As someone who truly disliked mathematics during my own schooling years, it always surprises me how much I enjoy teaching it now. Whether it's just the feeling of 'I know exactly what it's like not to understand what your math teacher is saying', or it's the joy of helping kids who are in the same position I was. Or maybe I just like teaching it because I feel like I finally get it now. After 13 years of schooling, and another 4 years at university, it finally clicked.
I remember struggling to remember my times tables in Year 4, and my parents practising with me endlessly. We had the flash cards, and they would ask me random times table questions while I was watching TV or while we were in the car. But no matter how much we practised, I could just never remember that 6 x 7 was 42. I would dread the multiplication line up game our teacher would make us play, and at the time it felt like we played it EVERY SINGLE DAY. The whole class would be split into two teams, and when you got to the front of the line it was your turn to play. One child versus another, we would have to yell out the answer to the times table question asked by the teacher. Whoever got it right kept playing, whoever got it wrong was out, and had to sit disappointedly with the other kids who couldn't remember their times tables. Naturally, I would cringe every time we played this, because I already knew I wouldn’t be able to get the answer quickly enough. I would be sitting out first go, watching the same kids get all the way to the end and win. In Year 5 and 6, I struggled with division, fractions, place value and decimals. By high school there was algebra, where A + B always equalled something different, and by the time they got to trigonometry I had simply stopped listening. By Year 10 I still had no idea what I was doing, would copy the answers out the back of the text book, and would get anywhere between 30 – 65% on my tests. I did enough to get by and pass, but I hated every second of it. By high school, none of my math teachers had time to explain the basics to me, and I was so far behind – it felt impossible to catch up.
I have met many students over the past few years in the same place. Some are in Year 2 or 3 and already feeling lost, while others are in year 7 and starting their high school journey feeling ‘behind’. I hate to think of how many other children are out there feeling the exact same way – feeling embarrassed that they don’t know the answers, feeling dejected about maths before they even try and feeling frustrated that they just can’t seem to remember their times tables.
It is for this reason that I love tutoring, as it gives you a chance to not only teach these kids, but also motivate and encourage them to keep trying and to stay positive… they WILL get there eventually. So keep the encouragement levels high at home, and continue to tell children that even if they don’t understand something right away, if they keep working at it they will. Keeping in a positive head space can be the hardest part, especially for young children. As a tutor its part of my job to keep cheering from the sidelines, telling these kids “you can do it”, “keep trying” and “don’t give up” – and it’s an aspect of my work that I take very seriously.
So… as a parent keep the encouragement and support high at home, and kids, know that it does get easier, and you will get it eventually. Stay positive, keep trying and be confident!
Lauren is the owner of MPT, a primary school teacher, tutor and Mum to a nearly 2 year old son.