Aug 25, 2022

Does Your Child Struggle With Maths?

By Heidi McGinty

It occurred to me the other day that I have been thinking about my tuition company since I was 7 years old. These first thoughts started out with an unhappy event.

I was in school during a Maths lesson when the teacher instructed,

‘Anyone who is not up to question 10, will need to stay in during their play time and finish their work.’

I stared down at my Maths book and realised, I was still on question four!

As the lesson finished, children gradually began to funnel out of the classroom, they had finished their Maths work. I distinctly remember looking at the mathematic symbols and then at the objects in front of me.

You will probably be familiar with these objects, as you may have used them when you were at school. When I was at school, they were wooden, nowadays they are made out of plastic with various colours.

Again, I looked at the objects and then the symbols in my book and I distinctly remember thinking, ‘I have no idea what these objects have to do with the abstract Maths symbols in my book.’

At seven years old, this event had a huge impact on me.

This probably sounds quite insignificant to an adult.

All the other children had left the room and I sat there with thirty empty chairs and thirty empty tables and nothing else except that wretched Maths, that I didn’t even understand.

At seven years old, I remember as clear as day, that I could not make the connection between the abstract symbols and those wooden objects. No matter how hard I tried, I could not make sense of what those objects had to do with the symbols that I was writing in my exercise book. I remember starting to think things like;

Why doesn’t my brain work?

Everyone else can do this, they’re all outside having fun.

What’s wrong with me?

I don’t get it.

I must be stupid.

I give up!

I looked out of the classroom window and it was one of those beautiful sunny days, crystal clear blue sky. The type of day where every child wants to be; outside playing with their friends.

But I wasn’t there.

I was in total isolation, looking at these objects that made no sense. The more I looked at them the more upset I became, the more distressed I became. The more anxious I became.

Of course, I was thinking, I’m going to be here for the rest of playtime. I’m probably not going to get any lunch either. This is horrible. I hate Maths. My anxiety levels rose. I sat there pondering what food I was going to miss that lunchtime and the fun the other children were having.

For a seven-year-old this was an upsetting situation to be in and it felt extremely unfair.

It is this experience which made me aware of how often and regularly the teachers change the objects and the concepts.

On Monday, in Maths, the teacher gave us abstract Maths symbols and wooden blocks.

Tuesday, in Maths, the teacher gave us abstract Maths symbols and buttons and plastic fruit.

Wednesday, in Maths, the teacher gave us abstract Maths symbols and pebbles and coloured multilink cubes.

Thursday, in Maths, the teacher gave us abstract Maths symbols and toy cars and toy money.

Friday, in Maths, the teacher gave us abstract Maths symbols and plastic pieces of pizza and slices of cake.

And this continued sporadically, until I got to 11 years old. Then one day, all those objects were no longer required and they disappeared because supposedly you already understood Maths and you had out grown using objects!

This is what happens in schools today, not just back in the olden days, when I was seven years old.

Can you imagine, if the teacher had been teaching me music? A music teacher would not say, ‘Today, you are going to learn how to read music and you are going to use a recorder, tomorrow a violin, the next day a piano the next day a triangle. When learning an instrument, you tend to start with one instrument become familiar and confident before moving onto a different one. Very often musicians will become expert only in one instrument, they rarely become experts in multiple instruments straight away.

The point I am making here is that for some children they are not given enough time to consolidate learning before moving onto new concepts. Each time I was given new abstract symbols and new objects, I thought it was different Maths, when in actual fact it wasn’t, it was the same thing or at least similar.

Over time this approach can become confusing for children.

At seven years old, I was confused.

This got me thinking, I couldn’t be the only child in the world, who struggled to make this connection at seven years old.

In my advisory role within education, I had the opportunity and privilege to observe children learning and what I started to notice was that there weren’t just some children, but many children who were struggling to make these connections, in fact I see this on a daily occurrence.

It is this understanding that has enabled GradeBusters to create and formulate an approach that enables children and adults to make connections.

If you are confused at an early age you have a bigger task of trying to recoup the years of understanding which have been lost.

Maybe this resonates with you, or maybe you haven’t ever considered this, but the next time your child brings home some Maths work and they are showing you they don’t understand it, try to identify what it is that they are just not grasping.

I also come across parents whose frustration, isn’t that they personally can’t do the Maths, as they understand it themselves and they are very able mathematicians, but they struggle with trying to explain it to their child. This can be frustrating if you find it straightforward yet the other person just doesn’t get it. Sometimes, no matter how much they try to explain they run out of patience and then it ends up being a negative experience.

Don’t let Maths become a negative experience in your child’s life.

Empower them to understand.

At GradeBusters this is why we believe in Education Without Limits.

Every child’s potential is limitless.

We can all use a little support

How we help our students

Here’s how

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