We chatted recently with a girl and her mother about mathematics. The girl in question is bright – and has just been accepted by her local grammar school. She achieved amazing scores on her verbal and non verbal reasoning papers.
She has always found mathematics difficult. Her school kept her in the middle mathematics set because they felt that she could not cope with the mathematics in the top group.
Listening to the mother and her daughter it seemed that the girl understood the mathematics while she was being taught – but could not remember the work when she took it home for homework. In tests she found it difficult to remember how to do a wide variety of examples.
Her school had given her a projected 5C in the recent SATs tests – but she only achieved a 4A.
I took out a range of KS3 Sats papers. These are offered to children in the bands 3-5, 4-6 and 5-7. The same Level 5 question can appear in all three papers. We started with the Level 5 – 7 paper. The girl went orally through the first five questions – explaining what she had to do and what which processes she had to follow. She spoke confidently and was pleased to demonstrate the extent of her mathematics.
So if she knew how to do Level 5 questions, why did she only achieve a Level 4? Perhaps she had difficulty with doing calculations. Perhaps she needed to read the questions aloud before she could understand what was expected of her. Perhaps she gave up towards the end of the Sats paper she did at school and did not try hard enough with all the questions. Perhaps she liked being in the middle set for mathematics so that other children in the class would not tease her about her obvious ability. Perhaps if she sat in the middle mathematics group her parents would take the pressure off her. We are not sure.
When she enters grammar school she needs to have cast off her previous attitude to mathematics. She needs to be confident that she can do her homework and do well in tests.
Part of the solution may to try to give her the tools to be able learn the rules and key topics of her mathematics. She needs to be able to make notes and then study and understand her notes Most of important of all she needs to be able to recall the key points when she is faced with questions in tests and examinations. This is called `studying mathematics’.
I wonder if she had been able to reach the end of her primary school education without really having to learn and study something.
She went off with her mother to learn the examples and notes within a few pages of a KS2 mathematics text book. I hope it works!