The UK’s best-selling author of maths and science education books, Carol Vorderman, explains how to help make maths easy for your children – even if they think they hate maths!
Maths is a wonderful language, a language our world cannot live without and yet, for many adults and children it appears to be like marmite – you love it or you hate it. I’ve been involved with maths education for over thirty years and I know this to be true. But I also know that I, and others, can change this attitude within weeks.
I know this having taught tens of thousands of children (usually strugglers) in my online school www.themathsfactor.com and also through my books, which continue to be the best-selling maths books because they work. It is all to do with confidence and the clarity of teaching and enthusiasm.
So where can it go wrong? It can go wrong in the very early years of a child’s life and never change, if key steps aren’t explained properly. Maths is incredible when you know how to use the symbols. Just like reading is magical and opens up a whole new world, it’s the same with maths… or numbers.
So it’s about explanation and about practice. Imagine being shown the alphabet and then told to “just read”. It isn’t going to happen. You need to know the rules of sounds and syllables, how to construct sentences and punctuation. With numbers it’s a similar process. The more you read, and are read to, the better a child becomes at reading. The more numbers you play with, and are shown, the better a child becomes with maths. It isn’t rocket science, although it is the language which allows rockets to be launched!
So numbers should be displayed everywhere in your home, and talked about and encouraged, it’s the encouragement that is critical for a parent to do.
One of the ways to keep you and your child positive is small incentives. I have found that a gold-star chart works well, or make your own certificates as rewards. Even just saying ‘well done’ can make a whole difference and shouldn’t be underestimated. But more than that… Please never ever say to your child “maths is boring, or maths is hard, or I hated maths at school”.
Maths can also be fun to learn! Working with your child at the kitchen table can be just as exciting. You just have to challenge the idea that maths is boring. My 10 Minutes a Day series come with a funky orange timer which creates a game from exercises and injects life into questions. Use household objects and toys to visually represent the problem at hand. Teaching doesn’t need to be standing in a classroom with a blackboard; it can be at home, in the garden, in the park or wherever you and your child get most inspired. Practice, practice and then practice again… play adding up games, snap, board games, make it fast if you can, make it fun.
And look for patterns in numbers. They are everywhere, they are the beauty, they are the key to easy learning. I teach visually. Every good mathematician (or numbers person) I know thinks visually. When I was on Countdown, I got half of the answers to the numbers’ game before the clock was even started. I saw the answer, rather than computed it in my head.
Numbers have families, they are related, they have sisters and brothers and cousins and some, the number 7, don’t have many relations at all. It’s why we have difficulty with the 7 times table most of all.
In the end, there is no such thing as a child who is born “bad at maths”. I have successfully helped many children with dyscalculia and some diagnosed with autism, it is all about how it’s taught. Confidence is key and your support is vital. So with just a little bit of extra help at home, your child will go from strength to strength in no time.
Written by Carol Vorderman
About Carol Vorderman
Carol Vorderman, one of Britain's best known and loved TV personalities, feels passionately about the value of education. Carol joined forces with DK in 1999 to become DK's Education Champion and became a best-selling author of educational books. Her DK series include Made Easy, 10 Minutes a Day and Help Your Kids.