It was the great Galileo who said the language of the universe is written in triangles, circles and other geometrical figures.
But what if that language brings you out in cold sweats or simple confusion?

Trying to help your child when you are not sure what you are doing yourself can be stressful, especially when the time comes to start preparing for 11+ or common entrance exams.

First things first: take a step back from your own emotional reactions to maths and think:

“What works best?”

You’ve seen your child memorise pop songs, jokes and advertising jingles in an instant – and they have no trouble figuring out the complex sequence of manoeuvres needed to switch on the average smart TV these days.

Salisbury-based Sarah Beswick has been 11+ tutoring for 20 years, and home-tutored all seven of her children. She said: “Children learn much faster if they are laughing.

“If a child has a problem with maths, it’s very often because the parents have a problem themselves. Getting out a book can make everyone feel defensive trying to understand it. Food is a good way of understanding maths. Food and stories.

“If you try to get a child to understand that a half of a quarter is an eighth, they don’t get it, but if you start with a packet of Mars Bars, they can see that three packets of Mars Bars equals 21 Mars Bars. And with a piece of toast – if you cut it in half then cut the half into quarters and again – they see it’s an eighth.“


Stories are another way of teaching children maths and Sarah features a character called Auntie Edna on her website to teach the maths rules in a way children will remember.

Sarah said: “Children remember stories much quicker than they remember rules. Auntie Edna has a long convoluted story every month which particularly aids boys to increase their vocabulary.”

This is the time of year when parents are looking ahead to 11+ exams and Sarah’s advice is: to run a marathon means making sure you run round the block every day.

“I have 440 videos on You Tube and 185 videos that we rotate on my website. I don’t think any child that can’t afford tutoring shouldn’t have access to the 11+ and grammar school – I’ve been working on this for years.

“It’s often their core skills that let them down. They do the clever stuff then forget to carry the one over.

“You have to keep them fit – it is like running a marathon and you have to keep running round the block to be fit enough to run the marathon.

“What they discover through the 11+ is that they get a real relationship with their parents – that it’s OK to get it wrong and parents will get crabby.

“I tell them they will miss it when it’s over, but it’s not the 11+ they miss; it’s that time with their parents.”

More details on Sarah’s website

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