I'm back to worrying about maths.
For the past few months we've been using smartkiddies - an Australian online programme (with a crap name). It has worked really well for A, and I've supplemented it with other materials I've picked up along the way from various sources, linking in to the area she's working on.
The only part she hasn't got on very with with are the timed challenges, put her under any time pressure with maths and she panics and cant think straight. She has completed some of these, but I haven't pushed her because I'd much rather she understood the processes and how to work things out than give her the message that you have to be quick to be good at maths.
We have now reached the multiplication section, and it seems to be expected that all children must learn their times tables off by heart. I know this is what she would have to do in school, and she did when she was at school, but I have big reservations about this approach. We have gone through all the tables and looked at the patterns within them and ways of working out the answers, and she can do that, but I have not made her learn them by heart.
Most people I speak to about this seem to see times tables as a necessary evil, and the only way of teaching kids the basics of multiplication. I don't really agree with this, but am starting to doubt myself. I've been having a few of those 'am I doing this all wrong?' moments, which are fairly familiar as a home edder.
My problem with times tables is - it is learning by rote, which goes against my general approach anyway, and means there isn't necessarily any understanding behind it. A child could repeat all their times tables perfectly but not be able to work out the answer. I know this is not very likely as kids get taught the processes alongside learning them off by heart, but it seems that learning them by rote is just a way of getting to the answer quicker. Which brings us back to this idea that you have to be quick to be good at maths (am I going round in circles here?).
I suppose I could drill A everyday in her tables, and she would learn them eventually, but I worry that it would take her back to that deep, deep hatred of maths (rather than the dislike we have progressed to) and feelings of inadequacy because she's no 'good' (ie quick) at maths. My gut feeling is that it just wouldn't suit her way of learning, she finds rote learning very boring (unless its learning lines for a play, because she's connecting into the performance for that) and will just switch off. She needs that connection of understanding and application to 'real life'.
However, we are trying a little experiment. A has realised herself that she has particular problems with the 7 times table, so we have written it out on a big piece of paper and put it on her bedroom wall. She is going to approach it like learning lines, and keep going over them. It will be interesting to see how she gets on with this, it may work because the idea (although suggested by me) has come from her own realisations about her strengths and weaknesses, and a desire on her part to improve. We shall see...
I'd be really interested to hear anyone else's experiences in this area - please feel free to give me your opinions and examples of what has/hasn't worked for you and your child/ren :o)