The teaching of maths is constantly changing and what appears to be new concepts and different ways of learning makes it appear very difficult for those of us educated in the stone age. Looking back at a primary school report of mine the maths we did was called Arithmetic. We were given marks for mental arithmetic, mechanical arithmetic and solving problems. We did not do graphs, algebra, geometry or trigonometry until we went to secondary school We were given a very thorough grounding in arithmetic however This was in the days of the eleven plus exam in England. At the age of 11 you took the eleven plus exam and based on the result attained, won a place at a grammar school or stayed on at an all age school or if available went to a secondary modern school. There was a great deal of pressure to do well and pass “the scholarship”.

There was pressure on pupils and teachers. Here in Australia there is a current debate about the validity of the naplan tests and how teachers are teaching towards success in the tests rather than encouraging more valid educational outcomes. There were three components to the eleven plus test: English comprehension, Arithmetic and an intelligence test. We were thoroughly taught what we might be expected to come across in the tests. I read recently that the eleven plus exam was the only exam where people’s intelligence tests were used. It has been said that you cannot teach to improve intelligence quotients, However we were given lots of examples of tests to work out sequences of numbers, differences in shapes and some general knowledge that had appeared in previous papers.

I was good at Arithmetic and English. I was not the best at “mechanical arithmetic” as I I was careless and not accurate enough but I was very good at mental arithmetic and working out problems. I remember Mr Canning our teacheer in Standard Four would bring us out individually to his desk and fire at us rapidly a series of mental calculations to be done. These included times tables and knowing how many ounces were in 2 and a quarter pounds. We had to know how many furlongs were in a mile and pre-decimal currency was another challenge. There were four farhings in a penny, 12 pennies in a shilling, 2 shillings and sixpence in half a crown, 20 shillings in one pound and 21 shillings in a guinea. We were expected to know all our tables off by heart so that we could work out long calculations quickly. There were no calculators then.

When I went to the Grammar School, maths included algebra, geometry, trigonometry and eventually differential calculus. I was not able to get any help with maths homework. My parents had both left school at 14 and had attended all age schools. Both were good at arithmetic. They had both worked in retail and were running a newsagents when I was at Grammar School. They could serve and give change so rapidly during the early morning rush when the factory workers thronged into the shop for their papers and cigarettes. My mother did all the accounts but neither mum nor dad knew any geometry or trig. I did enjoy algebra, geometry and trigonometry and took pride in finding a solution to problems set. It sometimes took me a very long time.

Working through maths problems led me to think very logically and in later life with no other maths training than I got at the Grammar School I have designed data bases and spreadsheet solutions for many clients. So what has this got to do with helping your child at maths? Make sure your child knows their basics eg times tables and number bonds. Test the times tables until they are second nature. It will save so much time in calculating more complex problems. Foster a love of numbers. Number bonds can be an intrinsic part of what becomes innate knowledge

Number bond activities halp kids build their understanding of the part-part-wholw concept, which refers to a whole number being made up of two or more parts. There are numerous worksheets which you can download for practice. Help your child see numbers as fun and interesating. Below see how the numbeer 15 can be made from various combinations.

A number bond is a simple addition that becomes so familiar the child recognises it immediately thus saving much time doing more complex calculations. Make number bonds and tables fun and familiar and your child will have an invaluable aid.

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