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Making Maths add up

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Students typically make more mistakes in maths than in any other subject. However it can often be one of the easier subjects to master as there is typically only one correct answer.

Unlike English or other subjects which can have multiple acceptable responses, in maths there is always only one right answer so you can’t bluff your way through.

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Despite popular belief, people who are talented in maths are not born that way, everyone has the ability to learn and one of the best ways parents can help their children with the subject is overcome their own maths phobia.

Parents often tell their children “I’m no good at maths,” and the child gets the idea that maths is something you either know how to do or you don’t.

You rarely hear someone say “I’m not a reading person” but maths is somehow different.

For many adults even simple maths like helping with homework can send them into a panic and quite often their fear and anxiety is passed down to their kids.

Pat Murray
Pat Murray

One in five parents with children aged 6-16 avoid their child’s maths homework as working with numbers scares them, while nearly a third (29 per cent) say they can no longer help out with maths once their child hits high school.

Research has shown that children who witness the unease their parents experience perform worse in maths and are more anxious about it.

So what can you do?

Maths teacher and creator of the MathsOnline system Pat Murray said maths is a skill that can be mastered by just about anybody, and if not mastered, then a very high level of competence can be attained.

The Sydney tutor, who has helped more than 250,000 students worldwide, said he often sees students who have simply missed a couple of key concepts leading them to lose confidence and fall further and further behind.

“When I see kids who are struggling with maths often they have already convinced themselves that they are no good at maths due to simply missing some earlier concepts or a few crucial building blocks,” he said.

“Future work won’t be fully understood, and the problem can be become compounding which builds fear and a loss of confidence.

“And to ensure parents don’t add to the anxiety they must not be scared of maths.

“When talking with children, if they are very calm and not frustrated, then any sort of anxiety or stress won’t be passed on.

“An attitude of ‘Maths is a skill and all skills can be learned’ is much better than ‘I was no good at maths so it’s no surprise you’re not much good either’.

Here Pat answers some of the most common questions he hears from parents:

1. How important is Naplan?
What is important that is that not to put too much emphasis on Naplan. A few practice papers are okay to get the students familiar with the question types and styles of the exam but anything more than that will probably have a negative impact.

2. Should children be able to instantly recall basic Maths facts (especially times tables)?
Yes, this is an essential part of basic mathematical knowledge. Children who struggle with basic maths facts in primary school are likely to struggle and fall behind when they begin high school. Knowing these basic maths figures helps to build core skills in pattern recognition, creates muscle memory in the brain and builds confidence.

3. What are the benefits of pen and paper maths?
It improves retention and allows for quick revisions of ideas and corrections. With the increased use of technology and classrooms moving towards a digital landscape, it is best to find a balance of the two. Combine tech with paper-based learning.

4. How can parents help during homework time?
Find the right resource and be willing to learn with your child – it gives you a great opportunity to bond as well as providing your child an example of how to overcome obstacles. Try and avoid writing a note to the teacher explaining that your daughter/son didn’t understand the question.

5. Does my child need some extra help?
At times there maybe a need for your child to get some extra help. It could be for a variety of reasons – missed some time from school, the current teacher might not be so good and may not even be maths trained, some particular concepts may be difficult or missing some key principles taught in earlier years.

A tutor’s experience can be invaluable however it is important to consider if the tutor is a qualified maths teacher, as well as their experience and how long they have been teaching for.

6. How to choose the right mathematics course for your child?
It is important to choose a level where your child enjoys maths and always check to see if Mathematics is a prerequisite for future education. Consult with your child’s teacher, they often best know their ability and while scaling should be considered, it should not be the main motivation when deciding which mathematics course is right.

Pat Murray’s interest in teaching maths spans more than 31 years. From his early days tutoring students whilst he was still at University, through his long career teaching in high school, and now through to his current role as founder of MathsOnline, Pat has always been keenly interested in helping students of all abilities strive to reach their full potential. He has helped students now numbering well into the hundreds of thousands in Australia, in the United States, the UK, and other parts of the world.

MathsOnline is a Comprehensive K-12 online maths tutor used by over 210,000 students. MathsOnline provides over 57,000 interactive questions and over 1,411 animated lessons. Students are able to pause, rewind and repeat all or part of any lesson until they get it right. Every MathsOnline lesson is presented in the simplest, most logical way possible. For more details go to

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