Times tables vs mathematics
When I first started lessons with this boy it was clear how eager he was to show his abilities. His teachers believed him to be “below average” because he struggled with memorising his times tables. Even though he could easily work out any problem that tested his very good understanding of multiplication and related patterns, he usually failed the speed tests and was therefore assigned to the group of “lower ability pupils”.
He seemed to assume that he was a failure in my eyes as well, and that he needed to prove his worth. He was very tense and visibly upset when he made the tiniest mistakes. He was so intent on proving his worth that he would look out for mistakes I may have made during my explanations. It was a way of showing me how smart he was in order to make up for the dismissal he felt at school.
I needed to reassure him that I value his way of reasoning and don’t mind that his times tables recall is not perfect. It took a couple of months to win his trust, but the reward was immense. Relaxed and confident, curious and open-minded, he is happy to tackle hard problems without his previous fear of being misunderstood or unappreciated.
Unsurprisingly, his times tables knowledge is excellent now. Working on Maths Challenge problems certainly helped with that.