Learn These Math Skills First!

Which math skills does my child need to learn first?

“How can he be 13 years old and not know long division? How did that happen?”

That was an actual quote from a distraught parent whose child had just done “not so well” on the Diagnostic Test that Tabtor gives to all new students. It’s often the case that students struggle with a topic because they’ve either not had the chance to practice easier concepts or missed learning an easier concept entirely. So for this student, it may be that his times tables recall is weak or he’s making mistakes in subtraction or he just hasn’t learnt how to set out his log division work.

Math, like reading needs to build up from strong foundations.

Find out which foundationnmath skills your child should learn first with this video. The transcript of the video is also below. Click here to watch the video on You Tube “complete with subtitles.

Hello, I’m Caroline from www.mathsinsider.com and today I am going to answer a question from a Maths Insider reader which is, “Which math skills, and how to know which math skills my child needs to learn first?”

A logical order of math skills

So I’ll just briefly go over the kind of math skills that kids need to know. So they basically need to know how to count, then add, then subtract and then multiply and then divide and then work with fractions and then with decimals and then how to use all the skills with algebra. So it sounds really simple, but the school curriculum kind of chops and changes so they make sure they do simple addition in one school year and then they do harder addition the next school year and then they do double digit addition the next school year and triple digit addition the next school year and then they might introduce the times table this school year while they are still doing double digit addition, but they introduce it as number sequences and then they’ll do the times tables.



So it’s no wonder that parents get confused, because after they’ve done the times table they’re going to do short multiplication and then they’re going to do long multiplication and then another year they are going to repeat the short multiplication as an introduction to long multiplication and so parents can be left thinking “What are they doing?” They’ve been doing multiplication for ever and you know that is true.

How Kumon Does the Math

A program like Kumon, what they do, they do, they basically do addition, addition, addition, 1 digit, 2 digit, 3 digit, 4 digit, yes they add and then subtract, well  they do addition and subtraction together, a bit of addition  a bit of subtraction, a bit of addition a bit of subtraction and then only after addition and subtraction are perfect for like 4 digits, plus 4 digits, and 4 digits, take away 4 digits, do they do the multiplication tables and then once they know those then they do the division facts and then short multiplication, short division, long multiplication, long division and so that’s how come Kumon students are able to seemingly move forward very quickly whilst the school will be doing all these things in a broken up way because then they have also fit in shapes and measurements and time and angles and all the other things that the curriculum decides. 

A Math Skills Strategy

But how does this help you as a parent when your child comes home with for example a question on dividing fractions?  So when I first meet a new student and the parents say they’re stuck on dividing fractions, first of all I want to know do they know their times tables. Well actually I want to know can they add and also subtract but it’s kind of more polite to say, “Do you know your times tables?” especially when you’re talking to a child who maybe 12 or 13 years old and often times they are really hesitant, they don’t know them. It is not a case of being really fast, a fraction of a second, they must know the answer straight away, but they should be able to give you the answer within a few seconds and not panic. So in order to access that dividing by fractions, they are going to need to be able to work with the times tables relatively quickly and relatively comfortably, so it is a case of making sure all the foundation skills are built up. So if you do have your child coming to you with a question to do with fractions make sure they do know their times tables and also before that make sure they do know their addition and subtraction fact relatively easy and not having to count on their fingers and their toes and your fingers and your toes. So it is actually worth taking the time out to do that.

Don’t skip the basic math

Often times I have parents who starts working with me and I start working with their child and they said well, they need to know their times tables which is fine I can give them lots of time tables practice, but actually they do need to be able to do the column subtraction because later on when they are doing  long division they’re going need to be able to subtract easily and accurately and times tables aren’t  actually that difficult to learn, they just need a concentrated amount of time and they don’t even need to be quick, quick, quick as I said before.  It’s the case to get the 4 times table, double and double it again and figuring out. Give your child the tools if they can’t memorize them then give them the tools to be able to get answers so that when later on they’re doing the long division, they are not having to count on to figure out how many times does four goes into 28. Then also they’ve got the problem they can’t subtract accurately, so they are making mistakes when they have to do the subtraction bit of the long division. So it is very important to make sure your child has all their foundational skills and it’s not that they have to be super speedy, that’s great if they can be, but they just need to be comfortable. 

Guide Your Child to LONG TERM Math Success!

Have you ever worried that your child is under-achieving in math?

Whether your child is struggling with their math; your child seems to be “doing fine” in math class or your child is “top of the class” in math; as a parent, you’ve likely paused many a time to wonder if everything will be OK in the end when it comes your child’s math.

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In fact, education research does show that student success in school increases if their parents are positively involved in their education.

Yes, your efforts count and it’s backed by solid data and experience!

However, it’s often difficult to know where to start and even worse, how you’re going to know if your efforts will pay off in the end. How can you make sure that your child will achieve LONG TERM Math success?

I’ve heard this concern from hundreds of parents over the years, so to tackle this important question, I’ve developed a free video series giving you 4 steps that you can use to guide your child to LONG-TERM math success.

Guide Your Child to Long-Term Math Success

How to Guide Your Child to Long-Term Math Success in 4 Steps

LONG TERM Math Success

IN THIS FREE training series you’ll learn:

  • Why you are the best person to oversee your child’s math learning (even if you are paying for a math program)
  • How I turn “I hate math!” into “I want to do more math!”
  • How to save time and money when you take control of your child’s math learning (even if you decide to use paid resources)
  • How to organize your child’s math learning

and much more!

When you watch it, you’ll also receive the rest of the videos in this series over the next few days…

Go check it out now and see for yourself. Soon I’ll release the second video in the free training series and I want to make sure you have the chance to go through it all!

Click here to access the free video training series: How to Guide Your Child to Long-Term Math Success in 4 Steps.

Encourage Your Child To Do Extra Math With These 3 Easy Steps

You’ve come to the realization that your child needs to do some extra math, whether because they’re struggling with the subject, they could do with some extra math practise or in order to get ahead, but you know your child will likely be resistant. Find out how to overcome your child’s objections and encourage your child to do extra math using these 3 steps. The transcript of the video is below. Click here to watch the video on You Tube complete with subtitles.

Hello, I’m Caroline from www.mathsinsider.com and today I’m answering a Maths Insider reader’s question, “How can I get my child to do extra maths?”

Plant the seed that extra math is a positive thing

No. 1 is to seed the idea, so start talking to them about other children who are doing extra maths, “So, you know your friend X, they’ve started doing Kumon” or, “I heard from Y that the Tabtor program is very good” or, “I found this blog Maths Insider and it’s got some really cool ideas of how to get better at maths for kids.” So start seeding the idea and start mentioning it so that it’s not a complete shock for your child.

Encourage Your Child To Do Extra Math With These 3 Steps

What math resource do THEY want to use?

No. 2 is when you decide that you are actually going to start your child doing extra maths, then get their feedback on what they want to do. So say, “Would you prefer to do some extra maths on the app?”,” Do you want me to print out some games?”,” Do you want to just do some worksheets?”,” Do you just want to use a maths text book?” Ask them what they prefer or perhaps videos. So ask for their feedback, ask for their input so that they feel this is something that’s not just happening to them, something that they have to do, but something that they have some element of choice in.

Fix a math time

No. 3 is to fix a time, just try to fix a regular time and again get your child’s input on it, when do they want to do it? In the car on the way to school? Do they want to do it in the morning or after breakfast or during breakfast? Do they want to do it straight away after school? Do they want to go to a tuition center? Do they want to do something just before they go to bed? So ask them what do they think would work in their schedule and also what kind of time frame, so say to them, “Well, okay if you don’t want to do 5 minutes every day then perhaps it’s better that we do a half an hour on a Saturday morning or an hour every couple of weeks” and ask them what they prefer, a little and often or just big chunks of time. Well little and often actually works better, but some children do work better with big chunks of time. So ask them what they prefer.

Encourage Your Child To Do Extra Math with These 3 Steps

So if I go back to number 1:

  • Number 1 is seed the ideas, so start talking about extra maths being something positive and it’s something that other children do.
  • Number 2 ask them how they want to do the extra maths, whether they want to use books or apps, videos or whatever resources.
  • Number 3 is to get your child to help you fix a regular time to do the extra maths.



8 Practical Ways to Conquer Your Child’s Math Anxiety

Is math anxiety really a thing?

Math anxiety, that is feelings of stress, fear and apprehension when it comes to doing math, is certainly real. In fact scientists have developed different ways to measure mathematical related anxiety including the MARS (Mathematics Anxiety Rating Scale) and the Fennema-Sherman Mathematics Attitudes Scales (FSMAS).

A child suffering from math anxiety is not necessarily “bad at math”, but the stress they feel in math class and the avoidance tactics they use to minimize the amount of math they need to do, mean that they often don’t get the much needed practise that leads to math fluency.

A research based approach to math anxiety

Fortunately, research has found that, when it comes to math anxiety, parents can offer a great deal of help and support to their children. The infographic below  gives 8 science-backed, practical ways to help parents conquer their child’s math anxiety.


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8 Practical Ways to Conquer Your Child’s Math Anxiety

1. Be involved

Student success in school has been shown to increase if their parents are positively involved in their education.

2. Encourage a growth mindset

Studies have shown that effort trumps ability when it comes to learning math, so set high expectations when encouraging your child.

3. Be positive about math

A parent’s perception of mathematics influences not only their child’s perception, but also their achievement in mathematics.

4. Overcome gender stereotypes

Foster math confidence regardless of the gender of your child by highlighting achievements made by both male and female scientists.

5. Learn the basics  

Rote learning is essential to mathematics performance as a many higher level concepts build the memorization and repetition of the basic math facts.

6. Allow mistakes  

Focus on the concepts rather than the right answer since making (and correcting) mistakes is an essential part of math learning.


7. Take baby steps 

Support new topics by slowly building from the topics your child already understands. Use gradual, repeated success to build math confidence in your child.

8. Make math relevant to real life

Highlight ways in which you and your family use math in everyday life and discuss how good math skills will open the doors to a larger choice of career options.

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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 Tabtor instructor, each Tabtor 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 Tabtor 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 Tabtor 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 Tabtor parents. So what she does is she gets her child to do Tabtor 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 Tabtor 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




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:










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 Tabtor Math

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2 years ago Tabtor 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 Tabtor a Real Alternative to Kumon?

After publishing the post, Tabtor 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 Tabtor 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 Tabtor Math program and tell you how you can use even just the Tabtor 1 week free trial to kick start your child’s math learning.

How to get the best from Tabtor’s 1 week trial

Many families are attracted to Tabtor 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 Tabtor trial by following the tips below:

Use the Tabtor trial straight away

My big tip for Tabtor’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 Tabtor program and will be in a great position to decide whether Tabtor 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 Diagnostic test 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 Tabtor support team directly through the app.

Use the insights the Tabtor app gives you

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

Inside the Tabtor instructor app

Tabtor instructors have their own app, separate to the student 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 Tabtor 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 Tabtor 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 Tabtor App.

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

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As a Tabtor 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 Tabtor instructor are the regular conference calls I have with my Tabtor Plus Plan students and their families. During these calls we review how their work has been going and preview upcoming work, I share strategies for any tricky work they’ve met or are about to meet, we discuss what math they have been working on at school and how their Tabtor work fits into this.

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The Tabtor Parent Insights app

This week Tabtor have released a new Parents Insights iPhone app to help parents easily keep track of their child’s Tabtor work and activity. The video below gives an overview of the Tabtor 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 Tabtor. 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 tabtor discount


5 More Fascinating Science and Math Podcasts


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.


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 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.


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


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.