Help Your Child With Maths – The Chocolate Muffin Way

Are you a fan of Chocolate Muffins?

I love chocolate muffins! I take every opportunity to buy or bake chocolate muffins!


When it comes to baking, I’m on a mission to create the perfect chocolate muffin!

I know that I’ll need flour, baking powder, sugar, cocoa powder, oil or butter, eggs and chocolate chips, but I’m not going to  make up a recipe from scratch. I have a few chocolate muffin recipes that I use as my “base” recipes and am adjusting them, until I can produce the “perfect” chocolate chip muffin.

Helping your child with maths – the chocolate muffin way

In the same way, when helping your child with maths, instead of trying to figure out from scratch, what your child does or doesn’t know, use a maths pre-test as your base recipe to help you work out the topics to focus on.

What is a pre-test?

Pre-testing means, giving your child a maths test before starting to tutor them. It’s an amazingly efficient way of figuring out exactly how much your child already knows, and, more importantly, what they don’t know.  The results of the maths pre-test can then help you decide, exactly which areas of maths your child needs help with.

Creative Commons License photo credit: billaday

Pre-testing if your child needs general help with maths

Pre-testing can be used if you’re not sure where your child needs help in their maths learning, for example, if they just generally get low scores in their maths homework and tests.

In this case, give your child a test or exam paper from the previous school year (or even 2 school years previously) , mark it, then repeat with the next school year’s paper until you have enough wrong answers to build up a list of topics to focus on.

As an example, you may find that your 10 year old struggles with times tables, fractions, and bar charts, but is fine with angles, area and perimeter, and addition. In this case, the majority of the work should be from the topics where the most mistakes were made.

Pre-testing for specific maths topics

Pre-testing can also be used if you know the maths topic or topics your child needs help with, but you’re not sure which part they actually have difficulty with.

In this case, give your child a maths pre-test on that topic. So for example, if you focus on Pythagoras Theorem, your child may be fine on questions where they have to find the hypotenuse,, but struggle when they have to find one of the other lengths.

In this case, you can focus your work with them on these parts; giving a few questions on the hypotenuse but the majority of work focusing on questions to find one of the other lengths.

Measuring results

Another advantage of pre-testing, is that it can be used to measure how much of the topic or work, your child has understood after studying the topic.

Simply give your child the same test, after studying the work, and then compare the results.

In most cases, your child will have improved their result dramatically, and you can sit back with a chocolate muffin and congratulate your child (and yourself) on a job well done!

Will you try the chocolate muffin maths way?

Tell me in the comments below!

This post features in Works For Me Wednesday

Need a Maths Tutor? Read these 6 Tips.


Hiring a private maths tutor can be a good idea, especially if your child is having difficulties with a particular maths topic or if there is a significant test or exam approaching.

I’d love to be your child’s maths tutor !

I’d sit next to them with a relaxing smile on my face.

I’d use my energetic-encouraging-non-threatening-patient voice.

I’d help them fight off those maths monsters who lurk in every maths worksheet or textbook.

And I’d make it fun!

Important, but fun!


I don’t live in your city,

And  even if I did, you’d be taking me away from my family

And the Maths Insider readers who need to read what I, and the people who leave comments here, have to say.

So until my children have grown up,

And until I live in your city,

And until I’ve explored everything there is to share about parents helping children with maths,

Let me share the following 6 quick tips with you, about making the most of your child’s maths tutoring sessions, whether you hire a maths tutor or do it yourself:

Maths Tutoring Tips

1  Make sure that an objective for each session is decided in advance, for example, is it to revise a certain topic, study a topic in advance of it being studied at school, or study example test/exam papers.

2  Make sure the maths tutor isn’t just babysitting your child while they do their homework or doing the homework for your child!

3  Try to work out before each session, which questions your child has problems with, and get the tutor to give an alternative explanation, followed by a few practise questions.

4  Get them to take a short break after every 20-30mins. Provide a drink for your child and the tutor. Sessions where the topic is changed after 30mins can re-energise both your child and the tutor.

5  Don’t forget the basics. Most children will benefit from quick fire oral maths drills. I have used these at the start, in the middle and at the end of a 1 hour tuition session. Having your child walk (or jump) around the room during these drills will get oxygen going to their brain and provide a change of pace.

6  At the end of the session get feedback from the maths tutor as to what was achieved. What can your child do now that they couldn’t do before.

What maths tutoring tips do you have?

Tell me in the comments below!

This post features in Works For Me Wednesday.

The Perfect Maths Textbook.


Yet more books!

Today I was glancing through my overstocked bookshelf, mentally planning what books to buy for my kids and I, when we go to London for a few weeks in the summer. The choice of books in London bookshops is much broader than the choice of books here in the Middle East, especially when it comes to books that parents can use to help their children with school subjects.

The problem

Even when shopping for books in London or even on Amazon, it can be too easy to become obsessed with finding the “perfect” maths textbook. The problem with most maths textbooks, if I may put on my Dr Seuss hat, can be summarised as; too boring, too pricey, too big, too small, too detailed, too brief, not what I need at all!

The solution?

This got me thinking about the many people who have asked me about which maths textbooks to buy, to help their kids with maths. I usually give people suggestions based on books I’ve used or books that I’ve flicked through that seem good, but what can you do if you can’t get hold of them or if my suggested maths textbooks aren’t suitable for your child?

Use any ol’ maths textbook

But how?

In most situations you’re looking to tutor your child because; a) they’ve done the work at school but didn’t understand it fully; b) they’re bright and you want them to try new/harder work;

Get them to have a look at the example and try the first question.

If they’re student (a) they’ll have met the topic before, so even if they’re lacking in confidence because they didn’t understand it first time round, at least it won’t be completely new. If they’re student b) then in most cases they’ll cope easily with this type of self study exercise. 90% of standard maths textbooks are set up the same way, with an example at the top, then anything from a few to a few gazillion questions to make sure the work is understood, boring, but it works and remember practice makes perfect!

Some kids are going to say “I don’t get it!”

If that’s the case, sit down with them and read through the examples together , that should calm most kids. Go over the example several times if need be. The last resort is to show them how to do the first question. If this is the case, show them 5 times if you need to, but be patient. Finally, insist they have a go at the next 2 questions or so, then show you when they’ve finished them.

Of course there are some prerequisites here:
You need to have read through the examples yourself and be able to understand them – after all you’re going to ask your child to do the questions:)

Get them to answer the first few, the last few and a few in the middle, I suggest you stop after 20 minutes total (it’s not like you’re paying $40 per hour and need to get full use of the time!) If there are problems, take a break, and just pick them up next session, tomorrow is another day, and sometimes students panic when faced with difficult work. These things sometimes need time to filter into the brain. What has been your experience of using any ol’ textbook with your child?

A Maths Tutor Reveals All!


A regular part of this blog will be interviews with “Maths Insiders”; teachers, parents, students and administrators, in fact anyone who can add to the conversation about how parents can guide their child to maths success.  Contact me if you’d like to share your tips.

My first interview is with Farah Khan who gives some great advice from a maths tutor’s perspective.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am a mother of two children aged 3 and 6, and also a UK-trained Maths teacher. I have taught in London in the past but, at the moment, I am working as a supply teacher and private tutor to secondary school children, primarily helping those preparing for their (I)GCSEs. I will be starting a teaching job full time in the upcoming school year.

What made you decide to become a maths teacher?

My passion for mathematics and my desire to inspire young minds :). I feel Maths is one of those subjects that students often struggle with, simply because they have not been taught by a good teacher or in the right way. I wanted to do my part to make a subject, that is so logical and simple to me, just as accessible to others.

Mathematics also teaches skills that you use in every field throughout life – critical thinking, problem-solving and a methodological approach. I wanted to do my part to equip students with these valuable tools and inspire them to tackle challenges and figure things out for themselves.

Tell us more about the tutoring?  How many children, what are their ages?

I have two 15-year old boys and one 15-year old girl studying for their IGCSEs. I am also tutoring a Year 9 boy (about 13) and a 9-year old as well.

Ideally, what should parents  and students do before their tuition session in order to get the most out of it?

It would be ideal if parents charted out with students what areas they were confident in, and what topics they needed extra help in. Also, it’s useful to know and inform the tutor what you expect your child to achieve through tutoring and also any particular weaknesses he/she has, such as making careless mistakes, weak mental maths skills, or any special needs.

The better the tutor knows the background of the child and his experience with the subject, the more likely they will be to target his specific areas of weakness.

What kind of child or maths problems do you think tutoring works for?

Tutoring, I believe, is helpful for all maths problems because, at the end of the day, it is about individual attention. In a class of 20 or 30, it is naturally challenging for even the best of teachers to cater to each child’s individual needs. That is where tutoring, by a parent or a tutor, becomes the key to a child’s success.

Any teacher will tell you that children whose parents are actively involved in their education are often those who are able to thrive at school. Parents who lack the time or skills to help their child are the ones who naturally then look to tutors for extra help and support.

Also, in my experience, even with my children, the place where I find schools often fail is differentiation – challenging the brighter child, and giving extra support to the weaker ones. In addition, children are pushed to work at the pace of the class. This is where tutoring is the opposite. It is extremely useful because the lessons move at the pace the child requires and the learning process is then determined by the individual student. In addition, the student will never find themselves bored because the level of difficulty is also adapted to suit them.

Can you share any other tips or  advice on how parents can help their child succeed in maths?

Practice makes perfect! Cliched as it may be, in maths, nothing could be more useful than thorough practice to permanently fix concepts in a child’s mind.

Also, to parents, never ever rely on school alone to get the best out of your child. Get involved yourself in teaching them, challenging them – giving them tutoring, online programs, educational material at home and, most of all, your valuable time and attention. Try to include a bit of maths in your day, even if it is 15 minutes of going over mental maths on a car journey, or talking about fractions when cutting oranges or pizza slices!

Best of Luck!