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Confidence To Tackle Mathematics

First, we need to learn a little about mathematicians.  On the whole mathematicians don’t like to work too hard and they like having strategies and techniques to hand that can help them solve the problem quickly. Don’t come to mathematics with the idea “I have to get this right!”   This will put too much pressure upon yourself and will cause the adrenalin to increase, blocking your memory.

Adrenalin is a very useful hormone and it was great when we were cavemen where it made the difference between death and surviving.

  • You see a wild beast.

  • You have two choices - fight or flight!

  • There is no evolution advantage to “let’s think about this”

  • Because by then the wild beast will have turned around and looked at you

  • And it will have thought   MMMM! Dinner!

  • And YOU will be their dinner!

Adrenaline blocks the thought processes, and causing more oxygen to race to the muscles so you can either run away or fight the  wild beast. Today, adrenalin is not so useful in our modern-day life because it causes stress on the body, simply because we don’t run away or physically fight the beast. Therefore, the adrenalin does not get used up in the physical response.  If you encounter things that make you uncomfortable like exams or things you feel you are not good at or things that make you feel that you will be judge negatively, then the adrenalin will be triggered.  This released adrenalin will block your memory and thought processes, which is not so useful in a mathematics exam!


The trick here is to stop the adrenalin release – so how can we do this?

The First Rule of Mathematicians - 
See The Pattern!

Mathematicians do things over and over again so they remember the answers without thinking about it. That is why in school you are asked to learn over and over again the following combinations.

Fractions 1/2         2/4       4/8      8/16     1/3      2/6     3/9

Think what 30 + 70 might be.


Easy, all you do is add 0 to the 3 + 7 = 10. Therefore, 30 + 70 = 100.


If you can see the patterns for the numbers in the number bonds to 10 then you see

can the patterns in the rest:

300cm + 700cm = ?

3m + 7m = ?


Equally, if you know your times tables you can work out all sorts of answers quickly.

Number Bonds

0 + 10 = 10

1 + 9 = 10

2 + 8 = 10

3 + 7 = 10

4 + 6 = 10

5 + 5 = 10

6 + 4 = 10

7 + 3 = 10

8 + 2 = 10

9 + 1 = 10

10 + 1 = 10

Times Table

1 x 2 = 2

2 x 2 = 4

3 x 2 = 6

4 x 2 = 8

5 x 2 = 10

6 x 2 = 12

7 x 2 = 14

8 x 2 = 16

9 x 2 = 18

10 x 2 = 20

11 x 2 = 22

12 x 2 = 24

The Second Rule of Mathematicians - Don’t Think “I Have To Get This Right But.....!”

Which of the following numbers are a prime number?      


11      17      41    64


Don’t try to remember all the numbers on the Prime Number list. Unless you want to and you have a good memory, the first few are enough to know: so you could


Remember 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11 and 13.


Instead ask your self what strategies do I need to use to get this right?


The first thing we know about prime numbers is they are not even, because that will mean they will be divisible by 2.


3      17      41    64


64 is an even number

So 64 is not a prime number

Ask your self: 


What else do I know about prime numbers? They can only be divisable by 1 and themselves e.g. 7 is a prime number because it can only be 1 x 7 and 7 x 1 or 7 1


In other words is does not turn up on in other timestables.


For example, 12 turns up in all of the following timestables:


1 x 12 = 12 (the one timestable)

2 X 6 = 12 (the two timestable)

3 x 4 = 12 (the three timestable)

4 x 4 = 12 (the four timestable)

6 x 2 = 12 (the six timestable)

Therefore, 12 is not a prime number.


So looking at the numbers again

11      17      41    64


we can say 11 only turns up in the eleven timestable and

17 only turns up in the seventeen timestable.


So they are prime numbers.


Looking at the numbers again: do we know this of 41, if not what can we do?

The Third Rule of Mathematicians - Try Different Possibilities

Time to try the blue sky jigsaw puzzle technique. There may be more than one way to find the answer and there may be more than one answer. So think about trying a number of different strategies. Just as you would try finding the right jigsaw piece. To finish this jigsaw you need to find all the bits of jigsaw pieces with some blue sea and some yellow fish on the same piece. Then, what you do is to try each piece in each place systematically until you find the right piece for the right place. We might need to try a number of pieces before we find the right one.

Looking at the numbers again we are left with 41


3      17      41    64

41 is not even so it is not on the 2 timestable

8 times 5 would be 40 so the 8 timestable is ruled out

It does not end in a 5 so it is not on the 5 timestable

42 = 6 x 7 so on both the 6 and 7 timestable so they are rulled out

39 will be on the 3 timestable, so will 42, so that rules the 3 timestable out

40 will be on the 10 and 4 timestable so these are ruled out


The 9 timestable will give us 36 and 45 and both are too far away from 41

11 x 4 = 44 so its not the 11 timestable,  36 = 12 x 3 so it’s not on the 12 timestable

Having ruled out the main and key timetables - the chances are this is a prime number.


41 is a primary number

Therefore, this jigsaw piece is the right fit in to the place we are looking at.

The Fourth Rule of Mathematicians - Follow The Method

Many answers can be found simply by following the method.



Find the missing angle of the triangle




The method to follow is:

Angles a + b + c = 180


add together the known information together, take this answer from 180 and the missing angle will be that answer.

If the triangle does not already have the a, b and c makers so you can put them on where you like.


Label up what you do know




We know what b and c are, so write them into the method


Write out the method will help you


            a + b + c = 180


           ? + b  + c  = 180


to find ‘a’ we need to add ‘b’ and ‘c’ together and take them away from the 180


b + c = X

 180 - X =  a    (this total is the answer to ‘a’)


This means you need to know what do to with the method or formula. On most occasions they will give you the formula in the exam, so you don’t need to remember it. However, it is good to know the basic ones!  It is far more important to know what to do with the formula to find the missing bits of information. So here is where to put the effort in. In the assessment, you will be given the formula. 

Learning Mathematics With Dyscalculia​

If you feel that you are not good at maths yourself, or lack the confidence to teach your dyscalculia learner maths  at home, or if you are not sure of the best way forward - then employing a specialist teacher may be the way to go for this part of the home schooling education you deliver.


What needs to be focused on will be the basics:


Number value, adding, subtracting, timetables, multiplying, division, fractions, percentages, decimals, area and perimeter, 2D and 3D shapes and angles. Once, and only then moving on to the more complex ideas within maths.    

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