For Year 10 parents – How To Help Your Teenager With Maths

I get many parents of teenagers asking me how can they help their children with maths. I have loads of advice, particularly as I teach in a senior school, but I want to get down my thoughts in this blog especially for parents of students in the current Year 10.
One big piece of news for these parents is the introduction of the new Mathematics GCSE, which started this Autumn with current Year 10 students.

Behind the scenes, teachers have been busily preparing for it during the last academic year!
As parents, you need to know there are many important differences in the new GCSE, but importantly, there are many ways that you as parents can help your teenager!The most important – providing the correct right environment
As ever, remember that your love, care and support has possibly the biggest positive influence on your child’s life. You can help even if you don’t think you are any good at maths.
Make sure they are getting a good work / life balance, with plenty of sleep and a good diet, which includes fruit and vegetables. This is particularly important near exam time.

Providing practical support
At this stage, though students are about to sit important examinations, their levels of maturity are very varied. Many find simple organisation very difficult. Some even miss out on vital marks because they forget to bring, for example, their calculator to the calculator exam! Here are some important ways you can help:
· Help them to get into the habit of always bringing the correct equipment to maths lessons (scientific calculator, a pair of compasses, protractor, pencil, pen, eraser and 30cm clear ruler).
· Make a note of the days they have maths and check they have the correct equipment. Make a note of the days they have their maths exams and check too.
· It may come as a surprise that calculators are not a standard design. They need to get used to using their own calculator in lessons and so making sure the calculator is in working order is important.

Know what’s going on
Check whether your child is taking the Modular GCSE or Linear GCSE. For those taking the Linear course, their exams are usually at the end of their Year 11, at the end of their courses. For the Modular course, students take their GCSE usually in three separate exams over their Year 10 and Year 11 studies. Among other advantages, this course helps to keep students focused on their mathematical studies throughout Year 10 and Year 11. You need to find out the date of their first exam, which will usually be sometime in Year 10, and put that in your diaries now. This can help in planning for a good work/social life balance, helping them make sure they do not get over-committed near exam time.

The new GCSE will contain what is known as a ‘Functional Skills’ element. This is an area that you can really help your child.

You may ask, What are Functional Skills? Hopefully this will help explain!
Often people say they can’t see the point of maths, or can’t see how maths is connected to everyday life. Actually, we are doing maths a lot of the time without realising it, going about our everyday life! For example, how do you find the best buy? To do this, you have to do a bit of research: you find out and compare the prices of the same item in different shops, and decide what is the best buy. You may need to sift through various offers, to be able to compare like with like. This often involves many calculations. Then in making that final decision, you put the prices in order (you need the skill of ordering decimals), and then choose the cheapest (you need the skill of recognising which is the smallest price). This whole process is using maths in a ‘functional skills’ way.
So as you can imagine, the functional skills type questions set in the new GCSE will involve everyday situations, and include lots of information that may or may not be required to solve the problem set. Students will have to learn how to select what information is required, and choose an appropriate method to solve a problem. There may be several different ways to tackle a problem, and also several valid answers, rather than one correct solution.

How can I help my child?
Here are some tips:

* Include your child in discussions about any DIY you are undertaking. E.g. Calculate how many tiles are required to do the bathroom. How many boxes of tiles need to be bought? Cheapest way to do this? How much paint is required to decorate the room and how many pots should be bought?

* Designing a kitchen? What is the best arrangement for the cupboards?

* Planning a holiday? Discuss with them the suitable travel arrangements. What might fit best as a family?

* Many of these functional skills problems look complicated but are actually only a sequence of simple tasks. Discuss with them how to break down the problem into single steps and solve each part. You may find the chapter on ‘Using and Applying Mathematics’, in Help Your Child With Numeracy: Age Range 7-11, helpful as I discuss one-step, two-step and multi-step problems and basic strategies of how to break down a problem into simple steps in more depth.

Have a look at my website as well for other tips on making maths part of everyday life.