There is a scene in the Robin Williams film “Dead Poets Society” when he encourages the students to rip out the introductory pages of a poetry book. The general point is that they should be thinking for themselves and not using a graph to rate the poems effectiveness.
I'm definitely not of the opinion that we should all be ripping pages out of books, but I do feel that presenting a small amount at a time, can be effective with a child's maths confidence. The point is – a text book tells you what you don't know, usually in a lot of pages, and this can be very demotivating to the child.
Imagine being on page 1 of 200. All of them filled with formulas, graphs, charts and other stuff. You barely understand the first bit and you've got a long way to go.
Wouldn't it be better to just have one page – learn one lesson thoroughly – and then go and do something else? Perhaps then you would feel more motivated to come back tomorrow to try one more page?
It's no good to just do the first page of a whole book. Somehow it needs to be physically separated from everything else. Please don't rip up textbooks (!) – just be careful with how the information is presented. The child should be given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the one area, thoroughly understand it, and then move on. This will help to develop strong maths confidence and build a solid foundation.
Two things happen: there's less confusion and more motivation. The child feels that they have achieved something. They should leave the table with a deeper understanding of the subject that the brain can store away for future reference.
I'm not convinced that quantity equals quality. It's far better for the child to have a quality lesson rather than hours grappling with some concept that they might worry about for a lot longer. We're used to concentrating in small bursts so why not use this in study?
So perhaps buying a textbook isn't the answer to building maths confidence. There's plenty of good websites that offer downloadable files (maybe you can suggest some?). Alternatively check out the try some maths section. Or buy some past papers packs – these tend to be loose leaf and can be effective in keeping the child focused on one area at a time. Maybe just photocopy pages from text books at the library. Perhaps ask your child's teacher for some classwork copies.
Either way you need to be aiming for short, meaningful bursts rather than long, painful sessions!
What do you think?
Here's some other posts that you might like: