Posted by Devenia Besant on 23 Feb 2020

There are lot’s of challenges that come with parenting from sleepless nights to weaning and when they come of age – the first day of school and then inevitably comes the “homework” which can start of fun but as time passes the thought of homework can start to be dreaded and feared by parents, especially when it comes to Maths.  Some parents are up for the challenge and can easily breeze through it with their kids, I’ve got to be honest and say I’m definitely one that is filled with dread and fear ha ha – 3 kids later and I still don’t get some of it which is why it was it was lovely to be approached by locally based Karen McGuigan, aka The Maths Mum who has an amazing passion in helping parents get rid of that fear and creating an understanding on how they can help their children.  Below I share with you some of her thoughts and strategies:

Maths is still maths

Why has maths got such a bad reputation?

“I just can’t help Thomas with his reading!  Can you believe he’s only in Year 2 and it’s too difficult for me?!” – If you heard this at the school gate you would probably be quite shocked.  However, substitute the word ‘reading’ with ‘maths’ and this statement becomes much more acceptable. “Maths scares me”, “I was never good at maths”, “I’m not surprised she struggles with maths – she takes after me” – all examples of statements I’ve heard at the school gates.  And my personal favourite – “Maths is so different now, why did they make it so complicated?”

Each of these statements will come back to a parent who either isn’t confident in their own maths ability or a parent who is confident with their own ability but hasn’t taken the time to understand maths as it is today.

How is maths different today?

The truth is that maths is exactly the same as it has always been but the way it is taught in schools today is different; different but not more complicated.  Our generation learnt maths by rote.  We were shown the method and told to practice it until we got it right.  This is probably the reason that maths has got such as bad press with us because there wasn’t a backup plan if you didn’t get it.  Today our children explore maths, they are provided many different ways to solve problems, and the wrong answer isn’t a big red X it is the basis for a discussion on other possibilities.

Some amongst us may think that it is a ‘fluffier’ methodology, but research has shown time and time again that we all learn in different ways and therefore it makes sense that we offer up more than just one way to do something.  I liken it to a journey – you start at ‘Q’ the question and you get to ‘A’ the answer.  We were told that we had to go the quickest route and use a car.  Our children get the option of using whatever route they want and on whatever mode of transport they prefer.  They might choose to go the scenic route on a scooter.  It might make the journey slightly longer and seem more complicated but ultimately, they get to the same destination and remember the experience.

The ‘new’ way maths is taught means that our children aren’t scared of maths.  In fact, ask most 5- and 6-year olds and they will tell you that maths is fun.  They have a much better understanding of numbers and by Year 4 will be able to do things in their heads that you or I would take to our smartphone to work out.

How can you help your child with maths?

To help your child successfully with maths you will need confidence AND knowledge.

Confidence in your own ability.  Maths hasn’t changed since you were at school – two plus two still equals four.  Addition, subtraction, multiplication and division are still the main operations our children learn to master.  You learnt them when you were at school and use them in your everyday life. If you need a refresher or a boost in confidence, then complete the National Numeracy Challenge.  Confidence is the belief that you can help your child with their maths.

Knowledge takes a little bit more effort.  Try not to force your way on them – they might not be ready to drive yet!  A recent Cambridge University report into the origins of maths anxiety states “primary-aged children referred to instances where they had been confused by different teaching methods”.  You need to open your mind to the alternatives, take time to understand the new methods and terminology, be prepared to take the scenic route. Knowledge is understanding the correct way to help your child with their maths.

Can maths be fun?

Hell yes!  Maths should be fun.  Maths isn’t about sitting down and doing sums together.  Maths should be weaved into our everyday life.  It is playing Top Trumps, it is spotting shapes and reading maps on nature walk, it is working out how many chores equate to the latest football strip, it is gauging the right ratio of milk to eggs to get the pancakes just right, it is calculating how many episodes of ‘Horrible Histories’ it will take to cover the journey to Granny’s house, it is about doing a survey in the playground and putting together a statistical argument to justify the statement that “the majority of 12 years olds have/haven’t* got a phone”.  *delete as appropriate!

As parents, we are a child’s first and most enduring educator.  We have the ability to support and nurture a positive attitude to maths at home.  We might not have all the answers, but we can have fun trying to work them out.

“Mrs Bee has 22 balls to carry in 3 bags.  Each bag holds even numbers.  How many different ways can she do it?” – Get 22 chocolates/sweets/grapes and 3 bowls, make it a practical experiment with a reward at the end.

Karen McGuigan, aka The Maths Mum

The Maths Mum helps parents to help their children succeed in maths by providing insight and guidance on how maths is taught today to our children.  Check out the website for more details .

If you are struggling with helping your children with their maths homework then do get in touch with Karen, she also has many tools that you can download for FREE here.

Dee xx

Devenia Besant
Devenia (Dee) Besant is the founder of Epsom and Ewell Families. Runs a busy household as a mummy of 3 and a wife and some would say crazily committed to helping small businesses and the local community.

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