Saturday 18 November 2017

Maths recovery is quick once right help is provided

Ask the principal

Parents are concerned about their daughter falling behind in maths. Photo: Getty Images.
Parents are concerned about their daughter falling behind in maths. Photo: Getty Images.
Seán Cottrell

Seán Cottrell

MY child is having difficulty with maths in school. I am worried that she will fall behind.

Sean replies: EVERY parent at some stage or another has concerns about maths homework. There can often be a difficulty with maths but not always. However, if this is an ongoing issue you should contact the school and look for an appointment with your daughter's teacher. Bring examples of her homework with you to the meeting.

Together, you and the teacher should be able to identify which aspects of maths are causing difficulty.

Is it possible that maths may not be the problem after all? For example, is your daughter recording her maths homework accurately? Most schools carry out standardised assessment every year or every two years.

The main purpose of these assessments is to establish which children are in need of additional help and to diagnose which aspect of maths is presenting difficulties. If specific issues arise, your child's teacher may point out simple ways in which you can help your child at home.

If it is more complicated, some further learning support may be available in the school. In many schools nowadays the withdrawal of children from the classroom for learning support has been scrapped and, instead, the learning support teacher goes into the classroom to work with children who need extra help to catch up with the class.

In some cases, the learning support teacher teaches the class while the class teacher works with individual children requiring help.

In my experience, I have been amazed at how quickly children can recover once they get the right help.

The one thing I would strongly discourage is to openly discuss with family members your daughter's difficulty with maths in her presence. The damage this can do to a child's confidence can far outweigh whatever problems she has with maths.

Secondly, if homework becomes a cause of stress between you and your daughter, you can be absolutely certain that not only will she not improve but she will most definitely convince herself that she cannot succeed.

Of all subjects, a child's attitude to their ability in maths is vital to their success in the subject.

Seán Cottrell is Executive Director of the Irish Primary Principals’ Network.

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