It has been two years since I made the decision to take L12 off a formal maths program and teach her using living maths. At the time she cried daily over her maths and found every single thing about it hard. For a year or so we simply played. You can find all my maths posts during that time here.
Deep down, this was a hard decision for me to take. The idea of L12’s maths education resting firmly on my shoulders was scary and was a burden which was almost too heavy. That said, my gorgeous, usually happy daughter was not happy any more and for me her happiness was more important than her education. So, in line with my personality, I threw myself into this new maths season with enthusiasm, hiding the fear I inevitably felt without the safety net of a formal maths program.
My goal in writing this post is to encourage others who may be struggling with a similar problem. Moving away from curricula was the best decision EVER for L12. Gradually, instead of tears and expressed hatred for maths, she began to look forward to maths. Almost daily I could see light bulbs go on as she suddenly understood a concept which had previously eluded her. Maths is, after all, incremental and if one misses something early on it is much harder to understand the more difficult concepts which inevitably follow.
For us, the break-through came when we went over number bonds. Such a simple concept and a very, very early one and yet I had somehow missed at the time her extensive lack of understanding. Number bonds are one of the basic building blocks. It was no wonder she did not understand everything else.
After a year of ‘living maths’ I decided to look for another maths program to try her on. She was now enjoying all things numerical and often asked Gary to set her mental maths questions at the dinner table, so I felt it was a good time to make a change. The first one we tried was one a friend used but all three children soon became bogged down with the sheer number of practice questions and the unclear explanations. I could see her enthusiasm wain once more, as her dislike for maths returned.
Gary and I had been praying over a computer based maths program which taught the UK curriculum using short videos and short exercises of just ten questions. It was very incremental in nature, which meant that after passing the ten questions the student would watch another video which would show the same concept but at a harder level. We both felt this would be a good fit for all our children, the drawback being it cost £25 per month for three students.
We felt we should at the very least try it out. One part of the program I loved was its ability to assess the student through diagnostic tests and find out what level they should be studying at. L12 and C12 tested a year below their age, whilst T13 tested slightly above his age. The girls began year six work back in November of last year and T13 began half way through Key Stage 3. Each day all three older children would log on to Conquer Maths and begin their lessons. At the end of each section of lessons there was a test which if they passed they received a certificate. The pass mark is parent set and for T13 we set it at 90% and for the girls 80%. The high nature of these pass marks means the children had to really master each concept to pass. We also encouraged them by giving them £5 each time they completed a section.
By the beginning of this year L12 had caught up. She was asking to do extra maths in her free time and was finding it easier and easier as time went on. By the time each child had caught up to their age we stopped rewarding with the £5 but their enthusiasm continued.
T13 is now studying for his IGCSE in maths continuing with this program. The girls have both now caught up with their age, with L12 (yes, L12 who hated maths two short years ago) almost half the way through Key stage 3. She has just tested at 90% on her Algebra 2. This from the girl who believed she would never ever pass a maths GCSE and if she did it would probably be when she was in her sixties!
L12 wants to be a nurse or midwife and maths therefore is essential for her to go on to study nursing/midwifery. This is simply not a problem any more. She is excelling and most importantly she is loving it.
I decided to write this post to reassure mums out there whose children may be struggling. I want you to know that it is okay to back off for a while, to allow your child some space to stop hating maths. L12 was so far behind before she stopped her maths curriculum for a year and yet now she is ahead. Her terror of all things numerical halted her progress for years. Taking time out to play allowed us to have fun with numbers as well as find out those key things she was missing.
In addition, Conquer Maths has helped each one of my children become strong in maths. They each have a different learning style and yet this program suits them all. It is well worth the money we pay for it and maths is no longer something I worry about. Each child will get to where they want to, I have no doubt. And really, what more could a mum want from a maths program?