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Year 6 Maths - Ability dropping

(23 Posts)
Lonecatwithkitten Thu 08-Jan-15 13:15:39

I am really struggling to know how to help my year 6 DD. She has always been able at Maths, but her ability appears to be declining, not levelling, but getting worse.
I don't want to discuss the rights or wrongs of exams in primaries, but am using the results to illustrate what is going on. Year 4 Summer sat level 3-4 Maths paper 89%, year 5 Summer sat level 4-5 Maths paper 86%.
Last year there was some personality issue with Maths teacher who just continually gave me 'the kitten' doesn't seem to want to push herself, but no solutions. This teacher then left dramatically before start of school year.
New Maths teacher is great, DD really likes him, but he says he can't get handle on the problem. He feels she is failing at topics he knows she was previously able to do.
Last night we had tears as the primary maths challenge paper came home, she scored 12 which is bang on national average great, but previously she was well above average. Also her set that previously she has been in the top group of all scored over 20.
She has been assessed with a low processing speed (79 with average being 100). And has many of the features of dyslexia. From checking the paper it does look like she ran out of time.
We do seem to be in a cycle of struggle, get despondent and then struggle more.
I have to add she is a very stubborn child who refuses any kind of support from me as despite an A at A level and further Maths at Uni I know nothing about Maths.
What do I do? What should be asking the school?

TeenAndTween Thu 08-Jan-15 13:32:24

So to summarize:
- did well in y4
- did well in y5, despite personality issues with teacher

Likes teacher but is apparently struggling in some unspecified areas.
Has low processing speed.
Ran out of time in recent test.
Won't take help from you.

I would be trying to find out
- can she really not do the topics (which?) or is she running out of time?
- is it basics of a topic, or doing tricker problems? (tricker problems may show up lack of depth of understanding)
- is it wordy problems that are more of an issue? (may show difficulty astracting out relevant info and working out needed steps)
- what are her mental maths skills like? (poor may mean poor working memory)

DD1 is now y11 and has never found maths easy, but is willing to take guidance (I have maths degree). She gets there in the end but I need to break stuff down into tiny steps sometimes. She has recently been diagnosed as dyspraxic. I have had to teacher her workarounds for some areas, eg spatial awareness questions, and mental maths tests are a right off as she can't do them to required speed.

You need to know more detail than 'struggling'.

Lonecatwithkitten Thu 08-Jan-15 13:43:54

Teen your assessment is correct.

The teacher says he is uncertain whether it's an inability to do the maths or not enough time.
When the wall comes up it is to all levels of problem, not just the tricker ones.
Word problems are a big part of the difficult, pure maths problems with no words are fine.
She has massively above average auditory processing memory and below average visual processing memory. Mental Maths previously she has been one of the top of the class, since the start of year 5 she has been using the level 5 Mental Maths book and till the end of year 5 was doing well, yesterday the teacher changed her to the level 4 book.
One of the dyslexia features she has is that whilst she can work out any answer to a times table question, she hasn't been able to learn them. We have tried everything bar learning by rote which she refuses as that is not the way it's done now.
Me teaching her is sadly never going to happen as she refuses to accept I have anything useful to contribute to her learning. An example would be I am a vet and she was struggling with a question about the role of blood, lungs, heart and arteries in carrying the blood round the body. Rather than just telling her the answer I describe the passage of oxygen from breathing in to arriving in the tissues and her single statement was you are wrong', did I mention how stubborn she is.

TeenAndTween Thu 08-Jan-15 14:17:22

Times tables - doesn't matter how they are learned, but secondary maths is so much harder if you don't know them. DD1 knows them (mainly) but doesn't spot them for useful purposes, so simplifying fractions etc is painful for her. She also makes simple errors in multiplications whilst getting the harder maths right (so frustrating!).

Word problems - no idea. DD1 still struggles. For physics we have recently found a way, she re-writes wordy stuff as:

Find Given
Distance Start time=10:30
Stop time=10:45
and then finds the relevant equation.

Not sure that really works for most wordy maths problems though.

Can she do the mental maths questions on paper?
Can she do mental maths papers in her head given infinite time?
If yes to both then checking she knows the 'tricks' and continuing to plug at the tables is the only thing I can think of.

(I find it is hard helping with science as you never quite know how detailed to go. For secondary I bought a KS3 science book just so as I could see the level of detail needed.)

TeenAndTween Thu 08-Jan-15 14:18:08

(formatting lost, 2 columns one for Find, another for all the Givens.)

Soexcitedforthisyear Thu 08-Jan-15 16:12:24

Similar with DS - by Xmas of year 6 he was not making expected progress and was too slow and falling behind highest performers. Sat down with him over Xmas and realised that his times tables were iffy and that he really didn't have a good grasp of long division and long multiplication. We did lots of very boring old fashioned arithmetic work sheets over 2 or 3 weeks and that was all he needed to get him up to speed. He finished year 6 with a L6 in maths and is in top set at secondary and keeping up really well. I can't stress enough how important it is to make sure that the basics are completely sound or there comes a point where they flounder

DeWee Thu 08-Jan-15 17:53:47

I suspect that the times tables issue is slowing her down.
It may well be that they've speeded up this year in mental maths, not giving as much time per question, and although she can do it at a slower speed, she doesn't have enough time, then panics, hence the moving to an easier book.

TheTroubleWithAngels Thu 08-Jan-15 18:22:17

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Lonecatwithkitten Thu 08-Jan-15 18:37:57

She can give you answer to any times table question, but it is not instant recall. For example 12 sixes will come from 6x2=12 so 12+12+12+12+12+12 =72.
She refuses help from me no uncertain terms, 'your doing it wrong' or just 'your wrong' are common phrases if I try to help.
If she would let me help or actual even just listen for even two minutes I'm sure I would be able to help. I do understand some of her difficulties bring dyslexic myself, however, she really hates my solution which is that 'it maybe really unfair, but you can achieve anything you want you just have to work harder than other people'. I do practice what I preach she sees me studying for my MBA it takes me hours to write any of my essays.

Lonecatwithkitten Thu 08-Jan-15 18:40:39

Ah trouble inside I am cross, however as she has suffered consistent verbal abuse at the hands of her Dad (contact is limited) and angry type response results in total meltdown curled in a ball saying please, please don't shout.
She has had counselling for the abuse she is a much happier more confident girl as a result of that and my parenting.

TheTroubleWithAngels Thu 08-Jan-15 18:51:49

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

TeenAndTween Thu 08-Jan-15 18:53:42

My DD2 y5 is much less willing to take help than DD1.
What I have found is buying a kitchen timer and using it with her really helps.
So I say we are going to spend 10 minutes doing maths.
She says 5, I say 8, we set the timer to 8.
At the end of the 8 minutes we stop.

With DD1 she became more willing to listen when I said things like 'this is probably too complicated for you to understand at the moment but I'd like to show you anyway'. She then had permission to not understand, so opened her brain more.

Does she know any times tables by instant recall at all? Someone (teacher?) needs to show her how to bounce from what she knows to ones she doesn't. If she is doing everything by adding from scratch it is no wonder she is falling behind.

Lonecatwithkitten Thu 08-Jan-15 19:17:43

I have steered away from arrays as her visual processing is quite poor. I have used sung times tables as she loves to sing and this would use her in the words of the ed pschy phenomenal auditory process, but they are 'too babyish'. I feel if she would just submit to learning by rote she would get them quickly as again this would be auditory memory again.

DazzleU Thu 08-Jan-15 19:24:33

Have you tried Percy Parker - modern songs?

You Tube 12 times table example I've played the cd in background a lot for all my DC.

If she won't listen to tour help have your tried things like Khan Academy maths section - we she could get concepts explained again or mathsfactor from £9.99 per month where she could go through times table sections or other areas and get worked exampled and lots of practise and can work at her own pace and could build her confidence back up?

The word questions are an issue for one of mine - the maths he can do but getting the information out of questions is hard for him.

We work though word examples at home and they do at school - but he doesn't waste time working out his time tables as he knows them - it gives him more fact finding time.

TheTroubleWithAngels Thu 08-Jan-15 19:48:11

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

PastSellByDate Fri 09-Jan-15 09:51:24


From what I'm hearing here it sounds like there's 3 problems:

1) frustration/ lack of confidence negatively affecting her work
2) processing speed issues (possibly with basic multiplication facts)
3) application of calculation skills to word problems

The last is actually pretty classic of a child who 'gets it' when it's very formulaic - today we're doing two digits x 3 digits - and all the problems (which probably are only a handful and straightforward) are presented in the same way - no surprises/ complications.

I don't think I would worry about a 3% drop between Y4 and Y5 on a test (presumably L3 - L5 old KS2 SATs paper) - as some tests are harder than others and some days are better than others for children.

Can I just ask - what is the homework from the school like. Does she actually get homeworks which stretch her in the areas she's struggling - so word problems where she has to work out percentages/ averages/ etc...? Or is it more a case of the entire class gets an identical sheet of problems to solve - often bearing no relation to what has been going on in class?

My advice is this:

put some time in on multiplication fact speed - so that recall of a fact (either multiplication or division - i.e. inverse multiplication fact like 36 divided by 3 is 12/ divided by 4 is 9/ divided by 6 is 6. ( has tons of games - or download the free version of Timez Attack which has you solving times table problems under a bit of stress in quizzes by ogres).

I do find that teaching of fractions/ percentages/ proportions/ ratios in schools can be very shaky - this is about the point most primary teachers can lose the plot. Again - doing work with this so that she starts to see that 1/4 is the same thing as one out of 4 students or 1:4 ratio or 25% - and can easily switch between them will be a huge help.

Now there are several solutions - and I see that above someone has already discussed doing more through Education City.

If your school subscribes to My Maths - sign in and select homework - you should see NC Levels and little bars indicating what % of homeworks in that level have bee assigned. Based on that you can work out whether the teacher is assigning NC L3/ L4/ L5/ etc... homeworks.

Select that level - and then select the unfinished homeworks in that level. You will get a list of various homeworks and can target things like percentages/ fractions/ proportions/ conversions (i.e. converting £ to USD$)/ ratios/ etc.... The lessons will review the technique of dealing with such problems and the homework will give useful practice.

My Maths also has a lot of games that can also help you work these skills.


The Woodlands Junior School Maths Zone has links to all sorts of games and resources to support a wide range of calculation skills: - just select the area you want to practice and go for it.


Khan Academy (which is entirely free) - has video explanation of various calculations - and this can be useful when reviewing techniques - especially if there has been a disagreement (often because 'in school' primary maths terminology differs from 'traditional' terminology or HE Mathematics terminology. - just select subjects/ maths/ and then use search engine or select the area under FOUNDATION (which is for primary grades).

If you feel that the issue is that she's starting to really struggle/ not getting how to apply basic calculation skills to 'real life' problems/ more complicated word problems/ etc.... - there are a wide range of KS2 SATs/ 11+ workbooks that have these types of problems or you can consider subscribing to an on-line Maths. I get that she's resistant - it's getting hard and she doesn't like struggling (a rare occurrence in most pupil's lives in primary schools in England) - but encourage her to see these as puzzles and 'just for fun' rather than you being unfair/ cruel.

There also are a number of on-line maths tutorials available by subscription: komodo maths/ maths whizz/ mathletics/ mathsfactor - all of which have been praised by various of us (myself included) at some point or another here on MN. Sometimes the old fashioned solution of a bit more practice & reviewing methods is the answer. For us it certainly worked. All of these offer free trials - and if you do go down this road I'd seriously suggest you include your DC in the decision of which programme to try - because they're all different and the various options appeal more to some than others.


ReallyTired Fri 09-Jan-15 10:34:16

I think you are being very hard on yourself.

It has to be remembered that ten year olds think they know absolutely everything and mums are throughly dim. (Even if they are a vet with amazing A-levels)

You say her visual processing is poor. What is her kinetic learning like? Could she use lego to make the array with times tables? There are some tricks for memorising some of the times times.

Year 6 is horrible for many children. There is so much stress with school transfer and SATs. It is not the end the of the world if she messes up her SATs. There is movement between sets in a decent secondary school..

rabbitstew Fri 09-Jan-15 12:33:37

Lonecatwithkitten - Any way you could speak to the teacher and ask him to tell your dd that learning times tables by rote via singing or chanting is actually a great way for some children to learn them so that they can answer questions quickly???... My ds1 is just like your dd in refusing to accept any alternative ways of learning offered by his mother if the school has never tried them on him!!! I think it's a fight or flight thing - you are highlighting something your child finds difficult and they just want to run away from the issue, which they can try to do at home, but don't feel able to do at school, so will be more open minded with a teacher!

NB PastSellByDate - 1:4 ratio is like fifths, not quarters, because both numbers represent the numerators if you are thinking of them as a fraction (neither is the denominator)... I'm always having to remind my dcs about that, so I agree, ratios are not well taught in primary schools!

tobysmum77 Sat 10-Jan-15 07:27:23

It just sounds like she did badly in maths challenge paper to me. I remember doing maths challenge at school (senior one, in its first couple of years I imagine grin ) It was just presented to us as a bit of fun. Interestingly enough I got a bronze award, and I'm not a particularly amazing mathmetician.

I think the key really is what that paper shows, does it test speed etc. It is a different type of test, it isn't evidence her maths is getting worse.

2fedup Sat 10-Jan-15 07:45:52

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

PastSellByDate Sat 10-Jan-15 09:20:49

rabbitstew & Lonecat:

Rabbit is absolutely right 1/4 = 25% = 1 out of 3 = 1:3 - sorry whipped off an answer very quickly and wasn't exactly thinking it through. blush

1 out of 4 is indeed 5 parts = 20% or 1/5th.

Hope however the point I was making - that understanding all these relationships/ different ways of expressing the same thing is tricky and this is a point where if your underlying understanding of maths (times table facts/ basic calculation skills) is slow or shaky - things can become very tricky & therefore frustrating.


JustRichmal Sat 10-Jan-15 09:47:39

The one thing I have discovered in teaching maths to children is it takes an awful lot of listening to them. You have to adapt what you teach as you go to meet the child's ability, which requires constantly listening to what the child is or is not understanding.

At 10 years old you could try asking her if she wants your help and what she wants to do to improve her maths.

In times tables I used to teach dd one sum a day. There's also Khan Academy or the Letts Mythical Maths if she does want to do more but work alone.

If you do teach her something, let her know that you don't expect her to get things straight away, but that she will keep coming back to it and will slowly understand it better as she goes. If you get her to indicate with her thumb how well she has understood something, she will be able to see she is making progress and it will take away any anxiety of feeling she is failing if she does not get things immediately.

Hope some of this helps.

I also agree with Tobysmum, it does sound like she just did badly on one challenge. Dd does do quite a few of the maths challenges and is constantly surprising us with how well or how badly she does on them. Our answer is always "well you enjoyed doing it, so there you go", even if we are miffed on the inside.

PastSellByDate Sat 10-Jan-15 11:02:55

Hi Rabbit before you spot last mistake (and as DD1 pointed it out with much laughter at old PSBD):

1 out of 4 = ratio 1:3 (1 part in 4 to 3 parts in 4)

25% = 1 out of 4 (not 1 out of 3)

As DD1 said wisely to her old PSBD Mum - the mistake is using the same numbers across the board - with ratios you have to add both sides of the colon (smile together to work out the whole number of parts and think of either side of the colon (smile as parts of the whole - so 1:3 has 4 parts in total and reads 1 part in 4 total parts: 3 parts in 4 total parts - think smoothie was DD1s wise words of advice.

What I love about having supported DD1 to do an on-line maths tutorial - is that now she's teaching me! Thank you Mathsfactor!


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