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Maths - is there any long term disadvantage to going more slowly?

(23 Posts)
Error418 Wed 10-Feb-16 18:30:01

Just had parents evening - dd's maths teacher commented that dd has got 100% in every test this year, no issues with understanding etc etc

We then got distracted into a side issue - the fact that dd appears not to be paying attention, fiddles with her tangle, doodles. Slightly frustrating given that maths teacher is head of dd's year, and the tangle and doodling were suggested by the school councillor (who she sees weekly) as an alternative to repetitive foot tapping/pen clicking/other coping strategies that are clearly disruptive in class.

But I didn't think to ask the obvious question - in other subjects, dd is working at level 7 (still use levels here), & has a target of L8 for end of year. Clearly in maths the view is that if you can do the work set, great, there won't be anything else. Is there any reason that this is a bad thing, assuming that they'll cover all the topics for GCSE in good time (school gets a good no. of As & A*s in maths, despite not great intake)?

Lurkedforever1 Wed 10-Feb-16 18:33:32

Yes. It's boring, frustrating, ends enjoyment of the subject and if you've never had to make an effort before, leaves you very unprepared when you are challenged.

Error418 Wed 10-Feb-16 18:40:00

Re. being bored, dd would definitely rather be bored than singled out, IYSWIM. Do you think it matters not being challenged in one subject - there are plenty of other subjects where it's not an issue at all (her science teachers are excellent & really differentiate, and she finds essay style subjects much less easy anyway).

Error418 Wed 10-Feb-16 18:42:13

I did get mildly irritated though with comment a) - your dd got 100% in every test, and comment b) your dd isn't paying attention confused (Even though actually, she really is listening - she's just not great at visibly 'paying attention'!)

Error418 Thu 11-Feb-16 18:59:44

Just wondering if anyone else (maybe with older dc) had experience of slowish maths in yr 9, but then transitioning well to A level - if dd wants to take it of course, but it seems quite likely.

Bolognese Thu 11-Feb-16 19:34:24

Your describing a bored DC who is not being challenged in the class. Its the teachers/schools fault and they are trying to deflect their deficiency onto you.

Happens to my DC in Y9 as well, he is A* in everything except his Music, PE and Art homework, target 8a for end of KS3. Yes he doodles in class because he is bored and has nothing to do. Last parents evening the tutor commented he should try harder when doing homework in these subjects. I wasn't taking any of it and replied he didn't get a single homework in either of those 3 subjects so how could he try harder. But more importantly why aren't you challenging them in Maths, science etc. All I ever get is lists of websites for DC to teach himself at home.

Fiddles with her tangle, doodles... Seriously, tell the school to get a life.

Bolognese Thu 11-Feb-16 19:42:04

PS on transitioning to A-level, its a really bad time for Y9 as you dont want to do maths early because its the new GCSE and you dont necessarily want to do additional maths because it would distract from getting a nine which is also new/unknown. My personal answer is I teach DC at home where we have started on the A level material already. Just 10 minutes a night to make the concepts familiar. GCSE is already boring him senseless, I give him puzzles to do in class when he finishes the teachers set work, so far he hasn't been caught. Anything to stop disillusionment with school. Why cant we set up schools for more able children!!!

Error418 Thu 11-Feb-16 20:38:01

Its very true - and I'm partly reluctant to make a fuss for that reason. I do feel for the teachers (and particularly as dd's maths teacher is also head of yr 9 - not an enviable job!).
To be absolutely fair, I don't think dd is that bored in general (as opposed to with the work) - she loves explaining concepts to any puzzled classmates, and is much happier daydreaming than being singled out in any way. To date, I've figured that's a good enough answer, along with finding maths-y books/websites at home and reminding her frequently that it will all get more interesting later on (I was bullied persuaded into doing maths A level by my HoY way back when, and was grateful as soon as the course started and I realised it wasn't like O level at all grin)
But that only works if the teacher isnt' then pissed off with her!

ScottishProf Thu 11-Feb-16 21:26:52

It isn't only about her being happy now - it's about her learning to be happy doing maths that's hard for her. That's really crucial for her. Did she do the IMC (the UKMT Intermediate Maths Challenge) the other week? That and the other UKMT material is the easiest place to go for challenge, and the cheapest thing the school could do for her would be to give her a bundle of past papers and tell her to get on it with it maths class any time she hasn't anything else she needs to be doing.

Badbadbunny Fri 12-Feb-16 08:23:50

That and the other UKMT material is the easiest place to go for challenge, and the cheapest thing the school could do for her would be to give her a bundle of past papers and tell her to get on it with it maths class any time she hasn't anything else she needs to be doing.

If the school won't give her them, you can easily print them off yourself from the UKMT website.

If they're a school that still uses textbooks rather than scrappy worksheets, there are usually more complicated questions for each topic that she could find and try. In some, you get a full page of questions, and the teacher will tell you that the first 10/20 are to be done in class/finished for homework, but if you have time to spare, carry on down the page. Our son had an excellent Maths teacher in year 7 who worked that way and my son found it a challenge to get as far down the page as possible in the time allowed!

chelle792 Fri 12-Feb-16 08:30:39

Just something to be aware of. It could start impacting on her attendance.

I used to refuse to go in and would study at home honestly!

At sixth form one tutor pulled me to one side and told me I needed to up my attendance. I had a very honest discussion with her after getting 100% for a second time that if she could give me more challenge I'd come. In the end she just used to pull me in every so often and say 'im required to talk to you about your attendance, how are you...'

I have no idea how I got away with 80% attendance! I'm not a brainiac, just found lessons slow and tedious

Error418 Fri 12-Feb-16 14:22:08

She really isn't bored in general - the science dept is excellent and the head of science obviously loves having pupils who read around the subject & ask lots of questions - and she's a solid but not exceptional pupil in humanities subjects.
I've been thinking more about it, and I reckon I'm wasting my time with the maths teacher. I remember pretty much her only comment last year (parents eve was after their summer exams) was to mock-jokingly tell dd off for an arithmetical error that meant she dropped one mark over their whole paper.
The UKMT papers are a good suggestion, and I've also suggested to dd that she could poke around a bit in the maths section of the Khan academy website, I know she already uses some of their science stuff. Hopefully dd will get a different maths teacher at some point, and beyond that, I suspect it'll just push her in the direction of science rather than maths longer term, which isn't particularly a bad (or good, of course) thing.

Bolognese Fri 12-Feb-16 14:29:03

Just a short comment that if she is pushed toward science you really want to keep science on board, its crucial for physics.

Error418 Fri 12-Feb-16 14:34:03

I thought all the interesting bits of maths were physics wink

howabout Fri 12-Feb-16 16:15:36

I don't think there is a disadvantage to going too slow in Maths at this age if your DD is being challenged elsewhere. I think teenagers need quite a lot of daydreaming time and also there is a lot to be said for gaining confidence from knowing you are working within yourself. I think there is far more danger from going too fast and learning the "how to" rather than the "why". I think there is also a danger of encouraging DC to escape to an abstract Maths problem solving bubble if you encourage lots of extra Maths study when they could be doing other things.

I always viewed Maths as my relaxation subject and the only disadvantage was that I never realised that this was in any way unusual.

I would be annoyed with the teacher criticising my DD for contenting herself quietly while getting top marks but tbh I would probably have deflected the criticism at the time and not considered it again - I have 2 teenage DDs who are good at Maths.

Error418 Fri 12-Feb-16 19:12:31

I think you might be very right, howabout. To be absolutely honest, if I'd gone to parents eve, and the teacher had said "X - you've got 100% in all the tests so far, well done, keep it up", I'd have thought no more of it. It's only because she mentioned dd's lack of attention that I've got hung up on it.

LogicalTest Fri 12-Feb-16 19:27:09

I'm a Maths and ICT teacher and I'm afraid the situation simply isn't acceptable. It is a teacher's job to differentiate, stretch and challenge. The progress of the very able learners is as important as the progress of those who do not have a natural affinity with the subject. In short, the teacher is not doing their job and Ofsted would be horrified. Whether to put a learner through exams early is a very personal choice and there is a lot more to consider than plain ability-exam technique, effects of added pressure etc. but that does not mean her lessons should not challenge her. School should be about the value added to each individual child and it sounds as though that is not being considered in this case. I'm a little bit outraged by their attitude if I'm honest....

Bolognese Fri 12-Feb-16 19:28:58

opps obviously I meant Maths
... if she is pushed toward science you really want to keep Maths on board, its crucial for physics.

Bolognese Fri 12-Feb-16 19:33:47

there is a lot to be said for gaining confidence from knowing you are working within yourself howabout what does that even mean, its nonsense!

OMG Maths is a relaxation subject! Ummm NO

Error418 Fri 12-Feb-16 19:41:07

Logicaltest - I think the issue is that essentially all 30 or however many pupils in the class are getting the same work - if you finish early then you get given more of the same type of problem to solve (hence not that great an incentive to finish early . . .).

Also DD asks - if everyone is doing simultaneous equations, and 2/3 of them go on to the next thing, then the next thing - what happens then - don't they end up permanently out of sync with the class? (I guess it isn't like English, for example, where the star pupil will write a much better essay on the same topic as the average and weaker ones.)

Bolognese - I do know what howabout means. DD does lack confidence in a lot of ways, and eg being able to explain a maths concept to some of the sporty, confident, outgoing girls when they were really stuck has definitely helped her.

LogicalTest Fri 12-Feb-16 20:08:37

Teachers have to differentiate-it should be in the lesson plan and there should always be challenging and stretching work for the more able learners. It isn't about the class getting out of synch, it is about everyone being challenged and remember that once you get to GCSE there are different exams for those of different abilities. It is never acceptable to stop stretching a learner because their peers haven't mastered the subject; a good teacher will be able to engage every learner in their class room.

If you want to be able to tell if you've had an effective lesson, ask yourself 'so what?' When you think about the lesson you have just had, ask yourself what difference it has made to you. What have you learned? What can you do now that you couldn't do before? How will you use/apply this? If you can't answer those questions then your teacher is not teaching. There should be no room in teaching for accepting mediocrity-lessons should make you think, reason, stretch and challenge. It's lovely you care about the rest of the class but your teacher should have a plan (only in their head of need be) for each and every learner. Your success is great, well done-but the sky is the limit with education.

Error418 Fri 12-Feb-16 20:13:07

You sound like a fantastic teacher, Logical - I wish you were teaching dd!

Realistically, I don't think as one parent I'm going to achieve much beyond pissing her off though if I say anything further (she has already used the line 'you have to remember there are 29 other pupils in the class'), especially as she is dd's head of year.

Fingers crossed for a different maths teacher next year . . . and also I guess be grateful for the really excellent teachers dd has in many other subjects.

LogicalTest Fri 12-Feb-16 21:54:23

O. M. Actual. G. Yes, there are 29 others but you are, quite correctly, only interested in one! 30 is a standard size class and yes, it's bloody hard work, but that is a disgusting response. I can't tel you what to do, obviously, but your daughter only has one chance at her education and that responsibility lies with her teachers-but you are her cheerleader. Piss people off, stamp on faces, speak to the head, raise it with the governor's, talk to Ofsted....any of the above but please do not accept that. I bet you my mortgage she wouldn't be willing to put that in writing. And would she say it to the parent of the least able child in her class? 'Sorry, but I'll leave your child unable to complete her work or grasp the lesson because there are 29 others who DO understand.'?? No, she would not. Oooh I'm cross!!

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