Y4 maths-I thought DD was fine but am now concerned

(31 Posts)
papermover Sun 01-Apr-18 12:47:53

Hi all,

I'd like to gather opinions and maybe suggestions on what, if anything, I should do. I've been sorting out DDs reading and left the maths up to the school. I'm now thinking I should have been more on the ball and need to intervene in some way.

DD is in year 4 and scored 105 in her Y2 maths SATs and was at the expected level. Her comprehension and reading are good ( I think, oh!). All good with maths I assumed.

Every time I see a teacher I am told DD needs to be more confident in her maths ability. She will ask for individual help, receive it, then knows what she has to do.

This worries me as I was also a compliant, good girl who could read well and was considered intelligent but considered to lack confidence in maths. I got to secondary school and it was discovered I completely lacked the basics. My primary school had made assumptions based on my character not on my abilities. I got a C in GCSE by the work of the amazing secondary teacher but I lack the basics and this is still a problem. I couldn't do the sciences I wanted to do.

DD says that the teacher explains maths and DD thinks so hard about it that she can't hear what the teacher is saying anymore. I wonder if there is a working memory issue-maybe DD doesn't understand concepts enough so has to really think hard and can't concentrate on too many things?

I am only concerned now as the teacher gave DD CGP Y4 maths 10 minute Weekly Workouts for homework. We have done two tests so far and DD doesn't understand them. These tests are at the beginning of the book and are supposedly going over year 3 work.

So far the things she doesn't understand are;

. That + is opposite to -

Can't work out .......- 25=13

. Counting in 5s: she thinks you have to start from 5 and that it will always be 5, 10, 15... Even if the question asks you to count in 5s starting at 7.

. Maths questions in written form, especially where there is more than one step to the question. She needed to find out how long something was then work out that it needed to be divided and by how many. She got the length and couldn't understand why that wasn't the answer.

She will use number lines when there must be a quicker way of working things out.

I will of course talk to the teacher but I know any deficiencies will need to be sorted by me rather than the school. Should I be worried? Does it sound like there is a problem? Work books don't help if I can't explain to her what she should be dong, and I can't.

Should I get her a tutor? I don't know about tutors, it's an area where people cram for public and other private schools or super-selective grammars and I suppose I'd always imagined that's what tutors around here did. That's not what I am looking for, I'd like someone who could find the gaps and get her up to speed so she can carry on with school maths.

Does that even make sense or am I worrying over nothing?

Thanks !

OP’s posts: |
Papermover Sun 01-Apr-18 12:50:13


I'm posting now as I have 10 minutes to spare before he in-laws appear so I won't be around till later or tomorrow. I appreciate any thought s at any time.

Shortandsweet20 Sun 01-Apr-18 13:13:30

Recognising symbols, missing number problems, counting on in 5's are all year one and year two objectives in the national curriculum. Also children move off the number line and on to column methods and mental methods in year two and three.

I would just take it slow and work through the areas she is stuck on. There are so many online resources you could use to help her do this. I'm surprised the teacher hasn't raised a concern! Keep going with it and it will sink in, maybe speak to her teacher and ask if she could have it modelled more in a group, the teacher should be picking this up from the work she produces

GreenTulips Sun 01-Apr-18 13:18:35

Get some Numicon and show her visually - it's brilliant

Look in the Numicon NZ website for ideas and help - or ask - happy to help

Papermover Sun 01-Apr-18 13:42:05

Thank you so much.

It makes me wonder what's happened in y3 and y4. She did so well on the SAT! I actually did belief the school were onto maths and if the class teacher didn't notice an issue then SMT would. Is it difficult to notice if a child doesn't understand the basics if they end up with the right answer-eventually-through hand holding?

There are a lot of incredibly able kids in the class and some who find everything really difficult, so I wonder if she's lost I the middle?

I do have Numicon and will look at the NZ website. I bought it in reception and used it for various things but haven't looked at in a year or so.

She does do column maths and seems to get that but will resort to the line in some insidences- I've yet to work out why she chooses one method over another in a particular sum.

i suppose I'm so insecure in my own maths that I don't want to make things order or tell her something that's incorrect. I'm the calculator generation!

GreenTulips Sun 01-Apr-18 13:47:38

Ok - so start on some easy plus and minus games with it

Get some paper and do plus ans minus signs the equal being a balance and show her 10 + 2 is the same as 12 - 2 etc so you only need the same prices

Also try some balancing scales and the pieces weigh the same so 10 ones is the same as 2 fives

Also this works for times tables

Lay out 15 - how many 5's does she need to lay in top to match?

I was much the same at school having to check and recheck but try this

4 lots of 8 - now add another one!

She will know 4x8 is 32 - does he's need to count again?

yummyeclair Sun 01-Apr-18 13:58:52



cassgate Sun 01-Apr-18 17:35:47

I am a year 5 ta and it sounds to me that she doesn’t understand that addition and subtraction are inverse (opposite) to each other. For this you need to use concrete objects to show her. Lego bricks, marbles anything really. Start by using something she already knows. Number bonds to 10 are good for this. Show her say 6+4=10 show her that she can switch this round 4+6 and still get the same answer. Then show her that if she starts with 10 and takes away 4 she will be left with 6 so 10-4=6 and then the same with 10-6=4. She needs to understand that the abstract numbers are linked. I used to say that they stick together like glue. You may need to do this with all the number bonds until she gets the idea. Once she understands you can look at missing number problems so ?-6=4, hopefully she will be able to see then that she can simply do 6+4 or 10-?=6 that she can do 10-6. Bar models are good for this.
Once she can do this with small numbers then move onto bigger numbers so she can prove it works with any addition or subtraction problem.
You can use same principle with multiplication and division. Start with something like 2x5=10 show her that the numbers can be reversed to get same answer 5X2=10 then look at division 10/2=5 and 10/5=2.
With regard to problem solving word problems this really is about practice. Breaking things down logically to understand what the question is asking you. I would start with very simple problems like there are 10 people on a bus 2 get off and 6 get on how many people are now on the bus? Talk through the problem and see if she can identify the steps and calculations she needs to do. Start simple and work your way up. Hope this helps.

brilliotic Sun 01-Apr-18 20:08:06

When you say you are not confident in maths, I'm wondering what that means. Is it that you know how to work something out (as in, which steps to take and in which order) but you don't really understand why? So you are always a bit unsure, at the end of the day, if you are doing the right thing, because you might be misinterpreting the problem?
Or is it more an issue of lacking confidence to give it a go? So when you see a problem and don't immediately know the answer/how to tackle it, you don't believe that you will be able to figure it out by thinking about it? So you don't give it a go.

E.g. in the missing number problem you posted, ...-25=13 - knowing how to solve it but not understanding why would be that you know that you have to add up 13 and 25 to get the answer, but don't understand why (e.g. because when you have taken away 25 from a number to reach a new number, then the new number is 25 smaller than the first number. If the new number is 25 smaller than the first number, then that means the same as that the first number is 25 bigger than the new number. To find a number that is 25 bigger, you do +25... or some such understanding). So you would do the addition but would not be confident that you got the right answer. Because after all, there are missing number problems that look very similar but take a different approach, (e.g. 25-...=13) and you might be confusing the two types of problems/applying the wrong technique.
In turn your DD in this situation would have even less confidence that 25+13 is the way to go, so would wait for teacher input to clarify that this is indeed the type of problem where you have to add up the two numbers (rather than subtract) before proceeding to do it (correctly).

The second type of lacking confidence would be if you see ...-25=13 and think 'I know I always get these problems wrong, there's no point in trying to figure it out'. Despite maybe having no trouble understanding it if you DID stop to think about it. So in your DD's case she sees the problem, and immediately gives up. Once someone sits down with her and basically demonstrates that it lies perfectly within her abilities, she goes 'oh ok, yes I can do that' and proceeds to execute it correctly.

I think you are right that the teacher might have misinterpreted one type of lack of confidence (stemming from a lack of understanding) with the other (stemming from a 'I'm no good at maths' mindset). So rather than working on her basic understanding, they are showing her again and again how to do things (not the whys), in the expectation that she will eventually realise that she is more able than she believes.
But I think you need to get to the bottom of that first. Does she really not understand, or does she really just not believe in herself? (Or is it a combination?) Because depending on that, you need to address it differently.

I have heard/read good things about the 'Plus One' / 'Power of Two' books. I understand that they are basically books for grown-ups to help their children 1-1 - it provides all the info you need to be able to teach/support your child, rather than just assuming that the grown-up knows it all already. Also they aren't just work books, but rather explain things (via the parent). I haven't seen them myself, but they sound kind of ideal for you. Maybe worth a go?

llangennith Sun 01-Apr-18 20:13:33

If you can afford it get her a tutor. Choose a friendly tutor who will teach your DD what she is struggling with but also build up her confidence to do maths.

user789653241 Sun 01-Apr-18 20:26:30

This video explains inverse operations quite well.


Also Khanacademy has great video tutorials for all the school maths topics.

happy2bhomely Sun 01-Apr-18 20:47:25

I can highly recommend Singapore Maths books by Maths No problem. I took my dd out of school to home educate her in year 3. I realised how little support she was getting in school because she was well behaved and quiet and was being completely overlooked.

She is now in year 5 and has gone from not being able to do 15-7= without crying to solving 3 step word problems, decimals, percentages, fractions etc.

We also use The Maths Factor. She loves that she can watch the videos independently as many times as she needs. She can practice over and over without worrying about it taking time for it to click.

We like watching the Math Antics videos on youtube too.

Don't let her believe that she has no natural talent for maths. Encourage her to say that she can't do that...yet. Tell her that she will get better with practice and incorporate maths into everyday life so she understands that it is worth practising because it is so useful. For example, baking, decorating and gardening.

user789653241 Mon 02-Apr-18 07:49:27

Questions in written form = word problems? My ds is good at maths but he did struggle with them early on. We did lots of them, and used RUCSAC(read, understand/underline, choose the method, solve, answer, check). It is tricky for some children, since it needs inferring as well as number knowledge, but practice practice practice is one of the solution. We used diagram as well.

Counting in 5s, do it with her regularly, not just in 5s but in 2s, 3s, etc, using concrete object.

Finally, I was not good at maths, but I decided to learn it by watching videos myself. Years later, I became quite good at it at basic level, and enjoy learning further.

Papermover Mon 02-Apr-18 11:34:06

Thanks so much everyone. What a lot to think about.

I'm not good at maths as I was never taught the basics; never taught the why. I've learnt a lot from DD learning number bonds and times tables. I think she's better than me which is why I'm surprised and concerned by what I've seen from her work.

Brill I'll give anything a go but it's only from MN that I've learnt that there's an order you have to work sums and I can never remember what it is or really understand why. I'm finding it difficult for example to explain why


Is the same as


But not

25+13=12 or 25+ 12=13

I know that last example isnt right but I can't explain to Dd which number goes where. I can't even explain to you what I don't understand.

I've got a degree by the way, and a job... I feel a bit stoopid. So I do see I should probably leave it to the school as I don't understand; however I've left it to the school as I don't understand, and now I'm not sure if DD understands.

She knows her number bonds, tables and can do column addition, subtraction and simple multiplication, so I don't understand where the problem is.

We had the MathsFactor in Y1 when she had a bit of a maths wobble. We stopped it when she got more confident. I'd be happy to try again although she did it on the iPad, and I'm not sure oS 9 would support Mathsfactor all these years on. We can try.

The school are supposed to have Mathsletics but in all her years there we've never been able to get it to work properly. There's a log in problem, then we don't have the right Flash or Adobe or something.

I think our computers are too old. Inherited iPads and PC. Maybe I should spend money on that rather than a tutor. I don't really have the money for either but will find it.

So many great ideas here, I really appreciate them all.
One-two books
New pc/iPad
Talk to teacher

And more.

I'm on my phone so can't see all the thread at once but I'll get on a big screen and make notes and a plan.

RafaIsTheKingOfClay Mon 02-Apr-18 19:23:10

I was going to suggest some of the Singapore style books, because I do think they cover this well and the textbooks have more explanation than most workbooks you’ll be able to buy on the high street.

My worry would be they might conflict with whatever the school is doing and leave her more confused.

I do honk going back to using practical objects/numicon to demonstrate number bonds and fact families is the way forwards for missing number problems. Ideally she needs to understand what is happening as well as knowing the facts or being able to sort of rearrange the number sentences.

Shortandsweet20 Wed 04-Apr-18 20:58:35


Is the same as


But not

25+13=12 or 25+ 12=13

The best way I have found... look at the symbol, if you're + your number should always get bigger or remain the same, if you are - your number will get smaller or remain the same. So if you had 25 + 12 = 13 you know it isn't right because 13 is smaller than 25, if that makes sense?

Addition is commutative (can be done either way, e.g number bonds 4+6 = 10 6+4=10.) but subtraction is not (when working with positive numbers - bigger number has to go first! 10-6 = 4 you can't do 6-10! ) a good way to do this is with numicon or objects. They can see there is no more to take away.

Papermover Thu 05-Apr-18 12:18:05

Thanks both.

She does really need to understand Rafa. I'm trying to work out what she does and doesn't understand. I assumed that would be the easy part but it doesn't seem to be.

I've decided to work through the 10 minute tests with her and make notes of things she doesn't understand. When she's back at school I'll ask to see the teacher and show her and ask what she thinks. That meeting will decide what I do next.
She does know her number bonds and tables, pretty much instantly. She seems to know other things but not really understand them.
She says she's been shown division but can't remember it.
We've discovered she's learnt some things incorrectly- she thought that any number that ends in a number divisible by 3 is itself divisible by 3. She had a word problem which was very wordy but was asking does 86 divide by 3 and how do you know?She said yes because it ends in a 6. Now obvs it's not divisible, but the only way to know this is to go the division, surely? She's not been taught division with remainders-should she have been?

With the calculations mentioned above, of course I know the answers but I suppose my confusion is to show DD. She just sees all the numbers as interchangeable and it's utterly confusing when some are and some aren't.

She doesn't understand the non commitAbility of subtraction, although she can spout that phrase at me.

Tinkobell Thu 05-Apr-18 12:25:08

Start your daughter on the Schofield and Sims maths series at home...just doing around 10 questions a day. They are brilliant for really building up a kids confidence and mental arithmetic ability very rapidly. Get them on Amazon. You won't regret.

Tinkobell Thu 05-Apr-18 12:30:42

There is a big attitude thing with maths.....completely unrelated to ability actually. Maths requires a calm mind and a logical problem solving approach. Losing your nerve or getting in a pickle are no good. I now have older kids doing ad maths A level .....and she's gets in a pickle....staying calm and just seeing it as a puzzle is key. Keep your own hang ups and short comings well under wraps from your DC, I see nothing to be gained.

Papermover Thu 05-Apr-18 12:41:51

Yes tinko, I think her teacher was suggesting that dd lacks confidence but has the ability. I had assumed the teacher was correct. I now think that assumption may be wrong.

I don't tell DD that I can't do something. Instead we talk about the problem together, I ask her what she thinks it might mean, I tell her what I think, we look things up. Honestly I'm not going down the" maths is tough" route

user789653241 Thu 05-Apr-18 14:23:32

Sound like she is muddled up understanding of divisibility rule?
My ds says he has only learned divisibility rules for 2 and 3 so far at school.


papermover Thu 05-Apr-18 14:26:59

Brilliant Irvine, thanks so much. The other video link you posted was most helpful too.

Is your DS in Y4? Is he a maths wizz though?

OP’s posts: |
user789653241 Thu 05-Apr-18 14:33:25

He is in yr5, but says they done it last year at school.

cassgate Thu 05-Apr-18 21:58:49

Rule for divisabilty by 3 is that if you add the digits in a number and it adds to a multiple of 3 then that number is also divisable by 3 so in your example 86 8+6=14 so 86 is not divisable by 3 but 87 would be divisable by 3 because 8+7=15. The rule for dividing by 4 is if the last 2 digits are a multiple of 4 then the whole number is also divisable by 4 so the number 624 is divisable by 4 because 24 is a multiple of 4. Hope this helps.

Papermover Fri 06-Apr-18 07:27:02

Thanks Cass, that does help. As Irvine suggested I think DD had been told the rule of dividing by 3 but misremembered. And I never even knew there were rules!

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