Many children and adults alike have a fear of Maths – they experience great distress when they think about maths and solving number problems. This blogpost is to share some of the things I use to help children overcome this fear and enable them to achieve their full potential in Maths.
A couple of years ago, I was teaching 5th class. The majority of children in the class were achieving below the average and each Maths lesson ended in stress for both myself and the children, tears and torn pages from constant rubbing out. As a relatively new teacher, I wasn’t sure where to start so I spoke to a few colleagues and friends, searched online and began to plan how best to support the children. Over the years, I’ve found a couple of strategies that work for me.
Start with the basics
Revise what the children should know – don’t assume they are all fully secure on basic concepts such as;
- Number bonds to 10
- Number bonds to 20
- Number bonds to 100
- Times tables
- Commutative property (2+3 = 5 and 3+2 = 5)
- Links between addition and subtraction (3+2=5, 2+3=5, 5-2=3, 5-3=2)
- Links between multiplication and division (3×2=6, 2×3=6, 6/2=3, 6/3 =2)
Make links with what they know already
When beginning a new topic – pitch the lesson just below where the children are at. This ensures that the children don’t switch off because they think they will not be able to keep up if the lesson is pitched too high. Try to link the new with something the children know already.
Let the children use their fingers if they need to. Have a collection of concrete materials – rulers, counters, unifix cubes, lollipop sticks etc.
Don’t discourage children from using them – make the resources available (where the children can easily access them) and if they need them – get them.
When teaching – show problems with mistakes in them. See if the children can spot the mistake.
Discourage the use of erasers – unless its for a small mistake (1/2 digits). If a child has completed 10 maths problems and hasn’t answered them correctly – don’t make them rub it all out and change the answers. Give them an example question and then 2/3 questions on a fresh sheet of paper.
Make it real
Tell stories – try to make a link between the topic and real life.
Some ideas here;
Maths Around Me – Swimming Pool
Maths Around Me – The MotorWay
This is a great way to help children see Maths as something fun and not something to be afraid of. When teaching long division I used;
Division Daddy, Multiplication Mammy, Subtraction Sister, Bring Down Brother and Remainder Rover (the dog)
When we learned to take away/subtract in school we just remembered to borrow and pay back. It was automatic and I never gave it much thought. The same with long multiplication – multiply and then put down the 0 and multiply. I never remember being taught why I was doing this – I just did it. I think its important for children to be aware of why we put down the 0 etc.
Posters to help
Include posters with sample answers/ step by step guides to show how to solve a problem. The children can use these as a reference point when completing independent work. If you make the posters with the children (either on chart paper at the beginning of the lesson) then the children are more likely to use them.
Allow children to work in pairs/groups to complete problems. This leads to discussion and is beneficial for both the children who struggle with maths and those who easily grasp new concepts.
By using games, maths becomes an enjoyable lesson. I created lots of games myself and downloaded some from Twinkl last year (loop card games, challenge cards) and made a Maths box which the children love to use. I also have cards and dice which can be used to play lots of different games. (Dice ideas here and card ideas here.)
There are lots of different ways to solve a maths problem. Show the children how to approach a problem from different angles. Put a problem on the board and ask children to share how they got to the answer. Children may not initially ‘get’ it but they might with a different approach!
Repetition and Revision
This is so important. Once you move onto a new topic, many children will forget what they have learned. By revising during a mental maths session or spending 1 maths lesson every week revising a topic you covered a few weeks ago, the children will retain the new concepts and won’t freeze if they have to answer a problem on a concept they haven’t seen in a while.