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Year 2 ds overwhelmed with maths - help!

(18 Posts)
LeonardoAcropolis Wed 04-Feb-15 12:22:38

Hello, after some advice please.

My 6 year old ds is in year 2 and apart from maths is doing very well. His teacher says that his reading is excellent, he writes lovely stories and she said that he has a good memory. However, he is falling behind in maths and even though he attends a little support group to give him a boost, she is concerned that he doesn't retain any of the information that he has just learnt.

With the teacher's support, I have been helping him at home with times tables and number bonds to 10. However, he has already got it into his mind that he can't do it, maths is hard, maths is scary. He pulls worried faces, even whimpers, when I ask him to solve a little problem. I've tried reassuring him, but I've had to explain that maths isn't going away and he needs to learn these basics. I've told him that maths isn't scary, it's like learning how to spell because all you need to do is practice (teachers-is this true?). It is incredibly frustrating, we go over the same sum over and over, yet he j u st doesn't learn it. We have cracked the 10 times table, we give him lots of praise for that, but it's number bonds to 10 that are the current bug bear. I try to use different techniques ie counting on fingers, counting with jelly tots, reading the different number bonds, using numicon. But two weeks into it, he doesn't seem to have learnt a thing.

The children are to be tested on times tables and number bonds using rapid recall. Ds is quite stressed. How can I increase his self esteem and confidence? He is such a bright little boy otherwise.

Heels99 Wed 04-Feb-15 12:25:41

Take the stress off, stop mentioning tests etc. try to make it fun and give lots of praise and rewards . Boost his confidence. Don't worry what the other kids can do focus on helping your child. Does he prefer on line maths games for instance? Keep it short but frequent eg 10 mins per day max.
Good luck

LeonardoAcropolis Wed 04-Feb-15 12:33:47

Hi, thanks for your reply,

I don't mention tests, I think the school does. I'm not sure about his classmates but I have told him that everybody finds maths tricky sometimes and it doesn't matter if you get something wrong because if you practice, you will get it right next time, but I still see his worried little face.

So, should I really just keep it to 10 mins a day and heavily praise his little achievements?

Heels99 Wed 04-Feb-15 12:37:26

In my opinion, yes. Don't switch hi off maths by doing loads every day. Little and often. Let him experience being successful at maths, nobody wants to do things they find hard or always get wrong. We're you not doing any maths at home until now or is it just that he has begun to struggle now?

elvisola Wed 04-Feb-15 12:47:08

We had this with DD, about the same time of the year as well. I think the work starts getting harder and faster paced due to the SATS.

DDs issue was that she couldn't retain, the teacher would describe how to work it out once, most of the kids got it and poor DD just sat there panicking and too embarrassed to ask for help. It honestly took lots of explanations for her to understand.

Ill be honest and say that we cracked it by hiring a maths tutor once a week. Spending time one to one and not being frightened to ask for as much help as she needed gave her the confidence she needed. She went from failing the mock SAT paper to getting a 3 in the real one. Now in Y3 she seems to be holding her own (but we have kept the tutor).

If you are good at explaining maths yourself (I'm not!) try downloading some previous SAT papers to practice at home as they will give your DS an idea of the sorts of reasonings and working outs to work towards.

Heels99 Wed 04-Feb-15 12:48:57

Elvisola the ops child can't do number bonds to ten so is doing sat papers really an option, wouldn't that damage confidence even more?

elvisola Wed 04-Feb-15 12:55:17

Well I don't, this is just my experience, it worked for my child - thought it may be helpful to the OP to put it out there. Once DD understood how to work out maths problems the number bonds just fell into place. She hated the repetition of number bonds and enjoyed it more when it was for example: Sam had 20 apples, Rita had 5, how many were left etc (bad example but I'm sure you get my drift).

LeonardoAcropolis Wed 04-Feb-15 14:49:21

Thanks for your reply elvisola I will download some SATS papers, but only once he is feeling more comfortable.

Berrie Wed 04-Feb-15 15:01:54

Forget the SATS papers.
Sounds like you have to take all the stress out of it for him as he is developing a mental maths wall of fear.

Make some 0-10 digit cards. Can he put them together to make number bonds to ten? Great. How fast can he do it? Can he beat Mum? Place them around the room as a bit of a treasure hunt - collecting pairs. Prizes? Play I am 8 you are...? (he says 2)
The trick is to make it feel like fun and not work.
There will be lots of online games too.

jazzandh Wed 04-Feb-15 15:13:11

Back in Y2 my elder son was like this and someone on here recommended an online programme Maths Whizz. He did this for several years 15 minutes or so (sometimes more) every few days.

It was really good as it kept repeating various elements in slightly different ways and really sunk in.......really helped his confidence as it went back to the beginning.

Lindy2 Wed 04-Feb-15 16:21:03

I found a few free apps that have helped DD. There are a few that are just basic addition and subtraction but she enjoys them and it seems to have helped a lot. Also DD loves counting coins. I give her a big pile of change and she has to put them in to piles of 10p then count in 10s to get a total. It was really a question of finding something mathematical that interested her. I know it's not exactly number bonds but I'm hoping it will strengthen the basics so that the rest follows on. I am still trying to find something related to telling the time though that will hold her interest.

PastSellByDate Wed 04-Feb-15 16:29:41

Hi Leonardo:

First off I think you need to read the programme of study for maths:

statutory requirements for year 2 are:

Pupils should be taught to:

count in steps of 2, 3, and 5 from 0, and in tens from any number, forward
and backward

recognise the place value of each digit in a two-digit number (tens, ones)

identify, represent and estimate numbers using different representations, including the number line

compare and order numbers from 0 up to 100; use <, > and = signs

read and write numbers to at least 100 in numerals and in words

use place value and number facts to solve problems


so unless your child is at a private school or academy - basically there is NO EXPECTATION THAT PUPILS SHOULD KNOW THEIR TIMES TABLES BY END YEAR 2 - let alone right now

Counting in intervals, however, is the precursor to the times tables.

So learning to count by 2s (2-4-6-8-....)/ 5s (5-10-15-20-....)/ 10s (10 - 20 - 30 - 40 ....) is a major first step to learning times tables.

Counting by 3s is 'new' for us oldies to this primary game - but if you flip your hands over you'll see every finger has 3 lines and if you count your finger nail or tip of the thumb - you actually have a x3 (counting intervals of 3) calculator naturally on your hands.


So first off as a parent you have to decide if this pressure to know X times table right now at age 6/7 is necessary. Frankly if the government is saying this is for Y3/ Y4 (ages 7 - 9) then yes the school is keen but you are well within your rights to report this is too much pressure for your 6/7 year old and that you do not want him to continue to be tested on times tables in Year 2, which is an expectation of the schools but not the national curriculum.


Hating maths is the issue and you really need to battle this - your DS already at 6/7 thinks he's no good at maths/ gets nervous about doing it/ doesn't enjoy it - so you've got a lot of work to do to get him back to loving numbers.

Some ideas:

Play games that involve counting on spaces - e.g. board games such as snakes and ladders. If subtraction is a problem (and DD1 seriously struggled with subtraction at this age) we found that playing snakes and ladders backwards really helped.

Cooking - get him to measure (it will start to teach him about fractions - 1 cup/ 1/2 cup, 1 tsp/ 1/4 tsp, etc... & weights). Also really useful to involve him in helping to set timers and working out when the cakes/ biscuits/ etc... will be ready.

shopping - so all sorts of little things her to learn how to work with money. Teaching about pounds and pence/ 100 pennies makes a pound/ five 20p pieces makes a pound/ etc.... and lots of things you can do whilst shopping:

If the banana will cost me 60p - how much will I have left from £1?

Now it may be at first that it's just about working out what coins are what - and what combinations are necessary to make that amount - so for example if you went to the shops you might encourage your DS to get the exact change to pay for something <£1 or £2.

I think you should be working on core things:

Can he count to 100.
Can he count ot 100 by 2s/ 5s/ 10s.
Can he count by 3s.
Can he count by 2s if you start somewhere odd - like 13.
Does he understand how a number line works?

Does he understand that when adding bigger numbers he can do it in steps?

Does he know all the ways to make 7 (0 + 7/1+6/ 2+5/ 3+4/ 4+3/ 5+2/ 6+1/7+0) - when you're told to practice number bonds to 10 sometimes schools don't clarify the mean all the different ways to make each number to ten. This is incredibly useful and worth spending time on because it will help with mental arithmetic and is precursor to carrying/ borrowing. (A great way to practice this is by playing number bond snap - so set a target (say 9) select out all cards up to target (Ace = 1, 2 - 9 as marked) - shuffle deck. Flip over first card - say it's a 3. First to shout out 6 (3 + 6 = 9) wins the card. At the end of the deck - the one with most cards wins).

Can he handle adding numbers to 20? Can he handle subtracting numbers to 20? Could he cope with numbes to 50?


I know for DD1 the issue was that she just didn't relate to numbers on the page and found explanations in class just confused her. So we started to do things very visually. So adding (to emphasis place value) with similar but differnt items: lego & duplo/ raisins & grapes/ smarties & chocolate buttons/ etc...

so for example when teaching DD1 how to add 5 + 3 - I'd start with a plate of 5 raisins and a plate of 3 raisins - she'd put them into one pile and count them. I then worked on holding a number in her head and counting on from there. So holding 5 in her head and counting on 3 more. We then worked on jumps. So jumping 3 from 5 and getting 8.

I then worked on place value - so each digit in a number has a meaning based on its location. In the number 4387 - the 7 signifies 7 units and the 3 signified 3 hundreds. You can't have more than one digit in a position (sometimes called column).

So we then worked with numbers >10. So 8 + 3. Again two plates of raisins (which I explained represent units of one - which we call 'units'). But when DD counted them all up she had 11. She can't write 11 in the units column (and raisins are units) so she is going to have to cash 10 units in for one 'ten' - in this case grapes = 1 ten. So she exchanged ten raisins for one grape and she had 1 grape and 1 raisin which = 11.

Same thing helps with subtraction. 10 - 7 - would be one grape take away 7 raisins. Well we need to convert the grape into raisins (or another way of looking at it is you can't take 7 from 0 - in the units column) [and this was precisely where DD1 used to get confused] - so by exchanging our grape (10) for 10 raisins we can then subtract 7 from it to have a remaining pile of 3 raisins (I find subtraction great fun because you can let your child eat what they're taking away!). So after that we know that 10 - 7 = 3.


Once he's feeling more confident with this kind of activity - maths (but not maths) - consider expanding into video games (especially if he enjoys them):

For Y2 I'd start with BBC Bitesize KS1 (free) - this will test all those aspects of the national curriculum your child should know and you can control difficulty (medium/ hard/ really hard):

Woodlands Junior school Maths Zone is also free: - highly recommend 100 square/ place value/ addition/ subtraction sections - where there are lots of games & resources to support learning these core skills.

Maths Champs:

If he continues to struggle and you also feel you need ideas/ help - there are tons of on-line maths tutorials out there which you can subscribe to: Komodo Maths/ Maths Whizz/ Mathletics/ Mathsfactor - all of which have been discussed a lot here on MN. I know for DD1 the issue was she needed practice and she needed to work at her own speed. So do remember that there are solutions out there and you can start out really struggling but find that a different style of explanation/ practice that seems more like playing/ etc... can result in a huge improvement.

My main piece of advice is keep signalling to your DS that you believe he can do it and that you're happy to help where you can. Celebrate even the smallest achievement - counting to 12 by 3s, a positive comment from the teacher, etc... Try to help him see that maths is all around us, is useful and isn't anything to be scared of - just takes a bit of time to learn about and get good at (like learning a language, a sport or a musical instrument).


LeonardoAcropolis Wed 04-Feb-15 17:53:10

Berrie, Jazz and Lindy, thank you so much for those ideas, he does like to play games. We just need to get the numbers and method stuck in his head x

PastSellByDate -thank you for taking time to write that wonderful post, so helpful. Lots of ideas to try.

I feel more optimistic now. His school is inviting the year 2s to ask teachers to challenge them with 2,5 and 10 times tables, plus number bonds to 10, 20 and 100. If they complete the challenge they will receive a certificate in assembly and I hope that my ds will be able to get one, he may feel inadequate if not sad

LeonardoAcropolis Wed 04-Feb-15 18:34:10

back again, I have just checked his challenge card and at this stage, he only needs to be able to count in 2, 5 and 10s which he has just done with confidence grin.

Ferguson Wed 04-Feb-15 18:49:10

You have had a lot of information that should help. As a retired TA, I'll just add my standard Numeracy information. UNDERSTANDING things is the most important aspect, and not just learning by rote:

Practical things are best for grasping number concepts - bricks, Lego, beads, counters, money, shapes, weights, measuring, cooking.

Do adding, taking away, multiplication (repeated addition), division (sharing), using REAL OBJECTS as just 'numbers' can be too abstract for some children.

Number Bonds of Ten forms the basis of much maths, so try to learn them. Using Lego or something similar, use a LOT of bricks (of just TWO colours, if you have enough) lay them out so the pattern can be seen of one colour INCREASING while the other colour DECREASES. Lay them down, or build up like steps.


ten of one colour none of other
nine of one colour one of other
eight of one colour two of other
seven of one colour three of other


then of course, the sides are equal at 5 and 5; after which the colours 'swap over' as to increasing/decreasing.

To learn TABLES, do them in groups that have a relationship, thus:

x2, x4, x8

x3, x6, x12

5 and 10 are easy

7 and 9 are rather harder.

Starting with TWO times TABLE, I always say: "Imagine the class is lining up in pairs; each child will have a partner, if there is an EVEN number in the class. If one child is left without a partner, then the number is ODD, because an odd one is left out."

Use Lego bricks again, lay them out in a column of 2 wide to learn 2x table. Go half way down the column, and move half the bricks up, so that now the column is 4 bricks wide. That gives the start of 4x table.

Then do similar things with 3x and 6x.

With 5x, try and count in 'fives', and notice the relationship with 'ten' - they will alternate, ending in 5 then 10.

It is important to try and UNDERSTAND the relationships between numbers, and not just learn them 'by rote'.

An inexpensive solar powered calculator (no battery to run out!) can help learn tables by 'repeated addition'. So: enter 2+2 and press = to give 4. KEEP PRESSING = and it should add on 2 each time, giving 2 times table.

There are good web sites, which can be fun to use :

Maursh Wed 04-Feb-15 19:11:56

Excellent post by PastSellByDate. You really need to address the confidence issue as soon as possible.

There is a wonderful LeapFrog video called "Math Adventure to the Moon" (look it up on YouTube). It is a lovely little story but has songs counting in 2, 5 and 10 which I have three years olds comfortably singing. They "get it" because it is just words to a song to them. There are other addition gimmicks and songs about how maths is everywhere and so on. Take a look - I highly recommend for confidence building and it is quite enjoyable for children.

LeonardoAcropolis Thu 05-Feb-15 09:20:45

More brilliant help, thanks Ferguson and Maursh.

His confidence is the main thing, this morning I asked him a couple of questions on the way to school. He only got them right after a bit of prompting, but I heaped on praise anyway and told him that he's learnt them well.

amyfowler Fri 06-Feb-15 01:05:10

I am not sure if it's helpful but I just got lot of colors.. Some find sand and lots of beans etc.. First I will pretend with my son that we are doing done messy play. Color the beans color the sand .. Use color coding to indicate adding (green) taking away red. I am not sure if I am explaining well. Basically huge visual aids.. A build up of doing done art activity and introducing a concept on sly.. There was lot of cleaning after every art activity but images and concepts stayed in my DS's head. I think taking him out and doing things in a different setup.. Like walking in a park..using leaves to pair up table of two? I think just do it slow and do it in very unlike setup (no paper/desk) etc.. It takes time and self doubt but we all get there at the end ��

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