Maths in the teenage years

Some children find maths fascinating.  They absorb concepts such as those in basic algebra and geometry at a young age, and ask for more.  They intuitively understand how graphs work, they are competent with calculators, and they play around with number theory. Children with this kind of aptitude will probably continue learning maths without any teaching.

However, at some point you may decide it’s a good idea to introduce some new concepts. That could be simple trigonometry, for instance, or more advanced algebra. If so, you may want to get hold of a ‘key stage 3’ maths text book. These are really intended for secondary school children aged 11-14, but may well be suitable for a home educated child as young as eight or nine who enjoys and understands maths.There are many interesting and well-produced Key Stage 3 maths text-books available online and at local bookshops.

Since each child is an individual, and publications change frequently, it’s impossible to make any specific recommendations. It is best to have a browse around your local bookshop and see what appeals to you. By this stage your child is likely be taking an interest in what resources are used, so it’s a good idea to take him or her to your local bookshop if you want to find a good text-book. They mostly cover the same ground, but have different presentations. What appeals to you might not appeal to your child!

If you are not mathematically inclined yourself, you may want to ensure that you find a book with answers, or enlist the help of a mathematical relatives or friend to help your children if they get stuck, or have questions.

There are many online resources for maths too – you can find a few good ones linked from my maths resources page.

If your child is not interested in maths

Many children cannot see the point of maths, beyond basic arithmetic and the necessary calculations in everyday life.  If your child is able to use a calculator, and can work out (for instance) how to double the ingredients of a recipe, and what change to expect in shops, then it may be time to stop worrying about maths. This is one of the advantages of home education: a child can study and work on topics he or she enjoys, rather than having to pursue a ‘balanced’ curriculum.

I happen to be one of those who enjoyed subject at school; I even did a degree in maths. But since completing it, I have found no use for calculus, trigonometry, advanced algebra or geometry. I don’t think I’ve even done any long division. Equipping your child for adult life does not necessarily have to involve complex mathematics.

GCSE maths

If your child enjoys completing a Key Stage 3 maths classbook, or equivalent, he may want to consider taking a maths GCSE course. There are many options for home educators, although most are expensive. Check the GCSE page for details of the various ways that home educators can take GCSEs, either by college or correspondence course, or self-study at home.

If your child is not mathematically inclined, there is no reason to take maths GCSE, unless he or she wants to follow a career which requires it. If that is the case, the potential career should provide the motivation to work at the subject. It can help at first to use Key Stage 3 books which provide a good introduction to most GCSE topics. They can then move on to one of the many GCSE maths text-books.

There is an interesting website giving plenty of student notes and help at GCSE Maths Revision. You can also find some notes in the maths section of BBC education.

Informal and enjoyable

If you prefer a more informal approach, there are many books that make mathematical topics into games. These are appropriate if your child is interested in concepts rather than learning techniques. One excellent book we used together suitable for older children or younger teens is Carol Vorderman’s ‘How Maths Works’.

There are many maths pages on the Internet which you can use for interesting research, or different kinds of problem solving. They are useful whether or not you follow a course or use workbooks. One that we enjoyed is NRich Online maths.

Further reading on this site:

maths and the home educated teen
simultaneous equations

online maths resources