Joe’s Jotter: How to become more Successful in Maths (2021)

Grasping a subject of difficulty is always a big challenge for even the best students. One of those subjects is too often Mathematics. Maths seems to have developed a ‘bad boy cred’ over the last twenty years, but I feel things are getting better slowly and I know students feel more positive about it since the introduction of Project Maths in 2008. In general, I think students are enjoying the more practical approach in the subject since the changes. The existing course is however still quite long, and you need to box clever in order to pin it down. Many students are still trying to come to terms with the amount of words on Maths exam papers and indeed how they link to the concepts. I totally get this. However, I still believe you can learn to grasp key concepts without being born a Maths genius.

Can Anyone Be Successful at Maths?

People regularly ask me about this hypothesis, and I believe Maths is a subject everyone can do well in by being more open minded and willing to try different methods. For sure, your parents have a role to play here, so make sure and get them involved. Parents can get involved in homework from an early age and should be encouraged to send notes to the teacher if there is a particular area their child is struggling with. Above all, it is imperative that Parents pass on a positive attitude about Maths early in their child’s development. A ‘can do’ attitude gives the student belief that they can face problems in the subject and come through them. Encouragement and positivity are the most constructive way any parent can help boost their child’s ‘Maths conviction’.

Maths is Learning by Doing

To me, Maths is a subject where you need to be continuously ‘learning by doing’ and the importance of attempting exam style questions cannot be underestimated. Reading through questions and text like you do in other subjects will not work in Maths and having access to a structured solution book for exam questions is important. Inevitably with some challenging questions in the subject, you will run into difficulties getting started and this is where having the first line or two of the solution can be extremely helpful; a detailed solutions book is ideal for this. I believe that referring to the first part of a solution and then revisiting the question yourself is a very efficient way of developing key Maths skills. This technique isn’t one much practiced in other subjects.

Skills That will Improve Your Maths

You must adopt different approaches in Maths; it is unique. A genuine attempt to start a question in Maths will allow you to gain momentum and progress to apply the concepts you have learned in class. In my experience, the biggest stumbling block to achievement in Maths is getting the question started; but a single grain of rice can tip the scales. In general, if you are finding it difficult to get started and feel lost in Maths, start by practicing the part (a) questions in your past exam papers and work your way upwards to part (b) and so on. If you are an exam student, go back on your 2nd or 5th year notes to refresh those key basics. The majority of students just fire notes from previous years in a corner. Past notes should be stored carefully for easy access later. It’s amazing how much you will recall about what you wrote down and what advice your teacher gave you back then. Re-do some questions from then to start a Maths revision session. As you always hear me say, Algebra is jewel in the crown at all levels. Maths is about having a go, knowing the tricks, when to use formulae, consistent practice and really believing in your ability and the work you have done.

More Interesting and Informative Maths feature articles will follow as we lead up to the Junior and Leaving Cert 2022.

More details about Joe as a Maths Tutor for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate (2022), ACE Maths Assessments, and his Award winning ACE Maths Solution Books can be found via the links below.

W: acesolutionbooks.com/ace-maths-tuition

FB: facebook.com/JoeMcCormackEducationalExpert/

 

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Joe’s Jotter: Parents and Primary School Children: Working in Harmony

With Primary school students having spent much time recently learning from home, parents are now taking a greater role and Interest in their children’s education. This is a difficult task, as many parents are working from home and trying to support their child’s learning also. Creating a consistent routine, keeping positive, keeping calm, putting rules and consequences in place, allowing time for your child, talking to and reassuring them are all factors that will contribute to producing a more harmonious learning environment.

I have worked with a Primary Teacher to develop this feature and I hope you will find it helpful as we move to a new normal and different ways of learning and communicating. In this feature I have included some areas we consider important to you as a parent at difficult times like these. I hope they are of some help and create a safe, happy and loving environment for your child.

It is important to plan a daily structure and involve your child in this process. With your child, sit down together and draw up a balanced timetable of learning, fun and breaks. A child will follow a timetable better if they help plan it and this will also build their confidence. In doing this you are giving them a level of ownership to control and determine their own routine.

Tips on planning a routine and timetable

  • Set times to get up and go to bed
  • Agree a timeline including structured work, recreational/practical activities, and breaks
  • Choose activities the child enjoys
  • Plan short sessions e.g. 20 mins and always allow flexibility. There is no set time if the learning is balanced and varied
  • Identify times you can work with them and times they can work independently
  • Aim to include movement breaks regularly throughout the day
  • Ask your child what they like to do and include this in the daily schedule
  • Introduce a positive reward system e.g. choice time, sticker chart. treats etc
  • Decorate the timetable and display it at your child’s eye level

Supporting Schoolwork at Home

Junior Infants – 2nd Class

The best way to support children of this age is to:

  • Sit with them as they work
  • Work for short intervals
  • Take movement and snack breaks
  • Use the outdoors to break away from tabletop tasks
  • Use a reward system
  • Encourage your child to focus on the task in front of them
  • Read words/questions carefully
  • Form letters correctly
  • Check correct pencil grip
  • Have concrete materials readily available for number work
  • Provide practical experiences for Maths work, e.g. Shapes around me, weighing food from the cupboard, counting, checking etc
  • Challenge them by asking different types of questions in various subject areas
  • Try and relate topic areas to your child’s own experiences
  • Always give praise and encouragement
3rd Class – 6th Class
  • Allow children to work independently as much as possible
  • Offer support and assistance as needed
  • Assess learning by observing, questioning and correcting work
  • Monitor presentation of work and handwriting
  • Look at their school workplan beforehand to familiarise yourself with the different subject areas
  • Use age appropriate actions from the ‘Junior Infants – 2nd Class’ list above

Outside the Classroom

It is important for your child to enjoy free time and activities they have fun with. Here are a range of activities that you and your child can choose from:

  • Practice how to keep safe during Corona virus spread
  • Exercise, sport, games
  • Imaginative free play
  • Fine motor skills: Lego, play dough, beading, building blocks and cutting
  • Linking in with loved ones and friends on voice calls and video calls as social interaction is very important
  • Learn life skills: indoors and outdoors (Choose jobs that children can do)

– Baking, cooking, gardening, (planting, weeding), setting the table, emptying the dishwasher, making their bed, tidying their room, folding clothes, sorting clothes, hanging out the washing, farming (safely) etc

Media and Online Time

It is important that your child has access to recommended online facilities during any school closures where possible. Ensure your child’s safety online and set up parent controls on devices to monitor child’s activities online. Below I will list some of the more useful websites you can work on with your child.

It’s a good idea to link with the school and class teacher through email, in order to give and receive feedback and to send on work samples for assessment.

Twelve Useful Websites to Support You as Parents

helpmykidlearn.ie (Learning for all Age Groups)

PrimaryScience.ie (Science)

twinkl.ie/offer (enter the code IRLTWINKLHELPS)

webwise.ie (Online safety)

vooks.com (Literacy)

starfall.com (Literacy)

scoilnet.ie (All curricular areas)

topmarks.co.uk (Maths)

learn.khanacademy.org/khan-academy-kids (Words and Numbers)

askaboutireland.ie (SESE)

krokotak.com  (Arts and crafts/colouring)

positiveparentingsolutions.com (Parental Advice)

 

More details about Joe as a Maths Tutor for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate (2022), ACE Maths Assessments, and his Award winning ACE Maths Solution Books can be found via the links below.

W: acesolutionbooks.com/ace-maths-tuition
FB: facebook.com/JoeMcCormackEducationalExpert/

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Joe’s Jotter: Guidance on How to Improve Your Motivation

Students, did you find being at home all the time during lockdown with no teachers or fellow students to encourage and motivate you challenging? Most did in fairness. Even us adults struggled greatly with the situation. The reality, however, is that a good chunk of your preparation will be done ‘home alone’ no matter what the circumstances. There are plenty of things you can do to maintain high spirits and decent motivation levels, both for home and school time. Have a read of this feature article and pick out two or three things you can implement that might improve your motivation levels and your attitude towards schoolwork and the homework/revision you do each evening.

Firstly, set up a Lifestyle (Study) Timetable with all different subjects, different subtopics, and different ways of learning each day. Start with a trial run for three days and tweak it as you go along. Secondly, challenge the brain to perform different types of tasks every thirty minutes, whether that be taking notes, writing bullet points, watching a YouTube video, listening to an audio file or discussing a sub-topic on the phone with your friend. Variation in stimulus will trick the brain into maintaining concentration for longer. Mixing the above with regular breaks will alleviate boredom and increase productivity. These are definitely two starting points to drive the desire to be more successful, whether that be in a small class test or the final state exams for exam years.

Improving your Motivation at Home

Maintaining high motivation levels is an important element of getting any task completed. The first thing to realise is that you can achieve any goal by discovering ways to motivate yourself. The way we converse can sometimes reflect our motivation levels and can also increase them intrinsically, without us even knowing. Highly motivated individuals will use words like ‘could’, ‘will’, ‘may’, ‘like to’ as opposed to ‘must’, ‘won’t’, ‘can’t’ and ‘need to’. Writing, considering and repeating positive sentences out loud can improve motivation and reset a positive mind-set. Here are some examples of these sentences in the context of your exam year. You should re-write these into the back of your journal to reflect your own current situation and attitudes:

  • I want to start preparing myself for the upcoming exams.
  • I need to put a structured timetable in place.
  • I’d like to get into Third level when I complete school.
  • I should get my head in the books this week.
  • I must start working hard to reach my short-term goals.
  • I can achieve whatever I want through hard work.
  • I will deliver brilliant exam scripts in this year’s Junior/Leaving Cert.
  • I will get organised and sort this out step by step.
  • I know that I have plenty of ability.
  • I must organise to share study notes with my friends.
  • I can be as positive and as focused as anyone in my year.
  • I am a good all-rounder.
  • I am well able to take on this challenge.
  • I am a force to be reckoned with.
  • If it’s meant to be, it’s up to me.

Hearing about the study habits of others on Instagram or Snapchat can be a positive thing. Instead of feeling guilty about not being currently highly driven; use it to motivate yourself. The fact that there is someone out there competing against you, who wants your college place, should get you going and make you more determined.

Another motivating factor in your exam year is its length. The length of the school year is nine months, and with only a few months of that left now, you only really need to raise your game for that short period. Do you fancy repeating the year while your friends head off to college or employment? Not too appealing I would imagine. Again, don’t ignore these thoughts; instead use them as the driving factor every morning to ‘get started’, while always remembering It’s never too late to step into your own greatness! ?

It’s a nice idea to copy down your motivations into the back of your school journal, having a glance at them whenever you find yourself losing interest in your work. Having a role model friend who is very driven can also help you to fulfil your potential. Talk to as many former exam students as you can to find out how they navigated their path. Above all, I want you to compete against yourself and not anyone else. Use your previous results, grades and recent comments from your teachers to strive for something more.

Accept the Things You Currently Cannot Change

As this point in time, you need to reflect a little about what kind of a start you have made to the year.  Ask yourself now, “Am I on track to deliver a performance when the big day arrives?”, “Will I feel better or worse if I do absolutely nothing over the next week?” It is worth remembering that you cannot change the past and it shouldn’t limit you either. This week is a good time to start. I always remind my students that you can only shape your future through present actions. Start again tomorrow if today didn’t go so well. Move on and accept. For me, the prayer of serenity comes to mind here:

“Accepting the things, I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”

Having a bad day may commence a negative thought process: “I’ll drop down to pass or foundation to concentrate on other subjects”. You need to guard against one lapse destroying your desire to achieve at a given subject. A bad day is not a bad week and remember that this is a long-term project. However, there are things that you can control, including, keeping yourself as healthy as possible by eating well, exercising and completing those timetabled revision blocks you put in place.

In summary, find out what motivation techniques work for you and repeat them. Try not to worry about what you cannot control. At the minute, you have no control of when the exams will happen or even when you will be back in school. Your job now is to settle into a good revision routine at home. You can only do your best so try not to be too hard on yourself. Joe

More details about Joe as a Maths Tutor for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate (2022), ACE Maths Assessments, and his Award winning ACE Maths Solution Books can be found via the links below.

W: acesolutionbooks.com/ace-maths-tuition
FB: facebook.com/JoeMcCormackEducationalExpert/

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