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How do I help my child cope when things don't go to plan especially in maths?

(12 Posts)
MissyMew123 Thu 12-Feb-15 22:33:04

I am feeling a bit deflated, DD has always found maths more challenging than Reaidng/writing. Today she failed at a mental arithmatic test by the narrowest margin! She had a bit of a melt down about it at home, which was awful as I felt helpless, nothing I said made it better. Does anyone have any ideas to help her cope with a knock back. I should add that she's doing fine at school, she's just very hard on herself, which is a worry.

MillyMollyMama Thu 12-Feb-15 23:08:18

My eldest DD was like this. I found that talking through the fact that not everybody finds everything easy all of the time and, although it is admirable to want to do well, it is not worth getting so upset about it. It is not an insurmountable problem to have a disappointing test result. It is one occasion and she has a chance to work with you to do better next time. Obviously that means finding out what it is she is struggling with! I also found that, with maturity, came an understanding that the odd disappointment was not so bad as long as you learned from it. It can mean more practice to make perfect!

nonicknameseemsavailable Fri 13-Feb-15 15:29:21

we had this with spelling tests with one child and she had some sessions at school to help her realise it was ok to make mistakes and that actually making mistakes is all part of the learning process.
It can help for them to see other people making mistakes so make some at home (not obviously set up ones but you know what i mean, when you forget to do something or do something wrong then make a comment about it like 'oh silly mummy, I completely forgot to turn the washing machine on. oh well it doesn't matter I can do it now')

MissyMew123 Fri 13-Feb-15 17:53:03

Thank you for your replies and ideas. Will give them a try. It's funny how it's always maths, I guess it's a confidence thing? She will re do the test at some point, but the thing that really upset her was that she can't do it straight away? Seems ok about it now, but I am dreading the next time! Thanks again.

Ferguson Fri 13-Feb-15 18:48:50

I don't think you said what Year she is, but I offer my standard Numeracy information, which may help:

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 :

spanieleyes Fri 13-Feb-15 19:59:18

No one should "fail" at a test. They might not achieve 100% or even 50% but if a child can't access a good portion of the test then they are sitting the wrong test! When my class sit tests the aim is to do the best that they can and try to beat their personal best, not an arbitrary figure. One child today received a standing ovation from the class for scoring her highest score yet-even though there are many other children who score higher!
( Sorry, "failing tests" is a personal bugbear of mine!)

shebird Sat 14-Feb-15 08:21:55

Is it possible that the pressure of the test is the issue rather than actual ability? I know that my Y6 DD does not perform as well as expected when put under pressure in tests, particularly the mental maths where there is also time factor.

MissyMew123 Sat 14-Feb-15 08:46:29

Shebird, I think that's exactly it. Last year (at a different Sch) they did a system of answering questions in a minute so it started with 11, then 22, 33 ect. This caused no end of stress.had to get them all right to get the badge. I stopped doing it with her in the end, really struggled to see what benefit there was. Now the tests are timed but based on specific facts. This one was division/multiplication of 2,5,10 and 11. Had to get 24/25 each question timed to get a badge. She got 23/25. When the pressure of time is added she really struggles as soon as she feels things are going too slow she panics just making things worse! She's only 8 and had good ks1 Sats last year across the board 2a and 3. Mental maths is useful going forward so I can see the advantage of having that knowledge. The thing that I find strange is that you don't get a badge for your reading levels so everyone can see!!

toomuchicecream Sat 14-Feb-15 08:51:46

Have a read around the stuff about growth mindsets & Carol Dweck. The bits I've heard have changed the way I talk to my class. I now stress much more the importance of learning from mistakes and keeping on trying. I talk to my class (year 1 & 2) in terms of if you got everything right, what did you learn today? It's by getting things wrong we learn how to do them right. Some things are difficult, and to learn how to do them you need to keep going - each time you will get a bit more right until it starts to get easier and then you discover you can do it now. We all have different strengths and talents - one child might find it really easy to be good at football but find neat hand writing harder. Another child might be fantastic at Maths but find drawing really difficult. That doesn't matter - it's a great thing that we're all different - but what is important is that we all keep trying to get better at the things we find hard. The children really get it, and it makes for a great learning atmosphere.

I can't do it - yet. But I will be able to if I keep trying.

balancingfigure Sat 14-Feb-15 08:53:01

Time tests sound awful OP. Is this done in lots of schools?

My DD is 7, year 3, and she is quite confident at her maths but would go to pieces with a timed test!

MissyMew123 Sat 14-Feb-15 15:06:51

I don't know how common the timed tests are. Her old school introduced the 99 club thing last year in preparation for the new NC changes this year for mental arithmatic. Current schools system has been in place a while. To be fair the test she did this week was computerised and had 10 seconds a question, I don't think the timings was such an issue.

PastSellByDate Sat 14-Feb-15 15:22:47

I get that test can be daunting - and trust me DD1 was stuck on '55 club' for all of Year 3/ start Year 4 - as she was totally unable to engage with multiplication tables as she rather needed to sort out how to add/ subtract first and isn't a parrot (i.e. doesn't memorize answers and retain them easily).

I don't know that this will be the solution MissyMew123 - but we found regular practice to be the solution - so moving maths skills from long term memory of a few short opporutnities at hearing about/ practicing those skills to long term memory of innumerable times of solving similar problems.

We achieved this in 3 ways:

1) we joined an on-line maths tutorial. In our case mathsfactor - because it was taught by a woman (Carol Vorderman) & because explanations were on video & Dds could watch over and over again - pause and work out answers to questions, etc... - it seemed to work at their speed. I have to admit when they joined (DD1 in late Y2/ DD2 in Y1 out of jealousy becuase DD1 was doing 'cool maths') they were so young that I had to do a lot of the data entry - but it meant I really got to see what was happening with them lesson by lesson.

2) we played a lot of number related games:

Snakes and ladders - first of all counting on with one die - then using two dice. Then insisting DDs counted in steps encouraging 2/3 or 5. Then insisting they worked it out in their head. Ultimately we started playing backwards - for subtraction. (With two dice you sometimes have to play the board twice - or it goes too fast).

Card games: Addition jump snaps. So chose a number bond to work on - adding 8 to all numbers to 10. Use order deck of cards - Ace = 1/ 2-9 as marked/ Jack-Queen-King all = 10. I used to write + 8 on a post-it and pop it next to the downturned deck. Flip the card over - say it's 7. First to shout out 15 wins the card. When the deck is completed - the person with the most cards wins the game.

You can also play this for multiplication tables - but Jack = 10/ Queen = 11 and King = 12.

Games like Backgammon - where you move pieces and have to calculate where they land for strategy also works nicely.

3) Lots of free practice available through on-line maths related video games:

Woodland Junior School Maths Zone:

Maths Champs:

Multiplication dot com:

Timez Attack - a game where you solve multiplication problems as both multiple additions and traditional vertical problems - free version has two platforms or you can pay for fancier versions. We found free version worked fine: - the now have all sorts of versions for addition/ subtraction and division (i.e. inverse multiplication facts like 81 divided by 9 = ?).

If your school belongs to something like education city or my maths - remember that there are free maths games there and the schools subscription usually runs right through the summer.


We genuinely found for DD1 that doing 15-20 minutes of maths regularly daily resulted in sound calculation skills and after a few months resulted in obvious improvements and improved confidence.

This is not a quick fix - but I genuinely think that for some children a few short lessons and maybe 1-2 sessions of practicing a concept isn't really enough. Weeks/ Months later they easily can forget the method/ terminology or approach.

I'm just a Mum and I can't swear this will work for everybody - but I have found that consciously incorporating practice (in the way you might for a sport/ musical instrument/ dance/ reading etc....) seems to make a huge difference.


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