If the Math is Too Easy…

Kids (and grown-ups) love it when the math is easy, but it’s often the struggles and the breakthroughs that make math so exciting.

Does Your Child Know Their Basic Math Facts? Read These 4 Essential Tips

Watch the video on You Tube here

Read the transcript below:

4 Tips to Help Your Child Learn Their Basic Math Facts

Hello, my name is Caroline Mukisa from the Maths Insider website and today I’m going to answer a question from a Maths Insider reader, “How can I get my child to learn the basic facts?”

So I’m going to first of all talk about how much effort is going to be needed to learn the basic facts and then I’m going to talk about the order in which to do the facts. Further, I’m going to talk about location, location, location, give you some good tips on where and when to do that kind of learning. And finally I’m going to give you a secret tip at the end.

Will learning the basic math facts take a lot of effort?

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So first of all, how much effort is it going to take? Well, when I was a Kumon instructor, when I ran a Kumon center in London, my students were doing a lot of basic facts learning. So on the typical Kumon worksheet, say for example addition and subtraction, each student would be doing about 200 to 300 questions every day on that particular fact whether it’s +1s or +2s or a mixture of +1s and 2s. So that’s why Kumon kids are generally really, really fast in their basic arithmetic.
Now, I don’t do that with my own kids now and as a Thinkster Math (formerly Tabtor) instructor, each Thinkster Math worksheet has about 30 questions for the arithmetic section which is fine and some kids do two or three in a row so I guess they did 90. But to be frank, even if you can get 10 questions done or 5 questions done, or a few questions done several times a week, that’s brilliant, that’s better than doing nothing, okay? So don’t have in your head that this is going to be a huge, humongous task.You know, obviously if you want your kids to be really, really fast you’re going to need to put in some Kumon effort, some Kumon style effort. If you want them to be quite fast then put in some Thinkster Math effort and if you just want them to get the basic facts, then just do 10 questions several times a week.

Learn the basic math facts in this order

The next thing I’m going to go over is what order should you ask the questions? So I’ve got my whiteboard over here. So I’ve kind of got the 4 times tables, that my son was doing last week. I wrote them in order first, then in order again, and then in the next row I kind of skipped some and just wrote the odd number and then the even number times tables. So generally, try to do them in order. I would start with something that’s really easy. So if you know they’re struggling with their four times tables, start off with the two times tables. Give them that confidence by starting at an easier starting point.
So if you notice, for example, for addition, that they’re finding 8+5 difficult. (That 8+5 is the question I always ask my new Thinkster Math students. “What’s 8+5?”) If they can give me that quickly, then I know their arithmetic is generally okay. That’s just one of those facts that takes me a fraction of a second longer to get, so that’s why I picked 8+5. So if they’re struggling with 8+5, then give them an easier starting point. You could start with even the +1s and +2s and +3s and just give them the confidence to go fast. If they can do 9+3 quite quickly, then the leap from 9+3 to 8+5 isn’t that huge, but give them a running start, give them some easy work to get started with.

You don’t necessarily need to do the math facts at a desk

Taking my own advice from my Faster Times Tables website - use games to reinforce the times tables. Game board printed from the Twinkl website and LEGO game pieces custom built by my 8 year old!

Taking my own advice from my Faster Times Tables website – use games to reinforce the times tables. Game board printed from the Twinkl website and LEGO game pieces custom built by my 8 year old!

The other thing I want to talk about is where should you do them. Well of course, you know, you’re probably thinking I’m going to sit in front of them and I’m going to ask them lots of questions or I’m going to make them do lots of times tables worksheets. That’s fine. If your child is happy with doing that, that’s great. My son, last week, was going through a stage where he really didn’t want to do worksheets, he didn’t even want to write the answers so I wrote the questions and then I wrote the answers when he shouted them out to me.
And I’ve got some spellings over here on the whiteboard. You can see my other son’s spellings, so he decides to write those on the board but when we practice spellings, actually we usually practice them in the bathroom and then he writes with the board pen on the shower stall. So you can use that tip or you can even use a window because some kids just like writing somewhere different.
Another great tip is to do them in the car. So this tip came from one of my Thinkster Math parents. So what she does is she gets her child to do Thinkster Math while she’s driving because that way she can hear when the child is getting questions right or wrong. There’s like an audio sound of the Thinkster Math app. If her daughter gets stuck, she can give her some advice. She can say, “Hey, watch the video or read the question again,” but she’s not actually sitting over her and saying, “Do this, this, and this,” because she can’t, she’s driving. So I think in the car is a great location. You’ll probably notice that when you ask your kids a question they’ll often look away while they think of the answer. Also, it’s kind of confrontational if you’re staring at them, “Hey, what’s 8×9?” So try that, try in the car so that there’s less pressure if they get the questions wrong.

Learn the math facts by making mistakes

And finally, my last tip, is allow them to make mistakes. It’s not a big deal, don’t react, “Ah, you don’t know what 8×9 is?!” Just tell them, “8×9,” if they get it wrong, “It’s 72. What’s 8×9?” They say, “72.” “What’s 8×9?” “72.” So just ask them a few times before moving on and then have in mind that that’s one of those times tables that you’re going to have to go and review.

Tips for learning the math facts

So if we go back to the beginning:

  1. Do as many as you can. Lots will get through the process faster and your child will be faster at the basic facts. But even if you’re doing 10 facts several times a week, that’s fine, they’re going to get there.
  2. Go in order, start with something that’s slightly too easy, that’s fine.
  3. Do them in the car, on a whiteboard, on the window, on the shower stall. Just find somewhere really good to do them, somewhere different.(Actually, my son also likes playing board games so we adapted a board game and made it a times tables board game; using something we printed out.)
  4. And finally, allow them to make mistakes.

So for more quick tips and practical advice to help your kids to maths success, go to the Maths Insider website: www.mathsinsider.com.

What is Your No. 1 Math Help Challenge ?

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I’d love to hear how I can help!

It’s been several years since I’ve conducted my last survey. It’s a shame and it means I haven’t done all I can to best understand and help you.
I’m determined, however, to make Maths Insider the best it can be for you, and it all starts with a brand new survey!
All answers are collected anonymously and your response will be a primary factor in shaping the future of what I do, what gets published, what the site looks like and ultimately your experience with Maths Insider.
I’m really excited, and I hope you’ll give a few minutes of your time to take this incredibly important audience survey.
I’ve already had some great responses:
How do do I keep my child motivated on a math program?
How can I help with their lack of understanding of the basics?
How can I help keep him interested in the homework that is mere repetition of the school lesson. He gets bored and demotivated?
So go ahead and fill the Maths Insider No.1 Challenge survey!

Challenge Survey

 

 

 

How Tutoring Can Cure Math Anxiety

Some people get anxious when they have to stand up and speak in public, some feel anxiety when they’re in crowded spaces and many feel anxious when they have to do math.

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As an adult it’s easy to mask math anxiety by avoiding situations where you have to math, but like it or not math is a major part of school curricula worldwide and your child is likely to be doing some kind of math, if not daily, then at least several times a week and often in a class setting where their peers will be in a position to judge their math ability.

I’ve worked in math education for over 20 years and am a big advocate of kids doing a little bit of extra math each day or each week to boost their math ability and confidence. So it is interesting that researchers at Stanford University have recently published a paper demonstrating that math tutoring does indeed help students with math anxiety. The researcher took 2 groups of 3rd Graders (8 and 9 year olds) and gave one group one on one tutoring sessions for 8 weeks. After the 8 weeks, researchers found that both groups had improved their level of math skills but in addition “The children who started the study with high levels of math anxiety had reduced anxiety after tutoring” There was no change isn anxiety levels for those who started out with low anxiety levels.

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So what can you as a parent of a math anxious child do to help?

1 – Get a tutor – for help finding a great tutor to work one on one with your child, read my posts: Need a Math Tutor – Read These 6 Tips and A Maths Tutor Reveals All

2 – Tutor your child yourself – the key feature of the tuition in the Stanford research was that when students encountered difficulties the tutors made sure to try to “get the child beyond the bottleneck in a non-negative, encouraging way.” Often as a parent, we want our kids to be better than us and don’t like it when they get things wrong. Being patient with your child when they can’t do the math will greatly reduce anxiety levels all round. Read more: The Key to Successfully Tutoring Your Own Children Maths

3 – Check their confidence level – Find out how your child sees their own math ability. Check out: How Confident is Your Child at Maths? Take the Quiz!

You can find the full article about how tutoring affects math anxiety on the Science Daily website.

Animated Math from Pixar Math in a Box

A career as an Animator is one of the math-related careers in my freebie PDF 21 Seriously Cool Careers that need math. So I was really excited when I heard that the animation superstars at Pixar had teamed up with the genius math folk at Khan Academy to bring an interactive learning experience called Pixar in a Box, showing how math is used to animate our favorite cartoon characters.

Pixar in a Box

Pixar in a box in a box aims to

…show you how the concepts you learn in school are used to tackle creative challenges we face during the making of Pixar films. Along the way you’ll also learn a lot about Pixar’s filmmaking process….

Topics covered include:

Art&Story

Modeling

Rigging

Surfaces

Sets&Staging

Animation

Lighting

Rendering

 

Pixar in a box topic

Each topic includes a design activity (suitable for those  ages 10 years+) followed by a math activity, some of which are suitable for 10 year olds and some which will need middle school or high school math knowledge. The Educators Guide gives suggested grade levels for each activity, as well as some additional offline activities.

There’s an active comments section under each video, where students can ask questions and there are math exercises to complete based on the particular math topic linked to the design activity(with links to additional instructional math videos).

This is a great resource for both keen mathematicians and those who are always asking “When will I need math?”

Check out the Pixar in a Box introductory video below:

An Insider’s Guide to Thinkster Math (formerly Tabtor)

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2 years ago Thinkster Math contacted me on my Maths Insider email, asking if I’d like to review their new iPad based math program. After testing it with 2 of my kids and exploring it using my 20-years-of-math-teacher-experience, I wrote the blog post Is Thinkster Math a Real Alternative to Kumon?

After publishing the post, Thinkster Math, who are based in the US, offered me a position to work with the families from Europe, Asia and Australia who had signed up for the program, many after reading my review. Over the past 2 years I’ve had the pleasure of working with amazing families from around the world who are using the Thinkster Math program to guide their kids to math success.

Other programs and resources are definitely available and I’ve written about a whole heap of them here on Maths Insider, but in this post I’m going to offer an Insider’s guide to the Thinkster Math program and tell you how you can use even just the Thinkster Math 1 week free trial to kick start your child’s math learning.

How to get the best from Thinkster Math’s 1 week trial

Many families are attracted to Thinkster Math because of the  chance to try the program without paying(tuition centres like Kumon don’t have free trials). Make sure you make full use of the Thinkster Math trial by following the tips below:

Use the Thinkster Math trial straight away

My big tip for Thinkster Math’s trial is to sign up when you have at least a few non hectic days. Your free 7 day trial will begin straight away once you’ve signed up and your child will have the chance to try a sample worksheet, take a diagnostic test, try some worksheets based on the questions they got wrong on the test and even speak to their instructor. Those families who get straight on with the Sample and Diagnostic test, worksheets and conference with the instructor will have a real insight into their child’s math learning gaps as well as into the Thinkster Math program and will be in a great position to decide whether Thinkster Math will work for their families.

Ask for the trial to be extended

Some families sign up and don’t get round to completing the Sample or Skills Assessment or they complete those but don’t get round to trying the worksheets or speaking to the instructor. In that case, it is possible to get your trial extended for a few more days by contacting the Thinkster Math support team.

Use the insights the Thinkster Math program gives you

Even if you decide to not subscribe to the Thinkster Math program, if your child has completed the Skills Assessment, you’ll be able to see exactly which math topics your child has weaknesses in through the progress report chart built into the Thinkster program (see below).

Inside the Thinkster Math instructor app

Thinkster Math instructors have an app,  which we use to provide us with insights into each students math learning and to share our insights with students and their families.

As a Thinkster Math instructor, I can give written feedback and step by step solutions for each question, by either writing in the worked solution or providing corrections to the student’s working out. The picture below shows the instructors writing in red.

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As a Thinkster Math instructor, I can see at a glance which topics each student is struggling with (those in red), which topics each student is confident with (those in green) and which topics each student understands, but is still making errors on (yellow topics).These insights help me to decide what work to assign to my students. Parents and students can also see the progress report on their Thinkster Math account.

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As a Thinkster Math instructor, I grade and send feedback on each of my students worksheets. This is a screenshot from the Thinkster Math program. Students and parents can easily see the instructor’s feedback.

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As a Thinkster Math instructor, I can see my students’ working out, how long they’ve spent writing, thinking and erasing. I can even “playback” their work. This shows me how the student has approached answering each question.

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My favorite part of my work as a Thinkster Math instructor are one-on one coaching calls I have with my Thinkster Math  students. During these calls we review how their work has been going and preview upcoming work. I also teach strategies for any tricky work they’ve met or are about to meet and we discuss and sort out any problems related to the math they have been working on at school.

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The Thinkster Math Parent Insights app

This week Thinkster Math have released a new Parents Insights iPhone app to help parents easily keep track of their child’s Thinkster Math work and activity. The video below gives an overview of the Thinkster Math Parents Insights App which uses intelligent technology to provide further insights into your child’s learning:

 

I hope this post has given you an great insight into “behind the scenes” at Thinkster Math . For your 1 week trial and 10% off for 3 months, use the referral code mathinsider1 or sign up from the following link: Maths Insider Thinkster Math discount

5 More Fascinating Science and Math Podcasts

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I highlighted how cool math podcasts are in my post here on Maths Insider, Listen Up! 8 Fascinating Podcasts to Spark a Love of Math in Your Teen. I still listen to podcasts in my car but recently Mr Maths Insider bought me a waterproof bluetooth speaker which I use to listen to podcasts in the shower (too much info??). Since then, I’ve discovered more cool science and math podcasts which I share below. Some are great for young kids and some will inspire teen mathematicians. Check the descriptions below. You can also click on each of my favorite episodes right here in the post!

1. Brains On – great for kids

Brains On by Minnesota Public Radio describes itself as a  podcast featuring science for kids and curious adults. My younger kids like listening to Brains on episodes as they fall asleep at night. Great for kids and adults.

Maths Insider pick: Numbers

The questions we have about numbers are uncountable – but here are a few of them: Where does zero come from? How is there more than one kind of infinity? What is it like to do math when numbers have different colors – and personalities? click below to listen to the Numbers episode.

 

2. The Infinite Monkey Cage – British wit + science

The Infinite Monkey Cage is a British podcast science podcast which describes itself as a “Witty, irreverent look at the world through scientists’ eyes. The show is presented by Professor Brian Cox and stand up comedian Robin Ince. This podcast does make me chuckle and is great proof that scientists do have a great sense of humor. Great for teens and adults.

Maths Insider pick: Numbers Numbers Everywhere

Although many people fear maths and will admit to dreading  any task that requires even basic skills of numeracy, the truth is that numbers really are everywhere and our relationship with them can, at times, be oddly emotional. Why do so many people have a favourite number, for example, and why is it most often the number 7? Click below to the Numbers, Numbers Everywhere episode.

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3. Planet Money – short, sweet and always interesting

On NPR’s Planet Money, you’ll meet high rollers, brainy economists and regular folks – all trying to make sense of our rapidly changing global economy. Each episode of Planet money is relatively short (about 15 – 20 mins long) and it’s one of the few podcasts that i listen to where I like to make sure i’ve listened to every episode as they are always really interesting regardless of the topic. Great for pre teens, teens and adults.

Maths Insider pick: The Long Run

Stories about a $50,000 loophole, what neighborhoods mean for kids, and what the Six Million Dollar Man would cost today. This is my favorite podcast episode in this post! Click below to listen to The Long Run episode.

4. Science Weekly – serious science simplified

The Guardian’s science team brings you the best analysis and interviews from the worlds of science and technology. I only discovered this podcast recently thanks to fellow Thinkster Math (formerly Tabtor) Tutor Dan Cox who shared it on his Delta Maths Facebook page. So far, I’ve only listened to the episode below, but I’ve already picked out some other episodes of Science Weekly to listen to. Great for pre teens, teens and adults.

Maths Insider pick: How maths can change your life

Mathematician Jordan Ellenberg argues that maths can help all of us become sharper thinkers. This episode has some cool insights and discussion focusing around how everyone needs math. Click below to listen to How maths can change your life.

5. The Story Collider – live science storytelling

According to Story Collider, “Science surrounds us. Even when we don’t notice it, science touches almost every part of our lives. At the Story Collider, we believe that everyone has a story about science—a story about how science made a difference, affected them, or changed them on a personal and emotional level. We find those stories and share them in live shows and on our podcast. Sometimes, it’s even funny.” I’m a fan of story telling podcasts such as This American Life and The Moth, so the Story Collider podcast with its mix of science and story telling is a favorite listen of mine. Great for teens and adults.

Maths Insider pick: Your Favorite Number: Alex Bellos is surprised that people ask him what his favorite number is, so he decides to ask everyone what theirs is.

Take a listen to the math podcasts above. Which ones did you like? Tell me in the comments below.

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Does Your Daughter Lack Math Confidence? She’s Not the Only One.

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A recent study by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) has highlighted the problem of girls’ lack of math confidence. From the report:

Girls “lack self-confidence” in their ability to solve mathematics and science problems and achieve worse results than they otherwise would, despite outperforming boys overall

Girls do worse at math and sciences than boys, even though they do better in other subjects. This gender gap occurs in the majority of countries who took part in the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) tests, but the gap in the UK, the US and Western Europe was much more noticeable.

A spokeperson from the OECD criticized the teaching of math in the UK which he says was “simple math wrapped in complex words,”compared to Asian countries where complex math is taught earlier and from first principles.

The report goes on to say that this gender gap is not because girls aren’t as clever or able as boys, in fact they do better than boys in reading tests, but their poor performance is due to a lack of confidence in their math skills and their belief that they won’t need math for their future careers.

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As the mother of a 15 year old girl, these results sadden me, but I know that looking at the make up of the advanced math groups in her school, the majority of the class are boys, with only 5 girls out of 20 in her class and only 6 girls out of 25 in my 14 year old son’s advanced math group.

The OECD also looked at data from parent questionnaires and found that parents were much more likely to expect their sons to work in careers that needed math than their daughters.

What can we parents of girls do to lift our daughters from the bottom of the math confidence pile?

Show them cool careers that need math

Photo: Mashable.com

Photo: Mashable.com

Research from the Universities of Pittsburg and Michigan found that many women who have strong math ability, also have strong verbal ability and therefore have a wider choice of of career options. Make sure your daughter is aware that, if she chooses,  she can use both her math and verbal abilities in many of math and science based careers.

Share cool math videos

9 Ted Math Talks

Who doesn’t love a funny or inspiring video? Make a point of sharing some cool, well-made math related videos with your child. You won’t go wrong with Ted Ed math videos and there are some really cool math and science You Tube channels out there. And don’t forget math related podcasts

Keep up with the latest math education research

The Pisa (Programme for International Student Assessment) tests whose results formed the basis of the girls and math confidence study, take place every 3 years. In between test years, researchers worldwide dissect the the test data to produce findings which parents can use to support their own children’s learning. Quality news websites such as the Guardian, The New York Times and the BBC are good sources for finding out about the latest math education research. Of course, Maths Insider also highlights research based ideas to help you help your child with math.

Let them read math

Research (and personal experience from my 4 kids) has shown that girls love reading books more than boys do. We’ve managed to sneak a few math books onto our daughter’s bookshelf over the years. You can find some engaging math story books in the Maths Insider Amazon store in the side bar. Also check out my blog post Go Read Some Math.

Find out what your daughter really thinks about math

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Kids, especially as they get older, are often experts at hiding their true feelings. After reading this post, you’re more likely to look out for signs which indicate the level of your daughter’s math confidence. A casual chat in the car, or at the dinner table will yield more insights. You should also check out my “How Confident is Your Child at Math?” quiz here on Maths Insider.

 

As a biased math fanatic, I’d love it if every child loved math, and as a mother of 4, I’d be content if my own children loved math all the time. In reality, that’s just not going to happen. However, as parents, we want our children to be confident in all their subjects at school, and especially in the core subjects of math and English. We also don’t want the fact that our child is female, to mean she has fewer future career options. The advice above will help raise the math confidence of your child, whether it be your son or daughter, but the research shows the problem is more acute for our girls.

 

How Can I Help You Help Your Child With Math?

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It’s been over 2 years since I blogged here on Maths Insider! So the first thing I’ll say is I’m sorry! I’ve still been connecting with Maths Insider readers through my Maths Insider Facebook page but have neglected those of you who have been coming over here for advice on helping your child with math.

So what has Maths Insider been up to for the past 2 years?

1) Working with Thinkster Math (formerly Tabtor)

For the past 2 years,I’ve been Thinkster Math‘s instructor for International students looking after families everywhere from the UK to Europe to Asia and lots and lots of Thinkster Math families in Australia and a few in New Zealand. Thinkster Math approached me after I reviewed the Thinkster Math program here on Maths Insider. As a Thinkster Math Instructor, I’ve been helping families guide their children to math success using Thinkster Math’s iPad based system.

2) Homeschooling!

The other thing I’ve been doing is I’ve started homeschooling one of my four kids. I’ve been homeschooling my 8 year old son for the past year and am pleased to announce that we’ve both survived our first year of homeschooling! The math has been straight forward thanks to Thinkster Math and another cool math resource that I’ll talk more about later, but finding out how to guide my child to homeschool success in English, History, Geography etc has put me in the position of being an anxious parent searching Google, blogs and Facebook pages to find that secret sauce. All this searching has made me realise that a blog such as Maths Insider is still a valuable resource which I need to keep adding to.

The Maths Insider legacy still continued

During my blogging hiatus:

Teachers and parents have still been downloading the 21 Seriously Cool Careers that Need Math resource to give kids math inspiration.

Families have read my eBook – The Ultimate Kumon Review and have been able to find out if the Kumon programme is right for their child.

I’ve also had people joining the 31 Days to Faster Times Tables membership site and using the worksheets, audio and video guides to get their kids over the Times Tables hurdle.

About Kumon

And I’m back!

Over the next month I’m going to give you a behind the scenes look at the Thinkster Math program, so you can see what tools I’ve been using there to help kids improve their math. I’ll also show you exactly how to use Thinkster Math’s 1 week free trial to identify your child’s math strengths and weaknesses.

I’ve got a blog post in my drafts box about Girls and Math Under-Confidence. It’s based on academic research and also on my daughter’s personal experience, as well as on my experience as an math educator for the past 20 years.

I’m bursting to write a review post about Life of Fred Math because it really is quite the most quirky, wonderful and inspirational series of math textbooks I’ve ever come across.

I’m also toying with the idea of writing about my experience as a Kumon franchisee. I get lots of queries from people who are interested in running a Kumon center, so an in-depth and honest post  on the topic seems to be needed.

Over to you!

When I grow up I'm gonna invent a machine that eliminates all math homework

Apart from these ideas, I’d love to hear what questions you have about guiding your child to math success!

You can add your question here, in the comments, below this post or email me directly at caroline@mathsinsider.com

Looking forward to hearing from you!

How to Solve a Physics Problem (FUNNY!) plus Mental Math Tips

I saw this cool comic strip below, by the funny folks at Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal (SMBC), a few weeks ago on Facebook , and spent a good few minutes cry-laughing (is that a thing?) Even my daughter in the midst of wrangling with quadratic equations in preparation for a math test, joined in. You see, even for seasoned math teachers, math lovers and professional scientists and mathematicians, arithmetical errors are all too common when problem solving.

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As part of my role as Instructor for International Students at Thinkster Math (formerly Tabtor), I was given 5 math worksheets at Grade 5 and 6 level to test and report back on any errors or inconsistencies before the worksheets were released onto the student app. Needless to say I made 1 or 2 (or 5) mistakes across the set of worksheets!

If you’re a parent of a child who’s struggling with arithmetic, you might not yet be able to see the funny side of  SMBC’s satirical cartoon, but take heart that mental math mistakes happen to the best of us.
I’ve added some links below to some blog posts here on Maths Insider which will help polish your child’s mental math skills ready for the day when they need to solve that tricky physics problem!
How do you help your child with Mental Math?