I met my new Year 9 Maths student today. I was really shocked when I soon found that he:
- Cannot multiple double digit numbers together – for example, 24 x 15.
- Did not know what the order of operations was.
- Cannot work with negative numbers.
- Is slow at adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing basic numbers.
So essentially he was missing much of the basic foundations of maths! The question is: how do I tackle helping him?
Should I work through all the basic non-calculator arithmetic?
Being able to do non-calculator maths is essential. It makes you that much faster at calculations and it is also part of the Year 10 School Certificate exam. But at the same time I’m thinking that learning all that will take forever and he is already really far behind in class.
Or should I skip straight to teaching maths using calculators, since he is behind in that too?
Having a look at his Maths exam, there were things like Pythagoras Theorem and the area/circumference of a circle, where you are allowed to use a calculator. If I just start tutoring him in these areas with a calculator, he will be closer to catching up with the rest of his class. But at the same time, he’ll still be unable to do the basic non-calculator maths work!
I guess the real difficulty is that his level of maths is probably Year 6 or 7, and I’m wondering whether I should tutor him at the Year 6 or 7 level, or just try to tutor him at the Year 9 level that he should be in.
How useful do you think non-calculator maths is?