7 Savvy Ideas and Comments from Maths Insider Readers


Don’t you hate know-it-all’s?

I know quite a lot about maths teaching and learning and I’m passionate about sharing what I know with you – that’s why I set up Maths Insider.

But I don’t know it all.

I sit here in my laboratory called home, researching, testing and listening out for ideas to share, but I certainly don’t know it all!

That’s where you, the Maths Insider readers, have stepped up!

Through your questions, comments, ideas and guest posts, you’re making Maths Insider a go-to place for tips and advice to support kids maths learning.

If you want to read through the archive of articles and comments here on Maths Insider, scroll to the bottom of the page and click on each category to access all the posts.

In the meantime, read these 7 savvy ideas that insightful readers have shared on Maths Insider:

1) Creative newscast and maths rap ideas from Rebecca Zook

in response to 4 Merry Times Tables Games

I had never thought before about how it is hard for kids to always be the only ones under scrutiny and making mistakes. I really like how you turned the tables! I recently started doing something similar with one of my own tutoring students–making “math casts” where she is a news anchor giving a broadcast about how to do a certain kind of math problem. And you are right–giving students a chance to teach can be a great way to assess without making them do a worksheet or a test.

I am always on the lookout for fun new ways to teach the multiplication facts, so thank you for sharing these here. I’ve also found singing and rapping the facts to be useful–if you’re interested, I wrote about this is in an article about fun ways to help your kids learn math:

2) In-depth Maths-Whizz tips from Mary Smith

in response to Maths-Whizz Testers Needed!

We have been using the programme for 3 months now and I have to say it is fantastic, and I think you have done a great review Caroline.

When I found Maths Whizz I asked my son to do the assessment – he loved it.

If you help your child, or your child messes around then you could end up with tutorial lessons being too hard or too easy, so its important to do the assessment when your child is ready to learn, and not to offer any help (as tempting as it is).

Whizz has a clever way of automatically taking you to your next tutorial lesson and it’s easy for children to be absorbed into doing the lessons to earn points.

With many maths programmes, whether online or via CD, you normally select the year group you want to work on. This means that sometimes the questions are too easy, and others are too hard, both of which can be demotivating and demoralising to a child. With Maths Whizz, you have no control over the level of maths your child does, Whizz sorts this out for you, so you could be working on a Year 5 level for one topic, and maybe a Year 4 for another. These levels are set once the assessment has been completed. But it is not obvious to the user. Maths Ages are given out on the reports but if this is likely to be an issue to your child, you dont need to let them see the reports.

With many maths programmes, children will not select a topic they can’t do or don’t understand. The Whizz maths has a tutorial for every strand of maths that your child will/should encounter at school and they have to complete the lesson before they can move to the next topic. If they struggle, then when this topic reappears it might be an easier lesson. They can’t avoid any topics which I think is really good.

Overall I have been extremely impressed with Whizz Maths. Its motivational and interesting, and I too have learnt so much. If I have had any queries, they are always answered within 48 hours and they always follow up if they cant answer immediately.

I like paid subscription sites so that you do get reports and feedback. If your child is completing games on the free websites you dont always see how they are doing or if they really understand what they are learning. It has been very interesting to observe the range of maths topics available and also my son’s knowledge and understanding.

What has also been interesting is to see the topics develop at each stage. No doubt your children come home and say theyve done maths and it was the same as last year, but through Whizz I have seen how the topic is the same, but advances one step at a time so the children think theyve already done it and got it right, they can do it again.

I would definitely recommend this site! Some very clever programming indeed!

3) Informative links about learning styles from Merry

in response to Who else wants their child to be lightening fast at mental maths? – Introduction

Experts categorise learning styles into 3 but I prefer 4. Speaking/listening (auditory from self and others), reading (visual), writing (kinaesthetic and visual), doing (kinaesthetic or tactile)..

A parent’s/teacher’s awareness and application of the different learning styles can make a huge differenc to a child’s learning. If a child finds it hard to sit still, or write out sums, or repeat drills or read from a chart, maximise on their learning style by giving him/her something to do that helps them internalise the maths involved. This doesn’t mean to say that you should ignore the other learning styles that your child may not be so good at. The best learners are those who are able to learn using all 4 styles -multiple intelligence- and that’s what we all want our children to have.

Try these sites to learn more about how we learn:

4) A neat Arithmetic Method from Malyn

in response to What Every Parent Needs to Know About the Multiplication Facts

I agree that a working-out strategy is good to have. One I find that really works is to give “goal posts”, for lack of a better term.

Most kids have no problem learning their 2x, 5x, and 10x tables; to a degree, even 9x and 11x.

So, when stuck, I say use those and move either forward or backward by adding or subtracting. This drills them in addition and subtraction, too. For example, if you don’t know 7×8, you can start from 7×10 and -7 twice. Or, if the kid is struggling with subtraction then start with 7×5 and +7 three more times. Sometimes I even throw in the concept of range – it’ll be between the x5 and x10 result.

This strategy also reinforces the concept of multiplication as repeated addition – good mathematical foundation. Also, estimation.

5) Cool binary finger-counting from Gas Station Without Pumps

in response to Finger counting: The Debate Continues!

I’ve not had to deal with children finger counting to do arithmetic. At a very early age I taught my son to count in binary on his fingers, a skill I still find useful as an adult when I have to count things (particularly letters or numbers, which can be distracting for oral counting). Animated instructions are available as a Scratch animation

My son was pretty much at grade level for memorizing number facts, though he got the algorithms and number sense much quicker than average. He did use counting-by-n for about a year as a crutch for multiplication, but doing a bunch of multiplication problems in school got him past that, since he prized being the first one done, and counting-by-n was slow.

6) A common-sense currency activity to demonstrate place value from Becca

in response to Maths Problem Solving Tip

I used to tutor early-elementary children, and these are two strategies I found helpful for multi-digit addition and subtraction:

Use pennies to represent the ones column and dimes to represent the tens. When carrying or borrowing, exchange a dime for ten pennies. This helps to make the action more obvious and less like a magic trick. After some practice, add dollar coins and work with 3-digit numbers; seeing that the same concepts still apply gives kids a real sense of power.

Practice adding LOTS of numbers in a tall column using “the buddy system”: Every 1-digit number has a 1-digit number that is its “buddy” to add up to 10. Thus, you can approach the tall addition problem by looking down the ones column for buddy pairs, marking them out, and counting the pairs with your other hand, then writing the number of pairs in the tens column; if you reach 10 pairs, write a 1 in the hundreds column. After marking out all the pairs, you have just a few numbers to sum. Then do the tens column the same way.

7) Fun arithmetic games and a number bonds research link from L-Squared

in response to Who else wants their child to be lightening fast at mental maths? – Introduction

Have you seen Rathmell and Leutzinger’s research on this? It’s aimed at teachers, but it’s really interesting. I’m particularly fond of the use-10 thinking strategies (and then, of course) once master a strategy there’s nothing like practice.

Rathmell’s work is summarized quite nicely in this Q&A if you’re interested:http://thinkingwithnumbers.com/QuestionsAnswers/index.html

I’ve also found that you can disguise a lot of math practice as a game. If you play go-fish, but instead of wanting 4 of a kind, you want a pair of numbers that add to 10, you can get in rather a lot of focused practice without it seeming like too much work. I rather like playing chutes and ladders with 2 10-sided dice to practice the easier subtraction facts (subtract the smaller from the larger number, and that’s how many spaces you go).

Many thanks to the 7 commentators above and to all of you who have taken the time to share your thoughts and ideas here on Maths Insider. Keep up the sharing below!

Caroline Mukisa
About The Author: Caroline Mukisa is the founder of Maths Insider. A Cambridge University educated math teacher, she's been involved in math education for over 20 years as a teacher, tutor, Kumon instructor, Thinkster Math instructor and math ed blogger. She is the author of the insanely helpful ebook "The Ultimate Kumon Review" and insanely useful website "31 Days to Faster Times Tables" You can follow her math tips on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @mathsinsider

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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16 thoughts on “7 Savvy Ideas and Comments from Maths Insider Readers

  1. Caroline, what a creative and helpful idea for a post! You’ve managed to bring together lots of different insights and presented them in one place for everyone’s convenience.

    No-one can ever know everything there is to know, so the only way to move forward is to share. Knowledge is one of the few commodities in life which increases when shared. Even as I write this comment, I am following up a couple of the links you’ve included and look forward to learning something new today. My thanks you and to all your commentors!

    • Thanks Merry,

      I was really pleased when putting this post together that Maths Insider readers were going to get another chance to see all these great comments. I’m totally honoured that you guys are choosing to share your ideas on Maths Insider.

  2. Caroline, thanks for including me! :) I’m glad to see all of these ideas in one place–there are many I otherwise would have missed. I especially like the one about using coins to teach place value, especially the part about switching out a dime to illustrate borrowing without it seeming like a magic trick!

    • Rebecca,

      Thanks to you for sharing your thoughts here at Maths Insider – I’m going to try to get my kids to Newscast some basic French, it’s such a great idea that can be used for almost any subject.

      ‘Becca’s coin idea is a keeper! She’s got some other nice ideas on her site which are worth checking out.

  3. I am one of those rare people who love math. I always have, but I do remember my friends complain to no end about it. If only they had had teachers with the creativity that you are displaying in your posts, they would have had a much more fun time at math. I am happy for all your students, who will have a better experience doing math than most.

  4. I love math. Both my young kids are in the advance group in their class, but when it comes to memorizing their facts tables (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division), they’d rather be doing something else. Their teacher emphasizes that they have to memorize it, but no matter what I do, I can’t get them do it. Any tips? — Cherrie D. Bautista

  5. Thanks Caroline for including my post. Its great to see all these different ideas shown together.

    The teaching of maths has definitely improved over the years! Maths can be seen now as a fun topic rather than the chore it used to be.

  6. Caroline I am glad you started this site it is helping me with my children and i also publish it on my face book so every one could benefit

  7. Excellent. I am pushing my children much further than I ever went with math. I’m one of those literary type cats who can just manage to count the change in my pocket!

    • Hi Rob!

      Great that you’re finding ways to support your children’s maths learning even though you weren’t “pushed” as much! Finding out what learning style your child has and what interests them are 2 of the keys to supporting their learning.

      P.S. I’m one of those maths types who hated reading the “classics”