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Pupils Falling Behind in Maths

Concerns about school pupils’ performance in the key skills have long troubled teachers, politicians and parents. While many of the stories about worsening standards don’t appear to be borne out by the improvements in the achievement of pass grades at exams and the number of young people going to university, the worry about children’s ability in reading, writing and simple arithmetic persists and regularly surfaces in political debate and news stories.

A recent study showed that children in Asia were more likely that those in Western Europe to perform well in mathematics. This further highlights concern held by many parents that the education system alone will not equip their children with the basic skills they need in order to perform well in school and give them the skills they need for life.

Mathematical conundrum

The teaching of mathematics in a classroom setting can be problematic, particularly for those children who struggle to grasp the basic concepts. While classroom teachers have a requirement to stick to the syllabus and convey the material to the whole class at a pace that suits most of the pupils, this can leave behind those who need a little more time to gain mastery of the skills needed to understand the material.

Learning maths is challenging for someLearning maths is challenging for some

One option for providing children with additional support is engaging a tutor to go through the material on the syllabus at a pace that’s better suited to the individual child. A number of tutors offer support with teaching the classroom curriculum in one-to-one sessions to allow children to catch up with the rest of the class. However, while this can be helpful for pupils to carry out the work required for that particular class, it doesn’t prepare them for mastering the more general concepts of mathematics or indeed give them the study skills to learn under their own steam.

Developing study skills

Engaging a Maths tutor to support your child with the course material can be helpful, but not all tutors work in a way that’s geared up to getting the most out of your child’s learning. Children tend to work better in small doses with frequent, short bursts of learning building up a sustained improvement in their academic performance.

A traditional tutoring arrangement will see a child receiving tuition for up to an hour and a half once a week. This intensive support often doesn’t fit well with the way children’s minds work and much of the usefulness of the session – either clearly or less obviously – is lost through the child’s inability to concentrate for prolonged periods.

If at first you don’t succeed, try and try againIf at first you don’t succeed, try and try again

The Kumon method is based on the idea of little and often when it comes to study. Children attend a study session every school day for just half an hour and work through problems and exercises at their own pace until they’ve mastered them before moving on to the next stage. This not only helps children develop confidence, it builds good study habits and allows them to develop their ability to concentrate on tasks and see them through to completion. These skills will stand them in good stead when it comes to completing their homework and studying for exams.


Although children are falling behind in mathematics in the UK compared to other countries in Europe and the rest of the world, there are ways in which learning can be improved. By allowing children to work through problems in their own time, gaining mastery and the skills to work alone, they can learn to trust their own abilities and develop better numeracy overall.

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