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Bitlost Mon 08-Sep-14 20:58:42

My year 1 dd came home tonight with plenty of homework for the week. We started with maths and she could not even do 1 +1. She does not know the + sign or what it means... We tried to make it real by counting straws and she struggled with that. But if i tell her "mummy gives you one sweet and daddy gives you one", she says that she has two sweets... We then went back to the page and drew a blank.

We're returning the homework undone (what else can we do?) with a note explaining what happened.

Does this sort of mental block sound familiar? Shouldn't the school send stuff she can actually do instead of expecting us to teach her?

Any thoughts much appreciated.

Doublethecuddles Tue 09-Sep-14 10:16:32

We were told that a child of that age shouldn't spend more than 20 minutes struggling over home work. But I agree that the child should understand what the homework is. You child won't be the only one who didn't understand it.

AuntieStella Tue 09-Sep-14 10:42:27

It's still very early in the school year and teachers will be assessing the pupils. Feedback from you, explaining her difficulties, will speed that along.

My DC got one maths worksheet a week homework in KS1, and IIRC it was mainly things well within their reach, plus a couple of (optional) harder questions. I don't think it benefits children just embarking on homework for it to be difficult, but right at the start of the school year there might be the odd one that isn't suitable as teacher will still be assessing levels.

PastSellByDate Tue 09-Sep-14 11:20:57

Hi Bitlost:

Oh I've so been there (DD1 now in Y7/ DD2 Y5) - and first off having a homework that is a huge struggle can be frustrating - but can also be a real warning sign that your DC isn't as far along as they should be and may need extra support at home.

I'm not totally clear on early years maths targets (tends to be able to count to 20). But info here from a school in bristol: - just click Early Years and document will download with links to games to help with those skills.

The new curriculum programme for maths in KS1 (years 1-2) and Key Stage 2 (Years 3 - 6) is here: - the curiculum for Year 1 starts on Page 6 and I tend to read this not just as what should be taught - but what notionally your child should be able to do BY THE END of Year 1.

For addition/ subtraction it says :

Pupils should be taught to:
 read, write and interpret mathematical statements involving addition (+), subtraction
(–) and equals (=) signs

 represent and use number bonds and related subtraction facts within 20

 add and subtract one-digit and two-digit numbers to 20, including zero

 solve one-step problems that involve addition and subtraction, using concrete objects and pictorial representations, and missing number problems such as 7 = ? – 9.


So your DC's homework wasn't out of step with this - but has demonstrated that your DC is only at the beginning stage of learning this - she can count to 20 (maybe beyond) but doesn't understand addition yet.


So you've made a good start by explaining things in real-life ways. With addition and subtraction we've found using food (grapes/ raisins/ smarties/ chocolate buttons) all works really well.

So it's about translating a real thing:

one biscuit and another biscuit gives us two biscuits


1+1 = 2

You need to teach her this special secret code we call maths.


Helpful websites:

First are foremost I highly recommend Woodland Junior School Maths Zone - -

The Hundred Square/ Place Value/ Addition and Subtraction under Number skills have links to all sorts of games to help practice/ learn these skills. You may have to try them out first yourself to determine if they're too hard but a bit of play time (and it will seem like play to your DD) on maths games makes a big difference.

BBC Bitsize reviews skills for end of Year 2 - but has games which your child can start to access (on Medium level - 3 levels Medium/ Hard/ Really Hard) for practice at this stage. Have a look through - but number pyramid and organising data will help with adding/ counting skills. Forest ordering/ adventure sequences/ Safari Units - also will help.

If your school has education city or My Maths - there will be lots of free games on there which can help - so have an explore.


Old fashioned games can also help:

Snakes and ladders - counting on from your square based on the roll of die (for adding 1 - 6) - add more dice for larger numbers (so two dice - adding 1 - 12/ 3 dice - 1 - 18 and 4 dice - 1 -24 - NB with 3/4 dice play board twice.)

You can work on subtraction by playing the snakes and ladder board backwards.


It may seem odd teaching your child '21' or 'blackjack' - but this really helps build skills adding to 20 (a target for end Year 1). The object of the game is to get 21 or as close to 21 as you can.

Ace = 1, 2- 9 as marked, Jack/Queen/ King all = 10.

Deal each player 2 cards. Tally those cards up. Then decide if you want to stay put on your total or have another card to make a bigger number.

We played this open face at first (all cards up) - and encouraged DDs to add everyone's cards up and decide whether to pick another card or stay put with us. DH was very good at taking risks and going 'bust' (going over 21) which was always very funny to DDs.

Once they're good you can play it with all cards face down.


It is upsetting when there is a homework that seems way too hard - but usually you learn that it was hard for somebody else too. It's rare your child is the only one to find it a struggle. But the point is that this is a skill that your child will need to learn this year and my advice is that if you feel your DC needs a bit of support - try encouraging playing some of the fabulous on-line games out there.

If it is a huge problem - there are many subscription maths tutorials which we have discussed endlessly here on MN. Maths Whizz/ Mathletics/ Mathsfactor/ Komodo Maths/ Khan Academy/ Squeebles maths/ to name but a few.... So if you feel that more help is in order - there are resources out there - many offer free trials so have an explore.


Bitlost Tue 09-Sep-14 21:26:27

Wow thank you so much for the reassuring words and the wealth of resources. Much, much appreciated. Hubby got onto the maths tonight, using straws. I am not sold on the school. Last year I thought they were slack with the reading and i ended up teaching her myself. She now reads very, very well. I guess we'll just have to do the same with the maths!

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