I feel that I’m currently living in a world of payback time for all the hours my Dad tried to help me with my Maths homework over the years. It was the one area of education that I really struggled with, I had a total blind spot for maths and even as an adult I’m not great. Give me English, History and Geography any day of the week. So here I am, all these years later, back to pulling my hair out over Maths. This time around though its my 8 year old son who’s feeling the real pain of it all and my heart goes out to him. He’s in the middle of times tables tests and I’ve been trying to make Maths fun for him along the way.
If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you’ll know that school doesn’t come easy to my son. He doesn’t find it easy, its been a slog. He’d much rather be at home constructing a bridge out of Lego, than he would be, being in class coming to grips with his seven times tables and writing about, well writing about anything really.
But we stick with it, encourage him and help him in any way we can. I’ll never stop reading to him and trying to show him what joy a book can provide. Getting out and making history and geography and even science, is just something that I do normally, naturally. I strongly believe that the best way to engage a child is to immerse them in the reality of the subject. Whether that’s bringing the Tudors to life with a visit to Hampton Court Palace, or by making a volcano. But I have to be honest trying to make Maths fun, is not something that comes easily to me. It’s not a love of mine, it’s not something that inspires me. But, my son clearly has as engineer’s mind, and therefore, Maths is crucial and I’ll go through the pain barrier to help my son crack Maths, or Numeracy or whatever else it’s called these days.
I almost wish I could go back to school when it comes to Maths, it’s taught in a much better way these days. My son has to show that he truly understands the answers to a sum, how he got there, why he got there. In my day you just had to remember that 7 x 7 equalled 49. In fact, when it comes to times tables, I can still clearly remember them being posted all over the walls in Mrs Barker’s classroom and we, aged 8 or 9, would have to recite them over and over again. Was it the best way to learn them? Absolutely not, in my case anyway.
So this term at school Monkey and his class are being testing on the various times tables from 6-12. He’s not best pleased about this, or the fact he needs to practice them at home. To be fair, the thought of the ensuing battle to get it done didn’t fill me with joy either. But I’m an Aries, and I’ve been determined to try to help by trying to make Maths fun as best I can. Sometimes we’ve had a little too much fun and the answers haven’t quite sunk in, but if I can just keep him switched on to Maths, rather than hating it as much as I did as a child, then that’s a good outcome.
So what have we been doing? Well I started with post-it notes. I wrote the times tables sums out on post-it notes and doted them around the kitchen. Put the answers on a different coloured cut up post-it note and then monkey had to ‘pin’ the right answer to the right sum.
There was some initial reluctance to try this, in fact a few post-it notes got screwed up and thrown at me. But eventually he realised that actually he could run around the kitchen like a loony and have fun while trying to work out the answers to the sums. He found each sum and stuck them all to one cabinet in order, and then added the answers. If he didn’t get one right, it was easy to pull the answer off and try again. Apparently trying to make Maths fun this way was good and he’s asked to do this again a few times since.
I then turned to an old resource that I haven’t used for a while, some Mathematics Flash Cards we received a few years ago. They’ve worked really well too and because they’re double-sided he’s really had to think about his answers.
We’ve really struggled with the 7 times table but we’ve still kept trying to have some fun along the way. I’d written the sums out and left the last digit of the answer off, and my son had to find the right digit to complete the number of the sum.
Someone on my Facebook page came up with another idea for trying to make Maths fun, the Orchard Toys Magic Cauldron Game – doh, we have that! So earlier in the week, whilst I was cooking dinner, my son got the game out and we played it together. I am the queen of multi tasking after all.
The latest addition to my armoury for trying to make Maths fun is something that I nearly sold on a local selling site before Christmas. Luckily the buyer never turned up. I’d bought him these magnetic numbers from Early Learning Centre years ago, along with the letters set. Really they haven’t been used in a long time, but I had a flash bulb moment and back out they’ve come.
Whilst none of these ideas are turning my son into a Maths genius, hopefully they are helping making it all a bit more fun. Hopefully some of it is sinking in. Yes, I could probably stick him in front of my laptop, tablet or phone and let something electronic do all the work, but that will always be my last resort really. Do you have any other ideas we could try as we spend time trying to make Maths fun?