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Maths News

Children should not start formal education until they are at least six.

Children should not start formal education (that’s sitting down to read, write do maths etc) until they are at least six. So says the devastating attack on our schooling by the largest study of Primary Education for 40 years.

The Cambridge Primary Review, led by Professor Robin Alexander recommends putting us in line with the rest of Europe by continuing with the play based learning which now goes on in Nurseries and Reception classes for at least another year.

They argue that many children are introduced to formal reading and writing before they are ready and are ‘turned off’ by a lack of success.

There is certainly a great deal to be said for this approach, as our European counterparts, including Wales, seem to be much more successful with educating their children. Many four and five year olds have not developed sufficiently to be taught to read and write at 5. They immediately start to fail, this leads to disenchantment and a negative attitude to the next 10 years of school life. It really is a waste of time and effort trying to teach children before they have matured sufficiently to understand the concepts involved. However, there are also a large number of children who are ready, who are really keen and excitied about the more formal aspects of learning and can't wait to get going. Perhaps the real problem our education system has lies with the underlying premise that all children should be progressing at more or less the same rate through more or less the same curriculum.

The survey also calls for the abandonment of the SATs, claiming they are too narrow and not fit for purpose. Unfortunately, the Government do not appear to be listening.

Measurement for Year 2 children

There are plenty of practical ideas and fun activities in our year 2 measurement modules but it is also important for children to use the correct vocabulary.

The words learned in year one should be re-inforced:

For length:  
Long    short     tall     high    low    wide    narrow     deep     shallow     thick    thin    far    near    close

For mass:
Weight     weighs    heavy     light     balances    

For capacity:
Full    empty    holds

and there are other words essential for comparing:

more than     less than    bigger    smaller   longer    shorter    taller    higher    lower    wider    narrower     deeper    shallower    thicker    thinner     nearer    closer    heavier    lighter    fuller

Children should be comparing measurements, saying which is longer, shorter etc.

When measuring using a ruler or metre tape care should be taken to start at the correct end ie start at 0. Many children will ignore this to begin with and I have even seen 10 year olds start measuring at the 100 cm mark rather than zero!

When measuring strides it is useful to have a starting mark and a partner to mark the landing point. Usually the measurement is taken from the nearest point to the first mark ie the back of the foot, but this could be a good discussion point.

Balance scales are very useful at this stage to show comparisons.
Why not try our measurement activities now?

Addition for older primary children

As children move through the junior school (8 to 11) they will continue to meet a variety of vocabulary associated with addition. These include:

More,   add,   sum,   total,   altogether,   increase,   equals,   sign,   inverse.

These words should be very familiar to the child but still need to be used as often as possible, especially when speaking about what to do, how to do it, etc.

Developing on previous work, they need to understand that:

986 +  4 289 is the same as 4 289 + 986

(this is called the commutative law, but children do not need to know the word!)

and that:

      (523 + 25) + 91 can be worked out in several different orders

 e.g.  523 + (25 + 91) will give the same answer as the above order.
                        (the associative law)

It is important that children have real confidence with adding two digit numbers ( e.g. 78 and 87) and that they have a variety of strategies or approaches, depending on the numbers involved - sometimes it is easier to start with the tens, but not always. Constant practice, usually not on paper, of these tens and units additions will make larger mental addition much easier. The mental arithmetic work at this level is quite challenging, including the addition of thousands!

It is expected that children will use mental methods wherever possible - NOT to write the sum down unless it is too complex for mantal methods. On three digit numbers they could well only use mental strategies.

Children are also expected to understand that subtraction is the opposite of addition and that it can be used to check addition questions.

Where calculators are used the child should make an estimate of the answer first, especially when the calculation involves decimals.

The mathsgogogo site has hundreds of pages of worksheets dealing with these issues as well as a superb collection of maths activities which develop quick mental arithmetic skills.

GCSE Revision

We have just added a great article on how to really achieve the highest possible GCSE grades in maths. Just go to Media and follow the links.

Top GCSE grades soar!

There has been a big jump in the percentage of students who have been awarded the top grades in this year's GCSE results. More than one fifth of students were awarded A* or A grades.

Happily nearly everyone who took exams passed: the pass rate was 98.4%.

Interestingly, Northern Ireland outperformed the rest of the UK, and they do not publish the so-called 'League tables'.

Shopping questions in the Key Stage 2 tests

There are now two modules on 'Shopping' style questions that are found on the Key Stage 2 maths tests. Most of the questions in the national tests in this topic are at levels 3 and 4. The level 5 work is normally contained in the very last part of the question. There is therefore, no point in having a whole module devoted to level 5 work.

As hinted at above, the questions are normally progressive in difficulty level and children need to learn to read the questions carefully as they can often be wordy. The first part is usually easier and good marks can be gained without necessarily getting all parts of the question correct.

Obviously the main topic covered in this module is that of “money” and children should be familiar with converting from pounds and pence to pence and vice versa (eg £3.45 = 345p).

Children should be very familiar with their calculators and know such things as 34.6 means £34.60 if the answer is an amount of money.

They should know that 0.5 is £0.50 (50p) and that 0.05 is £0.05 (5p).

They will also need to be capable of extracting the information needed at a given point in the question from all that displayed on the page. This is an idea that many children find difficult and patience in this area will be needed.

New Key Stage 2 SAT Practice boosting level 3 to level 4

We have now added the first part of our Key Stage 2 practice questions from our KS2 Booster CD. These will be really useful for children who are aiming at a Level 4 in their SAT tests but need a little extra help along the way.

 They can be found at:

Year group: 6

Strand: KS2 Test Revision


Missing digits: Non-calculator level 3 to 4 Missing digits: Calculator level 3 to 4 Calculation: Non-calculator level 3 to 4 Calculation: Calculator level 3 to 4

More of this next month as we look at shopping questions and properties of numbers.


Basic maths causes stress!

Basic sums cause stress for adults!

Research from Learndirect suggests that over 13 million adults in the UK become stressed when carrying out basic sums. Being involved in these stressful situations made the participants’ blood pressure rise by up to 40%. The study shows that people have to use these basic maths skills up to 14 times a day.

One of the most common stress raisers is working out cooking times! The survey shows that over 27% of adults said they lacked confidence in their basic maths skills.

Even more reason to gain that confidence early on by joining MathsGoGoGo and making sure that your children never suffer from those stressful moments!!

Report from the BBC today.



Four new lessons for GCSE

Four really helpful lessons have been added to the site today. There are two algebra lessons, one on quadratic equations and the other on quadratic graphs.

Anyone who is not sure about Pythagoras can have a listen to the Pythagoras’ Theorem lesson, where it is all clearly explained.

Lastly there is an excellent run through Enlargements by a scale factor of 3, which can prove to be tricky.

Good luck!

Teaching finance in maths lessons

Ed Balls (Children, Schools and Families Secretary) has announced that children will be taught how to open a bank account, understand basic financial concepts like interest rates and learn important skills to plan for their financial future as part of an £11.5 million boost to personal finance education using the new CTFs.

The CTF is a long-term savings and investment account for all children born on or after 1 September 2002. The CTF was launched to strengthen the saving habit of future generations, promote financial education and ensure that at age 18 every child has access to a financial asset. The Government will give every eligible child at least £250 to start the fund with a further payment of £250 when a child turns 7.

The first children that benefited from Child Trust Funds (CTF) will be starting school this September and teachers have been asked to use CTFs as a way of talking about financial education in maths lessons. A range of financial materials will be based upon the CTF, allowing teachers to bring finance to life via the children’s CTFs.

The money will be used in both primary and secondary schools to teach children financial skills that will help them to manage their personal finances.

The funding will be made available from 2008 – 2011 and will be used to:
•    revise curriculum guidance on financial capability;
•    produce a range of innovative curriculum resources which will use the Child Trust Fund as a tool to help children learn more about the value of money and savings;
•    ensure teachers receive high quality training and support so that they have the skills and confidence to teach financial education well.
•    Expand the National PSHE CPD programme to include economic wellbeing and financial capability.

GCSE results slightly improve

The GCSE results have arrived with the usual concerns raised about falling standards despite rising percentages passing.
Results in Maths improved slightly with more pupils gaining a grade C or better than last year.
The proportion being graded from A* to C went up from 54.3% to 55.2%. As usual this was a much lower percentage than for English where the figures were 61.6% to 62.2%.
375 877 boys took the exam and 384 422 girls.
4.1% of both boys and girls achieved an A*
9.6% boys and 9.7% girls achieved an A
17.1% boys and 18.3% girls achieved a B
23.8% boys and 23.7% girls achieved a C

So, unlike English, where girls outshone the boys at all levels from A* to C, there seems to be little difference between the sexes.
How, then to get those results up to the 60%+ of English? Well, one way is to use the revision materials at MathsGoGoGo!!