Top Maths Insider Posts 2012 (and how may I help you in 2013)


Hope you’re having an amazing start to 2013! If helping your child develop a love of math is high on your list of things to get done this year, then I’d love to help you achieve this through my posts here on Maths Insider. What topics would you like to see covered in the year ahead? To give you some ideas, here are the Top 10 posts that Maths Insider readers flocked to in 2012:

Top 10 Maths Insider posts of 2012

1) 8 Things to Hate about Kumon – A Review 48,724 views

Still at the top of the list since I wrote this post back in 2010! Kumon is the largest after school math profgram in the world and therefore it’s no surprise that parents are either looking for some feedback on the program before they enrol their child, or wondering if it’s worth continuing once their child has been on the program for a while. As a ex Kumon instructor I shed some light on the negative (and some of the positive!) aspects of Kumon.

2) 10 Seriously Cool Careers That Need Maths – 26,139 views

One of my personal favorites and great to see that Maths Insider readers are as excited about how math can lead to some seriously cool careers. Also check out the link in that post to the free “share to get” full color booklet 21 Seriously Cool Careers That Need Math for some seriously cool math inspiration.

3) About Kumon – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly – 23,730 views

More Kumon revelations. This time I start with the good points about Kumon (2 of my own kids were on the program for several years – it ain’t all bad!) but then also highlight some of the important aspects that can cause problems (I’ve even had an instructor email me privately to say that they agree with both the positives and negatives) For those of you whose children are doing the Kumon math program, do you agree with me?

4) 16 Cool iPad Math Apps (That Your Child Might Actually Love!) – 11,564 views

It’s hard to believe that the iPad is less then 3 years old! With thousands of Math apps of varying qualities on the App store, this post highlight my pick of the best. Don’t forget to check out my post about my very favorite math app Dragon Box.

5) 24 Short and Sweet Preschool Maths Activities. – 11,229 views

I’m a big fan of anything that makes math fun, especially for younger kids. I’m not one to send time making resources, but will happily spend a few minutes making and cutting up numbers cards for a quick game of hide the numbers or log on to a kids website for some math videos and games. You’ll find some other nice and simple activities in this post.

6) The Ultimate Kumon Review – 9,603 views

My first published book on Amazon (in a recent Amazon recommends email, they even suggested I may be interested in buying my own book!) In The Ultimate Kumon Review I spill the beans on what kind of families I think the Kumon program works for and which families it doesn’t (yes it’s not just do do with the child) The questionnaire at the end of the book will help parents decide if the Kumon program is right for their child.

7) No! No! No! No! Don’t Let your Child Finger Count! – 8,500 views

A controversial post again written in 2010, but still popular as ever with parents who are anxious about their child’s finger counting. I’m actually not so militant about this topic these days but there’s no getting away from the fact that whether it’s used as a crutch or because a child really can’t work out the answer, finger-counting is something that can be replaced  by other strategies.

8) Who else wants their child to be lightening fast at mental maths? – Introduction – 6,655 views

 Ironically, this post is based on the idea of slow increments and mastery which are the foundations of the Kumon program. Find out how to build your own mental arithmetic routine with your child in this post and the 2 videos linked to in the post.

9) 13 Cool, Beautiful and Inspirational Math Quotes – 5,961 views

More math inspiration! I fired up Powerpoint on my laptop and with limited artistic skills took some cool math quotes and some cool fonts and backgrounds and produced this math-eye-candy post. Which is your favorite quote?

10) Have You Seen These 8 High Quality, Free Maths Websites? – 5,504 views

Everyone loves a bargain, even when it comes to math resources. You definitely get what you pay for when it comes to high quality online math programs, but the websites in this post offer some great free options.

Tell me what you think!

So tell me, which are your favorite posts on Maths Insider? What can I help you with in 2013? Tell me in the comments below, hit the Contact buton at the top of the page or if  you’re a subscriber reading this in your inbox, don’t be shy, hit reply and tell me how I can help your child love math in 2013!

101+ Cool Math Gifts Ideas – Spread the Math Love!

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With the holiday shopping season now in full swing, it’s that time of year when people’s thoughts turn to the seemingly never-ending list of perfect presents  for family and friends. Math gifts and toys are a great choice, since they help to encourage a love of math (and spread the math love!) For a huge choice of more than 101 of the best math gift ideas to spread the math love with, check out the ideas below:

Math gifts for young and old

For a varied list of cool math gifts for everyone from babies to math teachers check out the 18 gift suggestions in The Maths Insider Ultimate Maths Gifts Guide. I love the cute baby bodysuits with statements such as “Cutie Pi” and “Peace-Love-Math” but I’m still waiting for someone to buy me the math clock where the answers to the sums make the numbers around the clock!

Fun Math Board Games

Board games make great family gifts. See my choice of math based board games at 10 Fun Parent-Tested Math Board Games. From dinosaur multiplication to algebraic equations, there’s a math board game to suit young mathematicians of all ages.

Top 10 Recommended Times Tables Games and Resources

In this recent post on my Faster Times Tables website, you’ll find a list of parent recommended times tables games and resources along with what parents liked about them. I’m a big fan of the simple resources such as the math war cards and the multiplication placemat, but techy kids will also love the LeapFrog Turbo Twist for practising those essential arithmetic sums.

Kid Learning Tablets

When it comes to electronic educational toys, the buzz this year has been centered on kids learning tablets. These kids friendly iPad like devices look set to be some of the best sellers of the year. Some such as the LeapPad 2 have educational games preloaded onto them, but all have lots of great math games available to buy and download. Check out what parents have to say about the LeapPad 2, the Oregon Scientific MEEP Pad, the VTech InnoPad 2 and the Tabeo.

Math Toys for Preschoolers

For nice ideas on gifts to encourage your youngest children to develop a love of math, check out the post 11 Bestselling Maths Learning Toys for Preschoolers. I did end up buying the cool wipeable “Counting to 100” placemat for one of my own kids after writing that post!

Math Apps

iPad apps may not seem the most obvious choice, but by using the “Gift this app” option in iTunes when you’re browsing apps, you can easily send a mini gift code, that can be used by the recipient (isn’t it funny that spending money on our iTunes account doesn’t feel like we’re spending real money!) To get you started, take a look at these 16 Cool iPad Math Apps (That Your Child Might Actually Love!

Math Books

My personal shopping addiction is buying books for my kids. We’ve got a fair few math story books and games around the house, many of which were bought as gifts. Find out what books I recommend in the The Maths Insider Amazon Store. You’ll also find further ideas for math games and workbooks.



If after browsing through the 101+ math gift ideas, you still need some more inspiration for educational gifts check out the Amazon Holiday Toy List and click on the “Learning Toys Tab” to see what educational toys are currently most popular! Happy shopping!

Grade by Grade Math Targets: Where Does Your Child Stand?

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This is a guest post by Kathy from, a website that helps consumers find out what things cost.

If you have a child that is in school right now, you may often wonder where your child should stand in terms of their mathematical skills. Sure, while they are getting decent grades, does it really mean that they are up to par with the average student in their grade? To give you a better idea where your child stands, I went ahead and wrote up some key math milestones that every parent should know.

Kindergarten Math

In kindergarten, your child should be able to print, locate, order, read and represent numbers up to at least 10. They should also be able to count to 10 forward and backwards. Using visual objects, your kindergartener should know basic adding, such as adding one more penny to the pile of six.

In terms of measurement, your child should know the different times such as afternoon, night and morning. They should also know the basics of time and the definition of short and tall. Aside from measurements, the average kindergartener will know their basic shapes and patterns.

Second Grade Math

By the second grade, your child should be able to print, locate, order, estimate and identify numbers up to at least 1000. Mentally, they should also be able to add and subtract numbers under 25.

In increments, your child should understand basic counting by 1s, 5s, 10s and 20s.

While most second graders haven’t learned division yet, some that excel can understand the basic fundamentals.

In terms of measurements, second graders should understand the time, the terms inches, yards, feet and centimeters. They should also know the month of the year and the basic reading of a thermometer.

Fourth Grade Math

By fourth grade, it’s almost time for your child to jump ship to middle school. By this time, your child should be able to read numbers up to 10,000 and they should be able to count by any number up to 100.

Your child should also understand basic multiplication up to at least the 10x tables. They should also know how basic decimals work and how to add and subtract them. While fractions may be new to some classes, they should understand the basics by now.

In the measurement area, the typical fourth grader should understand all the basic measurements. They should know how to make change with money up to $100 and how to measure perimeters and the area of basic shapes.

As statistics are slowly being introduced to the older elementary students, fourth graders should learn how to use logical when collecting data and how to create graphs with simple data that has been given to them.

Eighth Grade Math

As the last grade in most middle schools, the typical eighth grader should have a wealth of knowledge by now. Eighth graders should know the basics of multiples, integers, square roots and factors. They should also know how to make any basic measurement.

Depending on your child’s skill set, most will be able to solve many
complex problems using a variety of formulas.

In the geometry sector, most student scan and classify many geometric shapes, calculate areas and volumes as well as solve a variety of geometric problems.

12th Grade Math

As your child gears for college, you’re going to find that many seniors in high school are going to be on so many different levels. Some are going to complete Calculus, while some will only take the minimum math requirements necessary. With that being said, here’s where most 12th graders should stand in the math world:

Most high schoolers should have taken math classes up to Algebra II. Here, students should have learned about radical expression and exponents, the binomial theorem, graph ellipses and hyperbolas, linear equations,  probability and permutations and combinations. If this sounds foreign to your child, they probably didn’t pay enough attention in class!

Remember, it’s never too early to start supporting your child’s math learning whether by becoming your own child’s math tutor or by hiring a math tutor from outside.  As you already know, if your child doesn’t understand one math concept, it’s going to be awfully hard to comprehend lessons coming forward!

Kathy Cady runs a website that give readers a guide to how much things cost from car seats to cavity removal!

10 Fun Parent-Tested Math Board Games

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Who doesn’t love a good board game?  If you read my post Can Board Games Make Maths More Fun? A Review you’ll know that I’m a big fan of using board games to make math more fun.

One of the coolest things about my little ones’ school is that parents and kids can borrow math board games from the school library to take home or play there and then before school starts. I’ve seen 3 year olds learning the basics of fractions and 7 year olds building confidence in their arithmetic facts, all with great big smiles on their faces! Board games are a great way to make math practice painless. For those of you fellow board games fans, here are 10 recommended math board games, along with what parents have to say about them. Enjoy!

1. Mathopoly

This game board is a clever take on the classic board game Monopoly, but with math in every action.  Roll the dice and move to a square to answer or figure out one of the curriculum standards-based questions to “own” the property.

What parents say “Math may not be your children’s favorite subject, but it might be if they play Mathopoly”

– Kyla Duncan – Wheat City Journal

2. Sum Swamp

Add and subtract your way through the swamp.  Young children get to practise their essential arithmetic facts while having fun.  This game received an Oppenheim Best Toy Award.

What parents say “I bought this for my 4 year old son as he HATED math with worksheets and flashcards. He wanted to play this game 10 times a day. He LOVES it! Before we bought this game, he was SLOWLY and reluctantly finger-counting addition. He can now add and subtract 2 numbers (1-6) by memory.”—customer from Texas

The Maths Insider Guide to the Best Parent - Tested Math Products

3. Equate

If your eight year old likes crosswords, this game will be a hit.  Making equations can be a challenge. Eight year olds can begin making equations  using addition and subtraction but older children can get more points using division or fraction tiles.

What parents say “It’s given my daughter great self-confidence in Math. Only complaint:The tiles are cardboard and thin. Easy to lose, but they come in a ziploc type bag.”—Elizabeth M.

4. Head Full of Numbers

Shake the “head” cup to roll the dice. Set the sand timer. Write as many equations from the numbers and symbols on the dice before sand runs out. Good for any number of players and level.  This is an Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Award Winner.

What parents say “My oldest plays the traditional way, in making math problems. My preschooler tries to find matching numbers and sequences, and my other preschooler tries to identify the numbers. It is such a simple game that you can make up your own way to use it and play it.”—J. Gardiner 

5. Sequence Numbers

The brightly colored cards have questions and the answers are printed on the game board.  Place a tile on the answer. With five in a row, you have a Sequence!  This bingo-like game is great for ages seven and older.

What parents say “Thus, whether you use the game cards or make up your own more challenging cards, this game will be fun as well as educational for your smart pre-schooler, your struggling grade-schooler, or even your genius middle- or high-schooler.” –Joan A. 

6. Money Bags: A Coin Value Game

This game makes making change so much fun!  Earn money while completing chores, like setting the table or for selling lemonade. The spinner makes exceptions such as, no nickels to make sure kids make use of the higher value coins. Monet bags is great for developing critical thinking and counting/coin sense.

What parents say “ It’s a game that is easy to learn and fun for the whole family! ”—a mom 

7. Pizza Fraction Fun Game

Better be hungry for pizza as you play seven games in one!  Identifying, adding and subtracting and matching equivalents help make making pizzas and working with fractions fun. The double sided spinners allow the difficulty level to be easily adjusted.

What parents say “I think this is an excellent game for teaching the different skills to do with learning fractions and can be easily improvised for each child’s learning/grade level. The games can be also be complemented with real pizza:)Recommended!”—J. Hayes

8. Dino Math Tracks Place Value Game

Dinosaurs rule with place value.  Roll the dice to make four digit numbers. Get your dinos to their base before other players do.  An Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Award Winner.

What parents say “ Good concept and she is learning without even knowing she is doing math. ”—G.K.

9. Sumoku

Play five different versions, including a solo one, of this addition/multiplication game.  Set tiles up crossword style to add up to multiples of the number on a die.  Connect all the numbers for a complete Sumoku!

What parents say “I highly recommend Sumoku to anyone looking for a fun, challenging game.”—P. Yocem


10. Pay Day Board Game

Family finance is fun in Pay Day.  Get paid and decide how to spend your money. Whoever has the most money at the end of the game wins.  This classic game is for suitable for ages eight and up.

What parents say “This game is very fun. it can be as long or as short (time wise) as you want it. You learn about money and bills and such, but don’t really see it as a learning game because its fun….”—a kid’s review

Have you played any math board games recently? Which are your favorite ones?

The Maths Insider Guide to the Best Parent - Tested Math Products

4 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Get a Maths Tutor and a Bunch For Why You Should

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This is a guest post by Adrian Beckett who runs a maths tutor service in London, UK 

Tutoring isn’t always right for everyone.

 School isn’t always right for everyone

 Sometimes, tutoring can be more helpful than school

 And occasionally, tuition is not helpful

 Why then might you ask, am I a Maths tutor?

 I’ll be exploring this in this blog post.

The Background

I’m a maths tutor and I have been happily so for three years.  I’m no maverick, but I’m learning plenty and generally my students seem happy.  It’s been quite a journey so far with over a 100 students, personalities, homes, dramas, laughs and angry dogs.

I’ll give you 4 reasons why you shouldn’t get a Maths tutor and then give you a bunch as to why you should:

1. You want to create miracles

You want your kid to ace some super difficult entrance exam.   Here in the UK, we have grammar schools.  These are government run schools that are highly academic and only accept the creme-de-la-creme of students.  Boys and girls sit an exam called the 11+ when they are 10 or 11.  I firmly believe that tuition for this exam is only right for the brightest of children.  I’m a big believer that all children can do well in Maths but what I’m resistant to, is giving children tuition for an exam they are realistically not going to pass.

2. You won’t face facts

Children simply don’t want Maths tuition.  I mean c’mon you know the feeling when you don’t want to do something you don’t like: tax returns, your weekly shopping…..It sucks, right.  Why then would you force your child to do Maths tuition when they really, really don’t want to.  Don’t get me wrong.  If your child finds Maths difficult – that’s different.  They might not want to learn because they feel they are no good at it.  Let’s say, on the other hand, they are good at it, but would rather be playing outside, then maybe it’s better to respect their decision.

3. There are some pants Maths tutors out there

Some Maths tutors are rubbish. Some of my families complain about previous Maths tutors they’ve employed.  Their child couldn’t ask questions, they arrived late, they….. the list goes on.  Tutoring someone is a complicated business.  It’s not simply a matter of I show you how, you practice and abracadabra your student can do it.  Sure, they might be able to do it in today’s class but let’s see in one or two weeks.  I honestly believe that this sort of approach can work with some children – very few in reality – and for the majority you need to, in fact you must, take into account the child.  Yes – the bubbling mass of energy besides you.  They’ve got likes, dislikes, jokes, stories to tell, insights you never would have thought of.  It’s the magic that goes on between two people that can be so wonderful in tuition.  Treat them like a dog and they are unlikely to fetch. Treat them as a person and they’ll probably play ball.

4. You’re skint 

You can’t really, if you’re honest, afford a good tutor.  I’m not saying all good tutors are expensive but if you think about it; to be a good tutor, you need to dedicate some time to planning, buy some good resources and pay for your transport around town.  There are two ways you can do it.  Do it in bulk and charge a low price.  Or you can charge high and dedicate time to plan classes according to your student’s interests/likes, to reflect about your student and figure out why the class did or didn’t work.

So there’s a few reasons why not to get a tutor but hey, I’m a Maths tutor and I have my own website, where I help families find great Maths tutors, so of course, I sincerely believe that tutoring can have enormous benefits and here’s why:

Some children just need to hear you say “well done”

Some children want a little of an adult’s time

Some children want to be genuinely listened to

Some children want to feel good about Maths

Some parents are too busy to help with Maths

Some children have a special need and need a special tutor

Some children need to be stretched (not literally – that would feel weird)

Some children want to laugh

Some children want to play games

Some children don’t want you to put them through difficult exams, do something against their own will, have a creepy tutor or go without a day-out with their folks.

Adrian Beckett and his band of London Maths Tutors offer maths tuition for students and workshops for maths teachers. They also blog about maths learning, those all important maths exams and dyscalculia at

Conquer Maths: Why Your Teen Really Should Try This UK Maths Program

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An overview

Conquer Maths is an online maths program designed to teach maths to children from the age of four all the way to the age of eighteen using the UK National Curriculum. The course allows children to go through and find their weak areas and pin point lessons that will assist in overcoming them. The ability to go through the video lessons at their own pace makes them more comfortable and the learning process is easier. The friendly video tutor explains each step slowly and clearly. The program uses achievement certificates to motivate students.

Because Conquer Maths uses the UK maths curriculum all the way through to GCSE’s and A-Level’s it’s great for those families whose children are in British schools. My 11 and 13 year olds have used the program for over 2 years to help them independently access the GCSE syllabus, so as well as supporting children who are struggling with maths, it can be used to extend your child’s maths work. Here’s an example of one of their video lessons:

What are the pros and cons of Conquer Maths?


  • Diagnostic tests – students can take free tests to show just where their weaknesses are and give them tips to overcome them. There are recommendations for specific lessons to help fill in the missing knowledge areas.
  • Work at your own Pace – The student can work at a pace that is comfortable to them as a result of the ability to stop and restart the lessons featured.
  • Parent Dashboard – parents can see exactly how their child is doing by logging in to the parent dashboard. Parents are also emailed when their child completes a unit test.
  • It’s great value for money, especially if you sign up more than one child. The price is as low as £5 a month if you pay up front for 1 year for 3 children


  • The fact that the instruction is strictly online eliminates the one on one that can be achieved in the classroom meaning that parents have to take an active role in helping their child learn.
  • The animation is not as good as other programs such as Maths-Whizz which may be fine for older kids but younger children are usually more motivated by a higher level of online interaction. On another note, others like my older daughter might not like sitting and watching the videos at all and might prefer more written examples.

Who will it work for?

The program will work for any student that is motivated and wants to learn. The ease of being able to set your own pace as you work is what makes the program so easy to follow. Step by step instructions through the difficult portions of the work make it ideal for those that have difficulty in the classroom but are too embarrassed to ask questions.

Who won’t it work for?

The Conquer Maths program won’t work for those students that aren’t motivated to learn on their own. Also those who are motivated by sophisticated graphics and need a variety of online rewards.

Here’s the low down

Students that are struggling with math can get the extra attention in the areas that require it the most with Conquer Maths. An assessment of the existing skills allows the student to target the areas that are giving them the most trouble. The student receives suggestions about the lessons that will be most beneficial to them so time is not wasted trying to figure out what to do next. Those who are using Conquer Maths to study advanced topics can make use of the same structured curriculum to make sure they cover the topics in the right order.

Lessons are in video form with immediate reinforcement that allows students to rewind, review and answer questions immediately after. The students also get to print out worksheets to do later if they want to review the material and figure out how much of the lesson they’ve remembered.

I recommend Conquer Maths for children aged 11 and over. I think programs like Maths Whizz are better suited for younger children.

Conquer Maths has over 150 free lessons for your child to try to see if it’s program will work well for your child. Have a go and let me know what you think!