Let me preface this by saying that I have a smart kid. A really smart kid.
Last year at the end of term 3, E was discussing his maths group, after some questions I established three things;
- He had been sliding down through the maths groups the entire year
- He had landed with an inconspicuous SILENT thud in the lowest maths groups with the duds. That may sound harsh, but when your kid is in the same small school year after year with the same kids you very quickly get a grasp of where the intellectual dice have fallen – or not been thrown at all as the case me be.
- I had no indication from either E’s teacher or his report that there was a problem.
I took quick remedial action, had a meeting with the teacher (who asked for two weeks to get him up to speed, I figured she’d had 3 terms and hadn’t really accomplished much), I then enrolled him at Number Works ‘n Words. This was the
most expensive best decision we have made to date in regards to Ethan’s education. The change was almost instant. Ethan had become so demoralised at his lack of progression in maths that he had zero confidence in his maths ability – both at home and in the classroom. The tutors quickly identified his weaknesses (he had missed comprehension of a couple of key strategies – I hate that word – and simply couldn’t progress because the dots weren’t there to join so-to-speak. With rapid success at Number Works, his confidence and progress quickly returned to acceptable levels and by the end of the fourth term he was performing where he should have been all along if not higher.
Fast forward to Saturday morning when the first story on the NZ Herald app read: Govt Eyes Back to Basics in Maths. Really? Please take the time to read this article if you have school age children, particularly primary aged. When E was struggling and it was identified that he wasn’t grasping the all important strategies I was perplexed; since when did you need a strategy for learning basic multiplication? I didn’t understand the way he was being taught basic maths skills so what hope does a seven year old have?
I know how my son learns best and at this age it’s NOT by approaching relatively simple sums and complicating them with formula based learning. Hand that boy an old school times table square and introduce The Family of Facts and the problems experienced last year would not have occurred at all. It appears other people are beginning to notice.
New Zealand 9-year-olds finished last-equal in maths among peers in developed countries, in a survey published in December.
That’s ridiculous, scary and downright embarrassing for New Zealand as a nation. I think it’s time to take note parents, in our situation where attending a good high school is going to require out-of-zone enrolment, there is no time to sit on the fence and hope that it all comes out in the wash, that somehow this strategy based learning will work for every child because clearly it doesn’t and it’s now apparent on the world stage.