“Why was I always bad at Maths?”

People who tell you they were always bad at maths very often blame themselves. But in fact, few of them struggled through school and beyond because they were deficient in some way. The reason they didn’t understand was because their lessons became too abstract too quickly.

This means they were rushed into working with numbers that were too large to picture, word problems that were overly complicated, calculation processes they didn’t understand, patterns they weren’t ready for and standard units of measurement that confused them.

These days, educators are making increasing efforts to ensure that children understand what’s going on mathematically so that more of them engage with maths, enjoy it and are likely to become numerate.

Today’s maths books, programs and apps are highly graphic compared with older style textbooks. Even standardised tests are full of illustrations. This can only be good news as far as understanding maths is concerned because pictures help students to interpret the problem or situation. The interactivity of many resources takes this a step further.

In the state schools of Western Australia, we have spent many years trying to get K-3 students off to a better start in mathematics. But has it worked? National Assessment Program for Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) reports from 2009-15 indicate that the mean score in numeracy at Year 3 level has not increased significantly. Nor has it increased significantly in any of the other states. In fact, in two states it has dropped.

Furthermore, in comparing 2009 and 2012 results from the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) in mathematics, we see a decline in performance by Australian fifteen year olds.

Kids are still missing out on experiences that are vital in helping them understand Maths

Maths difficultiesOften, but not always, these are hands-on experiences. Hands-on means hands actually touching objects and moving them around. Although many programs and apps encourage children to move pictures around, these are still only pictures, and this is not the same as seeing and moving physical objects. There is a real issue with reliance on screen products, because many kids will not understand without touching and moving actual objects. You may already know a child that still has difficulty understanding Maths despite having all the latest tools at their fingertips.

Take enough steps back in order to go forward again with success

maths help

There are stages of understanding that can be worked back through in order to find a child’s true level. Many parents do this either consciously or unconsciously when helping with homework. It is not difficult to go back through these stages, but it is helpful to know the order of regression. Read more…



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