If you live in the Northfield area of Birmingham, you might like to attend a workshop that I am running for people who lack confidence in their ability to learn Maths. The workshops consist of six sessions of one hour each. They are free because they are supported by the Birmingham Northfield Constituency Labour Party in order to encourage local people to develop their skills and employability.

Most people are perfectly capable of learning maths and getting the C grade at GCSE Maths that is a requirement for many jobs or training courses. The problem is that their maths education went wrong when they were at school. Not only did they fail to learn basic numeracy but they' learned' something that is not true - that they are not clever enough to be a maths student.

How does this happen? It generally starts very early on, when they are expected to learn formal maths procedures when they are not ready for them. For instance, they may be taught long multiplication methods when they haven't really grasped what multiplication is. (It is repeated addition.) They see other children around them succeeding when they are struggling and, not unreasonably, they conclude that the problem must be them. Their brains are wired up differently in some way. All too often, they will confess their fears to a parent who may well say "Oh, I was never any good at Maths either."  However, the same parent will often join in the chorus of voices telling the child how important Maths is if they want to get on in life. That puts the cherry on the cake. The child will sit out the rest of its maths education feeling confused, resentful and inadequate. In the worst cases, when children have been punished for their failure, the sight of numbers as an adult can induce panic attacks.

I have given enough private tuition to adults to know that the big hurdle to overcome is  a lack of confidence. The best way to do this is to go right back to the beginning of numeracy - counting, and start from there. The important thing is to concentrate on understanding and to achieve some success. Achievement breeds confidence. It comes slowly at first and there are often wobbles, but gradually they learn that they can be maths students - the Ugly Ducklings are really Swans.

The really wonderful thing about working with adults is how fast this transformation can be. My best student ever started out knowing virtually nothing and within about ten weeks of one-hour lessons, he was doing algebra and happily solving simultaneous linear equations. What a star!

The workshops will be based on the content of my book, Numbers Explained, but how far we get with the maths is not important. The primary objective is to achieve confidence. Indeed the first sessions will be about sharing our experiences of learning maths in school to see that the fault nearly always lies with the school, not  the child. Then we will look to see just how much maths we already know. Most people are surprised to discover how knowledgeable they are.

I will teach some basic maths, as seems appropriate, but I want the workshops to be as little like classroom lessons as we can make it. We will sit in the round and drink tea and talk to each other. The only rule will be that no-one must criticise or disrespect anyone else or show any impatience. We have to get over the fear that "The others will laugh if  I ask a question or don't understand something straight away." It is quite normal to need to go over something many times before fully understanding it. This applles even to finest and cleverest mathematicians.

What I am aiming for is the confidence to give Maths another go. This might be signing up for a Basic Skills course in Maths at an FE College such as nearby Bournville College. These courses are free. Or people might feel brave enough to go straight for a Maths GCSE. Alternatively, there are plenty of online courses available. People might even start by studying on their own using my book Numbers Explained.

If you would like to attend a workshop, the first series is on Tuesday evenings at 7.30 in West Heath, starting on 5th April. Email me using the contact form from this website to book your place or call 0121 249 1389.

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