As featured in Parentdish

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

No you're not rubbish at maths

On a few occasions recently both my oldest children have voiced opinions that they were not very good at something at school – maths, spelling etc. This is an opinion which I don’t like.

I have a postgrad in a maths subject, and being a journalist I guess I can say I’m good at English, but at no point in primary school do I recall knowing that I was good or bad at anything. I just did the work.

But today school is very different. Parents and teachers feel the need to find a child’s strengths early on.

In my opinion this can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. If a child grows up believing he or she is rubbish at maths, they are not going to have the confidence to tackle maths adequately.

When I speak with teachers at parents’ evenings I tell them that I want my children to enjoy school work and that that is my focus, not being good at it. Maths is fun (honestly) in the same way doing a crossword or Sudoku is fun. My focus is for them to enjoy maths.

I also think teachers get it wrong. A child who may be a poor speller one year, may have vastly improved the next.

And I’m glad that when I was in primary school nobody told me what I was good or bad at, for I strongly suspect I didn’t impress them all that much with any area of the curriculum.


  1. I was made fully aware that I was useless at sport at school, and still feel all these years later that I'm trying to prove my teacher wrong; I'm involved in a competitive sport and struggle with the notion that I can never been good at it even now.

    That same teacher (who's still there) is organising some kind of race at my old school's open day this year and I'm even tempted to go along and beat the old cow, just to prove the point. It's ridiculous, but just goes to show how deep these things can go.

  2. I was so bad at spelling at primary school, I was put in a spelling group with kids who were two years behind me. That bothers me to this day. I was just later at 'getting' it. How silly is that? But I felt so useless. It never put me off writing or reading though. I wonder how it might have affected me if instead of being told that I just needed to work harder I was told oh never mind some of us just aren't good at it. Would I have perservered? Would I be writing today? Food for thought.

  3. @Patricia. I was the same. I was never good at sports at school, but then when I reached my twenties I started to do sports five nights a week.

  4. @GateGipsy That is such a lovely uplifiting story.