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DS hates maths and thinks he is rubbish

(21 Posts)
redskyatnight Fri 04-Apr-14 12:45:14

DS says he hates maths and he is rubbish at it.
Aside from the fact he is not rubbish (top set, working well ahead of expectations), any suggestions to build his self belief?

columngollum Fri 04-Apr-14 12:49:09

Can he do anything with the maths that he already has?

anchovies Fri 04-Apr-14 12:55:36

How old is he? Are there any bits of maths he does like?

redskyatnight Fri 04-Apr-14 13:00:04

Sorry he is Year 5. I guess he understands that he can use maths to work out money problems and is keen on comparing the prices of things in shops! And using fractions from the point of view of dividing things up. And numbers/weighing in cooking I suppose.

drwitch Fri 04-Apr-14 13:12:15

I think the thing about maths is it keeps on getting harder, with reading and writing you just get better at by doing more of it, with maths each new concept is a bit of a struggle. Your ds thinks he is bad because he has to work at it. You need to explain to him that everybody needs to work at it

PastSellByDate Fri 04-Apr-14 13:13:18

Hi redsky:

My advice would be to try and find out what exactly is the issue.

Is it that he's doing well in maths, but perhaps is the last to finish work, so this is making him feel he's not very good.

Is it that he gets problems right, but really has to think hard to do so - would practice help there?

I think sometimes feeling you're good at maths equates to being speedy to calculate things - so see if the issue isn't that he knows 7 x 8 = 56 but he struggles to get there very quickly.

I fear like getting proficient at a musical instrument - a bit of practice with maths can really help.

Some ideas (all free):

woodlands junior maths zone: -just select area you want to work in and follow links to games. Have to explore a bit - but there's lots of resources/ links.

multiplication dot com games:

math champs games:


If speed with times tables is the issue (or applying times table facts for simple division - so inverse multiplication facts) - have a look at the free download versions of Timez Attack (multiplication & division = inverse multiplication versions available):

My DDs really enjoyed this game. It tests your child and starts from where they're at. They have to race through a dungeon or a castle solving mutliplication problems - both as a traditional vertically arranged problem but also as multiple additions. Every now and then you're quizzed about what you've been doing and at the end of a level you have a giant ogre come out and quiz you. It can be a bit stressful, but it really catches their interest and they don't realise how much time they're spending on it 'playing'/ practicing.


columngollum Fri 04-Apr-14 13:22:08

We often have this conversation on mumsnet. One of the problems I have with arithmetic in general and mathematics proper in particular is that, although they are both held in great esteem by educationalists, unless one actually works with figures (or still uses cash when shopping) both are becoming less and less useful in daily life.

And, unless some of society's maths and arithmetic enthusiasts start coming up with some decent reasons for the rest of us to give a damn about the disciplines, then, sooner or later we will have to view both of them as a quaint educational anachronisms rather like Latin and Greek.

skinnyamericano Fri 04-Apr-14 13:25:50

Would you be able to afford a few sessions with a maths group? Even 4/5 weeks of Kip McGrath or Kumon or similar gives a massive confidence boost IME.

soontobeslendergirl Fri 04-Apr-14 13:33:56

My eldest was similar but he really did struggle with times tables and would end up in tears when faced with a number grid - then he doscovered Minecraft. he was then using that part of his brain to work out how many bricks he would need for each layer of his building e.g. & blocks by 5 blocks etc. that it totally turned that bit around.

2 years later he won a Silver award in the National Maths competition!

There is also an online thing called Sumdog - like maths based games that my younger son loved.

Is it only with Maths that he lacks confidence or is he just low on self esteem generally?

My eldest still suffers like this and it soul destroying when they don't feel good about themselves - we discovered that he was being bullied and that's really where it all started. Is everything else all right with him?

PastSellByDate Fri 04-Apr-14 13:46:37


whether you use cash or not in daily life, knowing how to handle pounds/ pence will be crucial as long as people earn salaries in whatever denomination (pounds/ euros/ US Dollars/ etc...). Unless you are incredibly lucky/ well off - most people need to live within their means and therefore need to budget. They need to understand that earn X a month and have to pay Y in rent and A in utility bills and B in transport costs so in terms of spending money they only have D available (D = X-(Y+A+B)).

More than ever understanding that 1 in 5 is the same as 20% or 0.20 is crucial - Facts and figures are flashed at us in the news, at work in the hospital - it is important to be able to decode what is being said in order to make informed decisions.

Often it's about understanding people are giving you percentages of percentages- so just making something up - say you're told 1 in 5 pupils fail to achieve NC L4 in KS2 SATs and of these 80% are on FSM. This kind of stat often ends up being a headline of 80% of primary pupils on FSM fail to achieve NC L4 on KS2 SATs.

AND THAT'S a PROBLEM - that is not what the statistics were saying. Our problem as readers is we don't have the raw data, so can't work out what exactly 80% of 20% of the entire student population in Y6 is exactly - but basically we're talking about ~16% of the total student population. (again stressing I'm totally making up these figures)

Computers - underneath all our fancy APPS/ programmes is maths

Stock market - very clever (?) algorithms are driving the stock market at the moment - especially as more and more stocks are being owned for literally milliseconds and then sold for profit.

Credit - most people at some point or another will have to use credit to buy a large item (a car, a sofa, a house, etc....) - this means that they pay back the money borrowed + interest. Having maths means you can work out whether it is better to wait a bit, save and pay cash up front (which frankly usually is the case) or to pay monthly payments, etc...

Science/ medicine really can't function without maths. With medicine most clinical tests rely on statistically significant results all of which only works with sound maths skills. Hard and soft sciences (so physics to geology) also require maths to record, describe and theorize.

If you run a business - you need to be able to set profit margins/ price points, you need to determine what percentage of profit to reinvest into your business, when you need to raise funds to expand you need to judge whether to do this through banks or 'go public' and release stock in your business, you need to predict capital gains/ tax deductions, you need to calculate sick pay/ holiday pay/ employer's contribution, etc... - all of which require maths (if not of you, of your employee(s)).

As Benjamin Franklin is apparently credited for coining - the only thing in life we can be certain of is death and taxes. At death you have to report the age at death (basic addition/ subtraction skills) - and taxes is also all about addition/ subtraction & percentages.

So - no columngollum - maths will never be irrelevant and an attitude that since you can waive a card around you don't need to understand what you're doing in basic maths terms is, frankly, down right dangerous.

Indeed that's why in the US now many athletes are giving basic financial management training by their employers - too many lost everything to clever accountants/ managers and didn't appreciate things like tax liabilities, etc... e.g.

Finally - have a look at this website - a good maths background built up during your school years can lead to some very exciting & financially rewarding careers:

redskyatnight Fri 04-Apr-14 13:56:53

Thanks for comments so far. DS doesn't like trying new things in general (worries he will "fail") so the comment pointing out that maths is constantly having to do new things rang true.

There are a lot of natural very gifted mathematicians in his maths set, whereas DS has to work to keep up and I can see this demoralises him.

He does enjoy playing Minecraft and also has access to the sumdog site someone mentioned.

His mental maths and times table recall are actually very good - so it's not lack of the basics that are holding him back.

His favourite subject is Science, which obviously uses a lot of maths, so I think he maybe just finds maths a bit dry.

soontobeslendergirl Fri 04-Apr-14 14:18:07

Maybe I am in the wrong here, but I keep reminding my son that he doesn't need to be the best, he just needs to work hard and also enjoy things.

I am sure I am going to bring up an underachiever!

I also say that everyone has different talents in life and he is lucky that he finds most things relatively easy but some people struggle with all those things and being the top just isn't necessary to get on well in life and be happy.

I hope some of it sinks in. Good luck to your son, the fact that he works for it shows that he is developing skills for life and is learning that hard work brings success for him. The world needs hard workers and they tend to achieve more in life in than the super intelligent imo.

Slackgardener Fri 04-Apr-14 14:36:05

Totally agree soontobe. Too much focus and reward for being clever and not enough for working bloody hard through the tough stuff. Studies have shown that kids who think they are good at things because they are clever, really struggle when they are challenged, their self belief suffers but kids who believe they are good at things because they work hard are more able to rise to a challenge and meet it. I know which side I'm promoting in this household - it's hard work and effort that receives the praise and attention.

bruffin Fri 04-Apr-14 15:07:20

OP both my dcs are strong at maths, but my dd has always been more confident in her ability when she was top of the second set than when she is middling in top set. Both dcs have been in your ds's situation, although in secondary school. For some reason both their year groups has an abnormal numbers of gifted mathematicians. The in between year is supposed to pretty poor compared. I do think it is better in the long run for them to be challenged by having to compete for the top than resting on their laurels on top of the lower set.

Also Agree with Pastsellbydate

DS should hopefully be starting degree in mechanical engineering in September and they want good maths A level above all else, along with physics, but then you need strong maths to do physics at a level anyway.
It also turns out the banking industry is now recruiting engineering graduates because of their strong maths ability.

what about sporcle, lots of fun quizes other than maths as well

khan academy also might be of interest

HobbetInTheHeadlights Fri 04-Apr-14 16:29:54

I agree with PastSellByDate .

We are doing a lot of DIY at the minute - have a choice of wall coverings - tiles, cladding other systems. We needed to measure, calculate areas, multiply cost of single tiles or packets of items by number needed to cover areas we have and add that cost to other items we'd need glue, grouting. We needed to do that to work out the cost of each option a big part of the choice. We also need to take account of savings we have to spend on project vs cost so subtraction part of basic budgeting.

Even when we've been painting knowing the coverage area of a tin and area we have - means we have idea of number of paint tins needed.

So I don't think it's an usual event for most people.

I don't know who we'd make informed choices if we didn't have the maths to work it out.

My DC are younger but the on-line maths sites have helped build their confidence up - the more practise they get with the new maths ideas or the additional explanations the better they seem to do. They seem to need bit more practise then they get in school to get to point of confidence.

Elibean Fri 04-Apr-14 19:11:44

dd1 was exactly the same, OP, but in Y4. Top set, ahead of expectations, etc etc and bursting into tears saying she was rubbish - and she's not generally a low confidence child.

We were able to give her a term's worth of tutoring, so we did - and the problem turned out to be a few 'holes' or gaps in her basic understanding/knowledge, which the tutor identified and worked on. By the end of Y4 dd was full of confidence again.

Mind you, she was paired with another child in a maths exercise the other day - and said child, who is pretty competitive, told dd she was 'stupid' and wouldn't let her put her answers on to their shared worksheet: by the end of the day, dd was wobbling and saying perhaps she wasn't much good at maths after all. So the confidence is clearly a bit fragile still, even though a chat with her teacher seems to have sorted it out again hmm

Elibean Fri 04-Apr-14 19:14:32

Sorry, redsky, just read your second post - not the basics, then.

In that case, I would try taking the tack that his group is exceptionally great at maths, which makes staying in it a great achievement and no one who is 'rubbish' could possibly do that. And have a look at his confidence in terms of his friends/peers, and social interactions maybe? Is there something you could do to bolster him generally?

I think Y5 is the toughest primary year for kids undermining each other (at times), there seems to be regular feather flapping amongst the girls and unrest amongst the boys - and dd's class have always been well bonded and friendly. Must be hormones hmm

redskyatnight Fri 04-Apr-14 20:00:35

It's a really tough one. He had maths homework the other day and he was literally sat there saying "I have no idea to do it, I am so rubbish" but then miraculously putting down all the correct answers. When I pointed out that he'd done really well and got all the answers he still refused to believe that he could do it. It is a case of he can do it, but he doesn't believe he can. I really don't know the solution - the websites and suggestions of tutoring are great - but it's not a case of he can't do it, so I'm not convinced they will help!

bruffin Fri 04-Apr-14 20:51:48

You can use a tutor to boost his confidence. My ds is a lot older doing A levels, however he did have a crisis of confidence last year. We hired a tutor to just talk things over with him. He only saw her about 8 times in the lead up to his exams.I know your ds is younger but i think you could use a tutor in the same way. He might just need someone outside to tell him he is good.

Also what is his interests, can you tie the use of maths into those.

bruffin Fri 04-Apr-14 21:14:39

Another thought is a tutor can just start off playing maths games with him.
Years ago dh struggled to learn to read . He was sent to a tutor who said to his mother, dont worry if he comes home and says he's been making cakes. It was a way of boosting confidence in himself.

soundevenfruity Fri 04-Apr-14 23:57:00

Maths is normally misunderstood at primary school level. Calculus is boring, solving problems however is not, and that is incidentally what maths is all about. I would find books which would boost his problem solving skills or find a tutor who can show him how exciting maths can be. Nothing is like a personal example.

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