06 Dec 2022
by Catherine Casey
Common Maths Myths in Key Stage 2
Mathematics often gets a bad reputation for being ‘difficult’, which can make it intimidating, and appear scary or out-of-reach for learners and educators alike. This attitude and preconception towards maths can lead to feelings of anxiety, fear, and embarrassment.
But does maths deserve this reputation? Let’s bust some maths myths!
Myth 1: ‘Maths is either wrong or right’
More often than not, there are lots of different ways to solve one maths question! Different people may tackle the same question in different ways and that is OK—in fact, more than OK, it is great and should be celebrated! Encourage learners to share different methods and ideas.
For example, take a look at How to be Good at Maths, where the different methods of subtraction are explained, from number lines, to expanded column subtraction.
Sometimes, there is more than one answer, too. For example, 100cm, 1m, and 0.01km are all different answers, but mean the same.
If a question is open-ended (yes, they do exist in maths)—for example, create a repeating pattern using a circle, a triangle, and a square—there are lots of different ways to answer.
Myth 2: ‘Maths isn’t practical and hands-on; it is all about following formulas and completing pages of sums’
The exact opposite is true! Maths is all about how things work, and the world around us. Doing practical activities is not only fun, but is also a really effective way of learning and figuring things out. Practical activities help to develop mental mathematical strategies, problem-solving skills, as well as to strengthen understanding of concepts and reinforce vital connections to the real world.
Why not try some out for yourself? Maths Lab has some great ideas, such as this activity for learning about angles and shapes by making an origami frog.
Myth 3: ‘I just can’t do maths’
Do you have bad memories of boring or difficult maths lessons at school? Well, you wouldn’t be alone there! We can pass on this negativity without even realising. Off-hand comments such as, ‘Oh, I never liked maths’ and ‘I’m no good at maths either’, although well-meaning, can have a lasting negative impact.
Vocabulary often has meanings in maths that are different to those in real-life contexts such as prime, product or rational—no wonder learners can get confused! Explicitly teaching maths vocabulary and comparing uses of the words in different contexts can help.
Not only can terminology be confusing, it can also give a negative impression. We often like to say, ‘Have a go at these maths problems’, but the word ‘problem’ can make the task sound difficult and impossible before we even get started!
While it may feel like some people can just ‘do’ maths, or they simply ‘get it’ straight away, this is rarely the case. Everyone has to work at it—the more you do it, the easier it gets! More often than not, it comes down to self-belief and confidence. Help learners to get practising with DK’s Maths Made Easy series.
Myth 4: ‘Mistakes are bad’
Mistakes are good—we learn from our mistakes. Making errors helps us to work out and remember the correct ways of tackling tasks.
Creating a safe classroom environment and ethos where it is OK to get things wrong, try things out, or do things in a different way can help to develop learners’ confidence.
Myth 5: ‘Maths isn’t for me’
Providing positive role models can be powerful. Take a look at the rich diverse range of mathematicians out there. In How to be a Maths Whizz, you can find out all about notable figures in maths such as Joan Clarke, Zaha Hadid, Gladys West, and Benjamin Banneker. Why not use this to create a vibrant, entertaining, and fascinating display of mathematicians from around the world? Let’s inspire the next generation and show them maths is for everyone!
It’s not only mathematicians that ‘do’ maths either! You will find mathematics in all sorts of different jobs and roles. A hairdresser, for example, will use measures to discuss length of hair, estimate measurements, and measure out components for hair colours. Plumbers, farmers, shop assistants, and chefs all use mathematics on a daily basis.
Myth 6: ‘Maths is just a lesson at school’
Maths isn’t just for the classroom, it’s everywhere! We use maths all the time, often without even realising it. Cooking dinner, reading the weather forecast, catching a bus, or going shopping—measuring and calculating are part of our everyday lives. We are also surrounded by shapes, angles, numbers, and repeating patterns. Take a look at how maths is used in buildings in How to be a Maths Whizz:
Maths is even used in games and sports activities: to calculate how far you are running, and how quickly, how many goals have been scored in a football match, angles are used when playing snooker, and even cricket bats and tennis rackets are held at different angles to achieve different results. In dance and music, different patterns, timings, and beats are used. Knitters follow patterns and count stitches. You add and subtract in a game of Snakes and Ladders, work out probabilities in card games, and calculate money in Monopoly—maths even comes up in Bingo!
Take a look at What’s the Point of Maths to find out more about how mathematics helps us to grow crops, create art, understand the universe, save lives, explore science, and much more.
Myth 7: ‘Maths is boring’
Maths can be lots of fun. Just take a look at the fantastic activities in Maths Lab. You can learn to braid a friendship bracelet to learn about the circumference, angles and sequences, learn all about ratio by making fun fruity drinks, or even build your own speed buggy and calculate average speeds.
Mammoth Maths is full of fun ways to explain maths concepts, from elephant shrews showing you all about negative numbers in their underground houses to the mammoths using fairground fun examples to teach addition. Teaching through fun activities grabs the learner's attention and helps concepts to stick!
Myth 8: ‘Maths is tricky’
Maths can be broken down into simple, easy-to-follow steps. Check out the illustrated examples in How to be Good at Maths on how to answer maths questions. This visual guide uses real-life objects like chocolate bars to explain, step-by-step, mathematical concepts such as factors. It couldn’t be easier!
So, is it time to change our attitudes towards maths? Let’s make maths fun and accessible for everyone!
Catherine Casey has been a teacher for more years than she can count on her fingers! She has worked in a variety of educational settings including first schools, primary school, special schools, secondary school and alternative educational provision. Whilst teaching, Catherine specialised in mathematics education and worked in both classroom settings and 1-1 or small groups supporting learners. Catherine currently writes a wide variety of educational resources. She believes maths is fun, for everyone and surrounds us in our daily lives.