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Is your DC good at maths? Any tips for meeting with head?

(28 Posts)
headoverheels Fri 17-Jul-15 11:42:02

DS1 is 9 and just finishing year 4. The headmistress told me today that he has just been assessed as a 'strong 5a' in maths, which I think means he is working a couple of years above his age. She asked if I would like to meet her early next week to discuss his maths provision in year 5.

I'm reasonably happy with the provision that has been made for him so far (differentiated work etc), but I just wondered if anyone who has been in this position (as a parent or a teacher) could share any tips for the meeting. Anything particular I could suggest / request?

HolidayHeidi Fri 17-Jul-15 11:48:44

You may want to request/suggest he works with y6 children for maths next year and those who are similarly able. This makes group work and maths problem solving more enjoyable for him. Also you could enquire if the local area have maths gifted groups which meet once or twice a half term for similar problem solving exercises owing equally able children.

headoverheels Fri 17-Jul-15 12:28:31

Thanks Heidi. The local maths group is a good idea, I'll ask.

In your experience is working a year ahead a good idea? I don't want to DS to feel too different from his peers. I don't want him to be bored either though! And what happens when he gets to year 6 - would he end up effectively repeating a year?

Laura0806 Fri 17-Jul-15 14:31:30

Sounds like a good school. My dd( end of year 4) is 5c so not as high but the only child at that level and she has been thoroughly bored all year. When I asked they say they do differentiate but they don't as she tells me she does exactly the same as everyone else. It sounds like theres not a lot you need to ask as they seem on the ball .

sunnydayinmay Fri 17-Jul-15 15:26:31

My ds (just leaving year 6), and two other classmates, worked with the year ahead from year 3. It worked very well. In year 6 they had lessons with a retired secondary teacher. No complaints from me at all!

Needaninsight Fri 17-Jul-15 15:29:19

I've taught some able kids. A good teacher should easily be able to provide work for them.

I think there's only a concern when you have a Gifted & Talented kid - and by that, I'm thinking of the Year 5 child I had who had already passed A Level maths with a Grade A and was completing a Maths Degree!!

It's also worth knowing that most of what they do at Primary is just repeated at Secondary anyway!!

QueenOfNothing Fri 17-Jul-15 18:03:47

Top set in Y5 in DSs school did level 6 maths.

I'm fairly sure DS started Y6 a 6a in maths, and then just continued to do level 6 in Y6, although I think for challenge problems he also did some level 7 stuff.

I'm not sure why the HT wants to meet with you! He should know what to do, it's not THAT unusual.

Is it a small school? When he goes to a large secondary they'll be lots of other pupils working at his level.

Lurkedforever1 Sat 18-Jul-15 04:53:35

Depends on what they normally do to provide for his needs. Dd used to go up a few years for their lesson, combined with having very differentiated work alongside her classmates. Once she got in y4 and ran out of cohort she had a mathamatician ta combined with class differentiation, even if it meant she was doing her own completely different work sat with her friends. She did run out of ks2 curriculum, but certainly wasn't just taught to the requirements and then been doing ks3 since. Hasn't caused any issues

Lurkedforever1 Sat 18-Jul-15 05:17:45

If he's not done any of the maths challenges then ask about those too

JustRichmal Sat 18-Jul-15 07:51:49

It sounds like a very good school because the only way a child gets to level 5 maths is by being taught what is on level 5, which means, if he is not learning it at home, he must be being taught it at school. Level 5a is very high for end of year 4, so you could start by finding out how they are differentiating already to get him to this level, as it is obviously working.
Do you know what they are doing at the moment to differentiate? Does the teacher take time out to teach him individually or is he put in another class for maths? Or is he in a small top set where they are all being taught level 5 content? In short, I think you need to find out what has been happening already and what the HT's concerns are for this needing altering in the next year.
You are very lucky to have such a good school. Dd did lots of maths at home and because school did not teach to her level they would not assess to that level. Dd spent years learning no maths at school.
Be careful when choosing a secondary school in order to get one that will continue teaching to his level.
You could also ask if he could be put in for the UKMT junior maths challenge in year 5. If you go on the UKMT website you will see that it has questions which look for thinking things through, which is a good skill to attain in maths and will give him depth rather than acceleration to his learning. Getting a good score will also give him something which the secondary should recognise.

headoverheels Sat 18-Jul-15 09:02:12

Thanks so much for the replies, some really useful stuff here. It's a fairly small village school rated Good by Ofsted, but I've been very pleased with it so I'm glad to hear you think it sounds like a good school. JustRichmal (I like your name! Loved Just William as a child) we haven't been doing anything with him at home (except occasionally helping him with his homework if he asks). I think the issue for next year is that this year he's been working with a small group of able children, but the head seems to think he is now a step ahead of them so may need further differentiation.

Thanks again, I've written down some of these points so I remember to say them at the meeting.

TheFirstOfHerName Sat 18-Jul-15 09:07:46

Once DS2 reached level 6A, the school brought in a recently retired secondary school maths teacher to do one session a week with him.

I would also recommend the UKMT junior maths challenges.

blink1552 Sat 18-Jul-15 16:15:28

She has requested the meeting, you don't need to go armed with questions.

The most imporant qu for me is what is the plan for him going forward. I don't think putting him up a year necessarily solves much because in some ways it will make it harder to keep him stimulated in Y6. I don't mind too much what they do with him but I want to know there is a plan and it is structured, with a goal in mind, rather than just thinking up random things to keep him busy.

I would also like to hear that they are planning to liaise with his secondary school if he is going beyond 'normal' primary curriculum.

Lurkedforever1 Sat 18-Jul-15 16:49:06

It may well just be that she wants your opinion personality wise as to what may or may not suit, rather than info on what level to cover.
I'm not sure I'd be overly concerned about liasing with the secondary because by the time you get a place it will be near the end of y6. And if a child has really covered all of ks2 before y6 starts (properly not just the stuff for a l6 test or similar) you can't just keep them occupied with puzzles etc for 2 full terms till allocation day. Plus kids able in maths often move onto the next stage by themselves without being told how or why.

senua Sat 18-Jul-15 17:03:13

You may want to request/suggest he works with y6 children for maths next year and those who are similarly able.

So what does he do in Y6 then?
Don't gallop too fast ahead in Maths, it causes all sorts of problems.

Lurkedforever1 Sat 18-Jul-15 17:14:10

What's the alternative senua if they are already more than comfortable and bored at a level considered already ahead? And figuring things out above that without input? genuinely interested because I keep hearing that and yet nobody will tell me the answer!

suze28 Sat 18-Jul-15 18:43:11

Curriculum 2014 aims for children to deepen their understanding of a subject so for maths look at the challenges on the Nrich website. I use these once a week with my class and focus on eg working systematically, finding all possibilities etc.

JustRichmal Sat 18-Jul-15 18:47:21

If they are figuring maths out without input surely the answer is just to differentiate by leaving them get on with it?

Lurkedforever1 Sat 18-Jul-15 19:25:33

richmal Yes in a practical sense but then by definition they'll move on to a more difficult concept and thus 'too far ahead up the curriculum' which is what people keep saying they shouldn't. I'll try to give an example at a basic level, if a child has a natural skill for maths and can add and subtract 2 digit numbers it doesn't take much of a leap or any input to figure out how to do it with 3 digit numbers. And it's a matter of minutes to explain the column method to a child with an instinct for maths, at which point they'll be happy adding and subtracting numbers with as many digits as fit on the page. And they won't need much practice to be extremely competent, which ties in with suzes post. But with very little input that child has bypassed number lines etc and gone up the curriculum. So how do you deepen their understanding when they're already there, and the rest of the class is still trying to get to grips with number lines? Because I can't think of anything but letting then carry on with the curriculum at their pace. Obviously not that specifically it's just an easy example to write of a curriculum leap and the child being able to move up without much input or needing to be in the 0.01 type of category. I think nrich are great but even if you find enough on the part of the curriculum the class are on, and of a complex enough nature it's not boring, then at the least you go into the category of pure amusement rather than learning. Hence I can't see how they can avoid going up the curriculum unless you teach 'too slow' and just occupy them with amusement, which doesn't seem to have any positives for the child themselves

SilverGiraffe7 Sat 18-Jul-15 19:48:29

As Suze says, the new curriculum really gives the opportunity for mastery and application of concepts rather than storming through levels. Levels are now a thing of the past! The new curriculum is also more challenging than the old 'levelled' expectations and suits high achievers in my opinion.
And I'd say a secure 5a at end of year 4 is very unusual (as it was the expected level for the end of year 8) and, if secure in the using and applying elements not just the advanced calculations, darn impressive. Even very talented youngsters need great differentiation and teaching to be that high by age 9.
I hope the head will outline their provision, and then I'd let them get on with it - they're obviously doing a good job!

JustRichmal Sat 18-Jul-15 20:40:47

Lurkedforever1, they'll probably be able to go ahead in some bits of the curriculum, but by and large, maths has taken so many people so many centuries to work out, it does need to be taught. The problem is that many children could learn at a much faster pace than they do at school. It sounds as though your child is finding the pace too slow.

I know people say they should not get too far ahead in the curriculum, but I could never see why. If they enjoy learning why not teach them? Dd is set to leave school at 18. I doubt she will have exhausted the entire human knowledge of maths by that time. There will still be things to teach her.

As they get older, you do see the point of them developing their skills to work out things in maths, not just learn a set of rules to apply. This is where sites like nrich and UKMT are useful. Though those with an aptitude for maths find them fun, they are building the skills they will need to progress as the maths gets more difficult.

If your dc likes doing maths, I would not hesitate to let your dc do Khan Academy of Hegarty maths at home. Others will disagree and say they must go at the pace set by the school system. I am of the opinion a child's ability should decide the education they receive, not the other way round.

Lurkedforever1 Sat 18-Jul-15 21:20:05

We're on the same page richmal. I've actually been lucky in her school that they've gone with teaching at a pace that suits her, within practical limitations in every year but one. And not just fixed to covering what's laid out in the curriculum, she can apply them out of context too. They've happily taught well into ks3 with the attitude that's appropriate for her so screw what is advised. Although that example wasn't specifically hers, I've unwittingly taught beyond the curriculum at home just by answering a question in a few sentences and leaving her to figure it out. Eg 'why does suchabody have letters in his maths instead of numbers mummy it looked hard' 'No, the letters are just written instead of writing a number or the empty space for the missing answer in your sums' 'Oh ok then so how do you add n and m' and within minutes you've unwittingly covered the basic principle of algebra.
She's done the primary challenges but I do need to look into Khan academy. Her current maths puzzle is an ancient o level textbook she's determined to figure out so when that stops being a challenge and therefore fun I will. And her secondary have an equal attitude so I'm not concerned for her. If I'm honest it's more the attitude of you must go at the same pace reminds me of the rubbish y1 teacher who expounded on the theory constantly when what she meant was boring repitition of a concept you understand and being an extra ta. And her inability to comprehend that the more able at maths you are the quicker you learn because you don't need to repeat it countless times to just get it in its entirety

JustRichmal Sat 18-Jul-15 21:51:54

You too sound as if you have a good school. A bumpy start for dd in primary has now made me appreciative of an excellent secondary.

If she is on KS3, Smiths or Waterstones could well be worth a look into. The modern books are a lot more lively than the stuffy books they had for O level.

blink1552 Sat 18-Jul-15 22:52:44

If OP's school is doing a great job by producing a 5a standard in Y4, what does a good school of the future look like for these very able mathematicians? And what happens to these kids who are skipping ahead by themselves but who aren't allowed to be given 5a work because of the new system? Needaninsight says the system is ok for all except those who already have a maths A level in Y5. But my worry is children who might be capable of that - or, say, gcse in Y7 - but won't get the chance, they'll just be held back to doing Y5 work. The fact that it's more challenging than last year's Y5 work won't touch the sides. How do schools now do a great job with such a child?

DS is in Y1 so it's too early to say how he will be in Y5. However, they learn to double in Y1, and he thought that was fun, so he doubles numbers into the trillions. Then they were introduced to dividing numbers by 2, 5 and 10, so he thought he would try some other divisors. He started with 3, 6 and 7, but his favourite at the moment is 127. Under the new mastery system, by the time he is 'allowed' to learn methods to deal with these big numbers, he will have been doing it off his own bat for years. I can see some value in him spending time completely enumerating all the possible scores thrown by 3 dice etc, but it seems awfully limiting to tell teachers they can only offer 'mastery' type tasks and nothing better matched to the level the child is working on. What happens when you have mastered the mastery? I am scared of the great yawning chasm of the next 8 years before he can even start on the gcse syllabus. His teacher has been lovely this year and she's kept his interest up, and I think the head teacher is also relishing the challenge, but there are many years ahead.

Lurkedforever1 Sat 18-Jul-15 22:55:11

She's got a couple from there and other more modern ones, but I suspect the stilted and very 'correct' 1950s newsreader tone of the written explanations are part of the allure because she has to a degree interpret that first, so even the easiest things have more of an edge.
Glad your dd got a good secondary although a shame it couldn't have been in primary too.

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