First let me tell you that I’m alongside you in the challenge of parenting school pupils. My wife and I have 3 children – our daughter is 19 and is working in order to fund a gap year now that her A levels are done, and our two boys are both at secondary school working towards qualifications to open further doors in life. None of them love Maths, but then neither do I! Yes I teach Maths, but instead of loving Mathematical principles, I love what Maths can do for us – communication, travel, construction, computing… all because Maths makes it possible.
As parents we need to strike a balance with regard to our children’s education – being supportive but at the same time promoting independence… encouraging without being pushy… keeping them on track without being overly pressurising… setting high aspirations without them snapping under the strain. Not an easy balance!
Let me tell you a secret – you can help your children with their Maths more than you think! My wife failed her GCSE Maths exam when she was 16, but many years later breezed through it (getting a ‘B’) when she needed to resit it to enrol on a college course. Why? Because Maths is much easier when you have some experience behind you. Budgets, percentages, profit, decimals, overdrafts, tax, budgeting & charts – it’s all Maths and all easier when you’ve lived a little. So, the more exposure our children have to the Maths that we use and need to live, the more their understanding will grow. Therefore your experiences in handling money, weights, shapes, discounts & DIY are invaluable.
So this site is indeed a resource for teachers and students, but it’s also a resource for you. The government and Ofsted continue to rightly focus on problem solving as a key skill for life – so the earlier our children are exposed to every day problems to solve, the better. Let’s get them thinking not just about how to perform calculations, but which calculations are needed to solve a real world problem.
The videos on this site are not designed to teach your child. Their teachers do that job. It is designed to present real life scenarios that will get them thinking, analysing and breaking problems down into manageable steps – key skills for life and for exams too. So whether they are just getting started with arithmetic, or whether they are revising for GCSEs, browse away.
How parents can help develop Maths skills in children:
Highlight the Maths in your world. How do you decide which supermarket to go to? How do we split this bill evenly? Why did you buy a pack of 8 instead of a pack of 3? How much money is saved by that offer? At this speed, when should we arrive at our destination? How much is that item including VAT? Don’t insulate your children from the Maths you are doing in your head, or on paper at the DIY store. Let them in on the act so they can learn how to apply Maths too.
Foster a spirit of discovery. Almost certainly (like me) you will have grown up without the internet, but our children have at their fingertips the worlds largest library 24 hours a day. There will be times when you genuinely can’t help them with a complex Maths topic – so suggest that they search online for the answer. Send them to their books and to their friends too. There will of course be times when you can help, but you may want to withhold your knowledge so that they are forced to search out the answer.
Encourage resilience. Maths is tough and some subjects will be difficult to grasp. So? Let’s encourage our children to aim high and try again until that solution presents itself. Don’t accept ‘I can’t do it‘ as a reason for them to stop trying.
Obviously if a teacher has assumed too much understanding then liaise with the school about homework or projects, but from experience, students are too often allowed to do half a homework (the easy half) and stop when it gets challenging. Encourage them to solve the problem as if their job depended on it.
Not everything needs a calculator. Maths is not just arithmetic- it’s measurements and conversion of units too. Ask them to convert metres to km, or hours to minutes as you drive in the car. If cooking, what about grams to kg? Most conversions are about multiples of 10, 100 or 1000. Remember, they will mostly need metric conversions, so don’t try to confuse them with inches to cm unless absolutely necessary. They will need to know how to convert miles to km though (times by 1.6) so practise that one on a journey perhaps. They also need to read dials, so ask them to tell you the speed of the car, or the weight of something in a supermarket. Even recognising shapes – hexagons or octagons, or identifying which post is vertical and which is horizontal – all key skills.
Don’t dis the Maths. It is a sad truth that many parents are proud of their Mathematical struggles, and proceed to project them onto their children – please don’t do that. If you struggled with algebra or trigonometry, fine – acknowledge your own weakness, but let’s encourage our children to gain a skill at a young age that maybe we couldn’t. Make it cool to be good at Maths, not cool to give up. Even if your career didn’t need Maths much, let’s open up these young minds to as many career doors as possible, not limit their options just because we couldn’t do Maths at their age.