57:40

For Maths, IXL online is not bad, it's not free, but you can try it for free and see what you think. The advantage is that your child can earn certificates and get a progress report. It gives plenty of practise in the basic skills, lots of repeptition, organised into y groups. Otherwise bitsize BBc stuff is good. Writing is always a tricky one, it's basically hard work. I would lay off on any criticism esp of handwriting and spelling. Has she got a granny or Aunt or adult friend who would write to her? WE did games and treasure hunts, things that involved writing for a purpose. Also comic books. Good luck.

maggiethecat Mon 13-May-13 00:13:23

I have known of her limitations for a while but must say that I have not really made a serious effort at addressing. When I realised that she did not have a love for reading I worked out how to get her interested - she likes history so got her a few books of history based fiction and this triggered what seems to be a keen interest in books now - she'll have 2 reading on the go.

Will have a look at these suggestions. She has a godmother who lives abroad and who would love to write to her I'm sure - will definitely encourage. What do you think about a penpal?

I suppose the challenge is to do these things with some consistency and importantly to lay off the criticism (very difficult for me as usually I think I'm being constructive)

Many thanks for your suggestions.

smee Mon 13-May-13 11:33:01

maggie, what do the school say? If she's just writing 'I got on fine' and such like at school, then she won't be doing very well. If they think she's doing okay though, I'd say it's just like a lot of kids who work well at school, but refuse for their parents. My son's definitely like that. He's 8, nearly 9 so v.similar.

maggiethecat Mon 13-May-13 13:40:14

Teacher has said at meeting that she could be supply more information (use connectors) and use more ambitious words so I gather she is being economical at school too.

Maeinha Tue 14-May-13 14:47:55

My DS is also 9 and July-born, and has also suffered from lack of confidence. We've worked hard on really securing the basics in maths (times tables, etc) just by relentlessly doing 5 minutes a day (and I mean 5 minutes - it has to be short and sweet, hopefully!) When there's resistance from him, I say, ok we'll leave it for now, when you're ready you can come back to me. 8 times out of 10 he says straight away- no let's do it now. This has really worked, as well as talking to his teacher and explaining about his lack of confidence - they've done a lot for him.
Writing is harder as there isn't such a 'quick fix' thing. What I've tried doing is sitting and talking through all the ideas he could write about before he begins, sometimes I write a plan for him based on his ideas. He doesn't do this himself, but it does mean he has some ideas to write before he starts, and also can see the end so it doesn't feel interminable. WHile he's writing, I try to keep him on track but don't interfere in the actual writing. He usually asks me to read the finished text through: this is the hard bit where I have to keep my mouth under control! Sometimes I can remember his learning target and I just give him feedback on that (eg full stops and capitals). Sometimes his handwriting is so bad I have to get him to rewrite bits, or fill in the words he's missed out in his haste. But now I ask him to read it through first, and he's better at editing. He's certainly got faster at writing (at home - I don't know if the teacher has seen any improvement yet; we talked about this at his last parent teacher evening).
Good luck!

maggiethecat Wed 22-May-13 00:46:34

You sound very patient. I will try hard to encourage her to write - anything, without criticising. I think at this point it's just important to get her comfortable with the idea of putting her thoughts down.

PastSellByDate Thu 23-May-13 06:05:35

Hi maggiethecat:

first off DD1 is October born and also struggles to write more than monosyllables and briefest of sentences.

Our solution was to play 'improve the sentence'.

Start with a book she likes - say something on Henry VIII (since you say she likes history).

Have her write a sentence summarising the character of Henry VIII.

'Henry the VIII was fat and had eight wives.' for example.

Then ask her to expand on that. Maybe write more about how he became fat.

Henry VIII was very fit in his youth, but after an injury jousting was much less able to exercise and began putting on weight.

Keep redrafting and encouraging her to make it more interesting.

Ask her to think of better words. So obese instead of fat. That kind of thing.

We had good fun doing this with the Harry potter books and asking DD1 to describe various characters: Snape, Dumbledore, Luna Lovegood, Ron, Hermione, Harry, Hagrid, etc...

in terms of math (and yes here I go again) I really am a firm believer in practice. Little and often really makes a difference. If your DD is visual in her learning (learns by seeing things done rather than reading about them) I really would encourage you to give mathsfactor a go ( It tests your DD and starts from where she is at - this may mean reviewing things she swears she already knows, but persevere. The lessons break down into a video with a brief explanation of the maths concept, a warm-up game (either on the concept or quickfire addition/ subtraction & eventually multiplication game) and then a homework. At most it takes 30 minutes, usually more like 10 - 20 minutes. It's hosted by Carol Vorderman of countdown fame and somehow have a woman show you how has really helped DD1 believe girls can be good at maths too! (which is an issue at her school).

Now for fairness other parents have been on MN to sing the praises of mathletics ( and maths whizz ( I think all of them offer free trials - so you and your DD can have an explore and see which one suits. I've personally found doing more at home, in quiet and unobserved (which is an issue for DD1 - where there is a real tendency to tease people who struggle) meant she had the space and opporutnity to work her way through concepts and build up her skills. We've never looked back really - and many have posted about the others with similar praise as well. In short, we've found that doing a bit more at home (away from the hubbub of school & teasing) gives our DCs the opportunity to build skills and confidence through practice.


maggiethecat Tue 28-May-13 22:50:41

Been away for a bit - thanks for these tips PSBD. It will take some perseverance and consistency but really need to do it. Had a look briefly with her at Mathsfactor yesterday and will check out others when she returns from camp.

Milzy Wed 29-May-13 12:50:56

Hi Maggie,
I'd take a look at Komodo too.
For me the best thing about is the simplicity. We use it about 5 times a week, 15 mins per session, and confidence started to grow after a month or two.

Ferguson Thu 30-May-13 22:59:25

Hi - retired TA (male) here :

MATHS : I always think that children will grasp numeracy concepts best if they can work with REAL objects or equipment. Until the basic concepts are secure, it is difficult to move on to the more advanced and abstract things.

I will quote some of a PM I sent to another parent last year, though probably of a much younger child :


The more practical, physical work involved in maths the better, as some children find it difficult to work with 'abstract concepts'.

And maths is always going to be about 'real' things - quantity, weight, volume, length, distance, height, money, telling the time, angles, speed, etc. So if she does a bit of cooking occasionally, following a recipe, noticing quantities, that will put numbers into the real world. Or even playing with plastic containers in the bath, seeing how many small containers it take to fill a large one. Anything to stop numbers and maths being a 'mystery', which it has always been for many adults.



I am reluctant to concentrate TOO much on on-line activities, but some that I DO use (and people seem to like) are : which has numeracy and literacy activities, and : This has a very wide range of topics and DD should find a few things to interest her.

Am I to assume she is your only child? Also, some girls can start to mature at an ever younger age, and might exhibit almost 'teenage' non-co-operation behaviour. If there might be an element of that, it is probably wise to not 'push' her too much, yet you still want her to progress as well as possible : a difficult balancing act!

In addition to earlier advice, perhaps writing a diary, particularly of more interesting weekend activities, might encourage her. Maybe she could write stories for younger classes at school, trying to make it interesting or exciting for them. (Some schools encourage co-operation between year groups; others might not touch it with the proverbial 'barge pole'!)

[So children could relax after SATs, I once worked for three weeks with groups of Yr2, building a 2m high Tyrannosaurus Rex from cardboard boxes, and they went round the other classes to tell them about it, and to show 'work in progress.]

Hey! I've just re-read the bit about 'camp'. She can write about that, and you can 'publish' it here!

Good luck.

maggiethecat Sat 01-Jun-13 00:46:02

all very useful, thanks. i'm smiling at the suggestion of getting her to write about camp - she's very good at summarising smile

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