24% of parents fear helping kids do maths homework

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IT is the school lesson that many pupils dread, with the subject often sparking feelings of anxiety and even fear.

But children’s views on maths are also shared by many parents, according to a new report, which has revealed that almost a quarter – 24 per cent – of “maths-phobic” mums and dads in the Capital don’t feel confident enough in their own abilities to help their kids with primary school maths homework.

The report, launched by learning company Pearson, interviewed 153 parents of 185 children aged 5-11 across the city. Around two-thirds of the adults surveyed said they worried that if they did help with maths homework, they would simply confuse their children due to new teaching methods.

Mother-of-three Tina Woolnough, Edinburgh parent representative of the National Parent Forum of Scotland, said there was a “natural fear factor” around maths.

Ms Woolnough, 50, from Blackhall, said: “I remember my parents helping me with my maths homework and it just ended up in a blazing row.

“When my daughter was in primary five, I bought a book called Understanding Maths: Basic Maths Explained, because I was out of my depth. A lot of adults don’t have maths confidence, probably because they didn’t have very good maths experiences at school.”

Ms Woolnough, who achieved a C for her O-level maths, added: “Most people would like to help their children but feel they don’t have the ability. A good process is when primary schools invite parents in and help them understand how they teach maths. That removes the idea that you might be using old-fashioned ways of helping your child and just confusing them.”

Lindsay Law, 34, the first ever parent representative on the city council’s education committee, encouraged more “open classroom evenings”, for parents to learn how maths is taught. The chair of Broughton Primary School’s Parent Council, whose two daughters, Josie, eight, and Lori, six, are both pupils at the school, said: “From the chats I’ve had with parents, they are fine about helping their children with spelling, but they don’t like helping them with maths.”

The survey also found that less than half – 49 per cent – of parents knew exactly what maths their child should have mastered by their current age, while 42 per cent didn’t understand the teaching methods.

Part of the survey included an online maths test for parents, which was based on questions that P4 to P7 pupils might face in the classroom. It used a range of questions taken from the Carol Vorderman Maths Made Easy series.

Green councillor Melanie Main, who sits on the city’s education committee and has a daughter at Sciennes Primary, said: “Most parents will recognise what this survey is saying.

“It is not so much that we don’t know what to do with maths – more that we are nervous about methods we don’t recognise. It’s crucial to get parents engaged with schools.”

The city’s education leader, Councillor Paul Godzik, said maths was a key part of the curriculum. “This is why we are currently piloting sessions in Pentland Primary that aim to give parents more understanding of the curriculum. We’ll be looking at rolling out this initiative across other schools.

“Our Community Learning Development service has also piloted maths sessions for parents in the west of the city.”

‘Young people look at you like you’re mad’

THE survey results failed to surprise 41-year-old Sean Watters, who has two daughters at a city primary.

Mr Watters, who lives in Portobello, said there are certain subjects, including maths, which “instil fear” in many children and adults.

“I think there are lots of people who probably don’t have great memories of how they were taught maths,” he said. “How maths is taught now is a lot better.

“There are a lot of teachers who have come into the profession recently who might not be aware that the parents are stuck back in the 1970s, pre-decimalisation and with imperial measures.

“With long division, anybody over a certain age does it one way and other people do it a completely different way. Young people look at you like you’re mad when you explain your way to them!”