At my son's request I bought him a scientific calculator yesterday. For a boy with whom I've done no more than basic maths I'm not quite sure why, but I am happy to wait and see.
School did a lot of damage when it came to maths.My son used to pull out the plugs of the school computers when the maths lessons came around because he dreaded it so much. Then he sat under the computer desks and hid.
It was years before he recognised that he wasn't a dunce or stupid, he just couldn't understand the point of doing something that had no relevance to him. Why do twenty questions on the same subject when you have got the first five right?
At first we tried work books and sheets but the opposition was immense and the effort required by me to ensure he carried out the task was draining.
I soon learned to let go and stop controlling. When we were in supermarkets we would discuss whether 50% extra free was better or the same as BOGOF. We would check the tiny labels you find on the shelves giving the price per gram or unit so that we could establish whether a Box of Washing powder with 84 washes was a better or worse buy than the same make smaller box. The results were sometimes unexpected. A certain brand of yoghurt was cheaper when you bought 10 separate units than if you bought a pack of six. This was the sort of maths my son could understand and his fear began to lessen.
I introduced pocket money of £5 per week and he quickly learned to count up in fives. I paid him to help with the decorating and paid the minimum wage and he used his calculator to work out what I owed him.
He calculated the cost of the components required to build a computer. He learned angles on his skateboard or whilst playing pool and by using a compass and coordinates by reading maps.
He saw graphs and statistics whilst watching the news and reading books and taught himself to decipher the information presented.
Grams and kilograms were learned whilst cooking and shopping. Miles and kilometres whilst travelling along the motorway and, he finally cracked the time when I realised that, whilst he struggled with analogue, he could read digital clocks.
It was trial and error.We started comparing prices online, getting free delivery, buying in sales and charity shops and my son learned the value of money.
He played online maths games too for a while, particularly the Woodland school website. I began to notice him figuring out problems for himself. I didn't always know how he had reached his answer but he was often right and even if he wasn't he would often self correct when he realised there was something wrong with his answer.
He learned the order of the months when he wanted to find out when a favourite X box game was due for release. The list went on and on. The common element was that when it was relevant to my son he learned it.Furthermore, once learned he didn't forget.He was like a little computer and as he added each fact to the mix, his brain processed it and filed it in the right compartment.
He is no longer frightened by maths.It's not his favourite subject but he knows he can find out what he needs to know and he is comfortable with that and as for me I'll be interested to see what he comes up with next!