# Subtracting the fear of learning maths

Tue, Dec 11, 2012, 00:00

If the child gets the answer wrong, try getting them to explain how they arrived at that answer – they will often see where they went wrong themselves. Making mistakes and correcting them will help their understanding. Let the child know that taking risks and getting it wrong can be a good thing. Encourage persistence; “I bet you’ll work it out in the end.”

Give the child plenty of opportunities to describe what they are doing and why. This aids understanding.

Value quality over quantity. If you have completed three sums and really understood what you did, that is better than doing 10 in a hurry without understanding. Don’t go beyond the recommended time for homework set for each class in the school’s homework policy.

Common problems

The issues that tend to cause problems for primary children, especially in upper classes, include learning tables, dealing with time, understanding the concept of subtraction and division, decimal places, fractions and the meaning of zero.

Strategies to learn: Multiplication tables

In third and fourth class in particular, learning tables becomes very important. Children go on to use tables in many other areas of maths as they progress through primary and into post-primary school. Here’s a strategy for making the job easier. Rather than simply learning them off by heart, help your child to work them out from a small number of learned facts.

Anchor facts: one, two, five, 10 times. These are easier because they will have been covered in the earlier classes through “skip counting”, ie, counting in twos, fives and 10s.

Commutative law: this is the “buy one get one free” because if you know 3 x 4 then you know 4 x 3, so you don’t have to learn both facts. This strategy works well with bigger numbers so get your child to turn the calculation around, for example 8 x 2 can be done as 2 x 8 and still get the same answer.

Related facts: 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 and 3, 6, 9. Think about it, if you know 2 x 6 = 12, then you can work out that 4 x 6 = 24, or that 3 x 3 is 9 so 6 x 3 = 18 just by doubling the known fact.

Square numbers or doubles: 2 x 2, 3 x 3, 4 x 4, 5 x 5, etc. Learn these off by heart so if you know 6 x 6, you can work out 6 x 7or 6 x 5.

Division as inverse of multiplication.

6 x 7 = 42, 7 x 6 = 42 but we can also say 42 ÷ 6 = 7 and 42 ÷ 7 = 6. So given the numbers 6, 7 and 42, I can write four table facts.

Web resources The NCCA offers an excellent resource at ncca.ie; see also nrich.maths.org, a site for more able children; and the National Adult Literacy Agency’s helpmykidlearn.ie

This series was compiled by Louise Holden and Gráinne Faller

Series concluded