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Trying to help 8 yo DS with maths :(

(59 Posts)
GahBuggerit Mon 13-Mar-17 12:54:11

Hi all

My 8yo DS is not very good at Maths. He can allow his mind to wander off and initially I thought that was what came first, so he wasn't listening to the teachers explanations, but after spending a lot more time with him on the subject I've realised hes switching off because he just doesn't get it, he wants to - tells me he feels stupid compared to his friends sad - but he just can't.

I don't want to blame the teacher as such - she has a class of 20-odd other kids to concentrate on after all, but I do get a general feeling of that shes done all she can with him. She keeps giving him homework that is way to complicated for him when I feel she should give him work that is stretching but also within his capability to try and get him enthusiastic about it again. I keep leaving notes on his homework asking for advice on how I can explain things and / or work that is at his level so we can work together to get him up to where he needs to be but I get nothing back.

Homework is a nightmare, tears, upset, frustration, so my stance has always been if its upsetting, we stop it. There have been times when hes pretended to be upset but Im generally pretty good at spotting when hes pulling a fast one so we persevere as much as we can until it does eventually get genuinely upsetting (for both of us)

The latest one is subtraction, and me trying to explain "taking" from the next column so eg. 958 - 265 using the method where you do 958 then 265 underneath, 2 lines and subtract 5 from 8 first and so on. However, when I try and explain how, because you can't subtract 6 from 5, you change the 9 to an 8 and add the 1 to the 5 to make it 15, subtract 6 from 15 etc etc - I confuse even myself even though I know what it is I want to explain so I end up saying "its just what you do" which isnt helpful as I want to be able to explain WHY you do this.

I bought a Maths practice book that I thought may help but it doesn't really explain anything, just shows an example, not the why.

I look at the sort of things he should be able to do and I could cry because hes so way off. Dont get me wrong he can be a lazy bugger and very stubborn, but hes very clearly got the ability its just we havent been able to engage him enough.

Can anyone recommend any resources to help me explain this? Or any suggestions as to what I can do?

(Im in work currently so may not be able to respond for a little while)

GahBuggerit Mon 13-Mar-17 12:54:49

Oh dear god that was long, no wonder I cant engage him if I waffle as much as that, sorry just through some background info might help explain smile

windypolar Mon 13-Mar-17 12:57:41

Can you sign him up to one of the online maths programmes if your own knowledge is a bit patchy. Conquer Maths is quite popular and it's the one with video tutorials. You could do it with him

GieryFas Mon 13-Mar-17 13:00:18

Maths for Mums and Dads is an excellent book, which shows you all the new methods they use at school, so you can see how he's been taught rather than confusing him with how you've been taught.

Beyond that, have you got any way of making it more physical / real? Maybe something like Numicon? I know my kids' school uses that all the way up to introduce new concepts and reinforce old ones.

GahBuggerit Mon 13-Mar-17 13:01:44

THanks Windy, gosh that looks expensive, I could sign up for the month though and see if it helps. I'd pay double that price if it had results and gave him more confidence.

I am ashamed to admit that yes my maths is a little patchy blush

Astro55 Mon 13-Mar-17 13:03:39

So you borrow one - but you aren't borrowing one - you either borrow 10 or 100 do it with coins - so he has 8 pennies and a 5 10p

So he has to borrow 10p to pay back the 9p or whatever

I would buy a set of numicon £30 ish on amazon - it real helps visualize numbers - you can add takeaway times tables divide - all visual - ask if they use it in class and if not why not?

savagehk Mon 13-Mar-17 13:04:00

I think you need to speak to the teacher - if he/she is ignoring your notes, can you ask to see them in person?

re the subtraction example, start with smaller numbers (eg 10-7). Then work up to (say) 52-5.

He may need to visualise things to be able to understand them - for some people numbers are just too abstract. Doesn't help you right now (sorry!) but try keep that in mind if you're explaining things. Perhaps something like a "CUISENAIRE" (have a look on ebay)?

irvineoneohone Mon 13-Mar-17 13:05:13

These sites have very good tutorial videos for each maths skill/topic.
(It's American, but I don't think it's confusing.) free site video is totally free to watch (though they ask small subscription fee for use of exercise and worksheets.)

GahBuggerit Mon 13-Mar-17 13:05:26

Just ordered Maths for Mums and Dads, thanks for the suggestion.

I dont want anyone to thin I havent looked myself for resources, its just there are so many.............hard to tell what it going to be good.

Theres a Numicon set on Ebay atm for £20, got my beady eye on it smile

GplanAddict Mon 13-Mar-17 13:06:02

I'm afraid I can't really help but interested in the responses as we're in the same boat with my dd who has v slow processing and poor working memory, butbut otherwise v bright. Maths is such a struggle! Your son is being asked to do sums my dd would not be able to even attempt at the moment. The minute I try and explain a mathematical concept (I.e multiplying something by 10), she gets into such an anxious flap about it that she cannot take in any information at all, hands over her ears to defend herself.
It isn't helped that both dh and I get frustrated because we're both very numerical (accountant and engineer) and we struggle to empathise.
One thing that is poor though is they should not be giving him homework he cannot do off his own back.
I would be tempted to say, do what you can in two minutes, don't correct or help. Over the course of a few weeks the teacher will have to address one way or another the fact that your son can't manage the homework and give him something more appropriate.

GahBuggerit Mon 13-Mar-17 13:10:10

Work calls!!!

Will pop back on later in my break. Am liking those Numicon things that a few of you have suggested.

And yes I will have to bite the bullet and speak to the teacher, the last few times Ive been off work to be able to pick him up and Ive asked for a quick word she always seems busy. I'll arrange an actual meeting rather than thnking Im being more polite and less intrusive!

Caroian Mon 13-Mar-17 13:29:53

The trouble is, if he's been struggling for a while, he won't have the basics and thus anything more will always be confusing. From what you have said here, it sounds like he isn't secure with "place value". Or in other words that the 9 here is representing 9 hundreds, or can represent 9 tens. As above, you can"borrow" one ten to make 15. Learning how to manipulate numbers like this is a real key that needs to be in place. But learning place value whilst also focusing on subtracting is always going to be difficult, so you probably need to go right back to the basics first.

Madcats Mon 13-Mar-17 13:30:30

I feel your pain. I found maths incredibly intuitive but DD struggles (and this is probably made worse because some children are sooo incredibly fast and more vocal about it). I think you really need to go back to basics to help them feel confident.

I have tended to use Lego and coins to drum in the basics (this might involve a trip to the bank as it is probably helpful to have at least 20 x1p, 20 x10p, and some pound coins).

Get 3 plates/mats and label them "hundreds, tens, units" and maybe label them to say "no more than 9 items allowed in here". If you start with writing down some simple additions (17 + 9, say) and getting them to add the coins they will begin to get the idea of "carrying" (is that the term). Gradually make them more complicated always writing down what you have done too.

Then subtraction is the reverse.

Fractions are trickier, but you can use similar principles.

IamFriedSpam Mon 13-Mar-17 14:11:46

If I was doing 63 - 29 for example I talk about the three needing to "borrow one" from the 6 to make it 13. If a child wants to know why I tell them that the 6 in 63 is 6 tens, so we borrow one ten leaving 5 tens and making the 3 into 13. If your DS is confused about place value you could try a basic book like a fair bear share until he becomes more comfortable. You could also try doing something more physical with 2 digit numbers. e.g. the math link cubes. So if you wanted to show him how to do 32 - 19. You would make 32 (e.g. 10 red, 10 blue, 10 green then 2 purple) then try to take away 19. So you first need to take away 9 but you don't have 9 purple blocks therefore you borrow the 10 green blocks take 9 away from this leaving 3 green blocks. You then need to take away 10 so you can just take away all of the blue blocks. Leaving 10 red blocks and 3 green i.e. 13)

Ellle Mon 13-Mar-17 14:41:12

If he is struggling with maths, explaining the column method that way to him will be complicated. He needs to see it before he can get it.

First start with something easier. Check that he is secure with place value. Give him a two digit, then three digit number and ask him to represent it with whatever manipulatives you are using (numicon, or coins for units, sticks for tens, etc).

Then, make a board on a paper with sections for the units, tens, and hundreds. Place the numbers there with manipulatives and do the adding or subtraction in a way that he needs to manipulates the objects to see the result. Soon he'll see that he cannot take 5 coins/blocks representing units out of a group of only two. So he'll have to borrow a stick from the tens section, that can be converted into ten coins/blocks added to the two, and now he has twelve on that section and he can continue from there.

Once he is confident doing this with objects he can manipulate, he can later practise transfering the skill to a paper exercise with only numbers.

GplanAddict Mon 13-Mar-17 14:46:48

One thing that my dd loves (and it really boosts her confidence) is checking her maths afterwards with a calculator. She feels so happy that she knows how to use it, and can use it well. Yet her mental maths is awful. When I ask her what 3* 7 is she needs to sing the 3 times table song to herself to get to the bit about 3*7 and then she can tell me.

NotMeNoNo Mon 13-Mar-17 14:47:08


Subtraction and grisly humour - my DC love this and I think it motivated them more than anything else.

Do they do Mymaths?

Agree that Maths for Mums and Dads is helpful as they do stuff completely differently now to how we did it.

knaffedoff Mon 13-Mar-17 14:49:20

I don't think they are taught columns, my ds in y3 certainly hasn't and as such you will be providing conflicting information to the teacher. I showed my ds columns at which point I was told I had it completely wrong hmm

Monkeyinshoes Mon 13-Mar-17 14:58:15

My son is year 2 and they've not been taught with columns either.

They use number lines and the number bonds they know to make jumps along the line, then add together the jumps.

GahBuggerit Mon 13-Mar-17 15:01:42

just logged on v quickly

Thanks again for recentposts, will look when I get home.

but just to answer the last one very quickly from knaffed - the method they are teaching them to add up is bizarre:

+ 11
+ 70

I mean..............seriously??????????

GahBuggerit Mon 13-Mar-17 15:02:57

gah the formatting knocked it all off:

so 68 + 11 is the problem:

+ 11
_ _ _ _
+ 70
_ _ _ _

Astro55 Mon 13-Mar-17 15:27:16

So they borrow 2 from the 11 to make 68 into 70?

A lot of people would do it this way in their heads in the shop - so not really odd - just another route to the same answer

titchy Mon 13-Mar-17 15:30:57

Column method is very very confusing and doesn't actually help any kid who's maths is insecure (do you understand WHY you 'borrow' - and what does borrow actually mean? If you borrow something normally you have to pay it back - where does this happen?). Which is why it isn't taught these days, and why what you're doing is making him more confused.

Number lines, jump backwards and forwards in tens and units. Lots of practice.

Addition using grid method - this looks like what theyr'e teaching and actually makes them understand what they're doing rather than blindly doing it by rote.

GahBuggerit Mon 13-Mar-17 15:34:00

quick sneak back on!!

sorry its the way the post is coming out. basically instead of using the column to do 8 + 1 and 6 + 1 = 79 they are making them do 8+1 = 9, then 6 + 1 (tens) = 70 on the next line, then 70 + 9 = 79.

DS stormed through them just using the "old skool" way (first method) as he could see instantly that that way would give him the right answer. so I gave him a bit of a tricky one where he had to carry something over (he said they are learning this otherwise I wouldnt have attempted it) and then we were both stumped as to how the carried over figure worked in the new (second) method, and I didnt want to show him the old skool way and confuse him.,

I wrote a note to the teacher to ask her to quickly show me an example of how the carried over figures work using this new method and I got no reply, just the subtraction homework sad

GahBuggerit Mon 13-Mar-17 15:37:11

they are being taught columns btw, just ones that are a bit different.

Although his homework the other week was using a partitioning grid (i wrote about this on MN before)

Isnt it confusing them being taught 2 different methods? I know they need to know the different ways but at 8 when hes clearly 'operating' at more like age 6?

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