Milliner to Maths author The alternative Carol Vorderman
Yes, I know, I’m not a secondary teacher. I’m also severely dyslexic with a whole heap of Dyscalculia and I can't pass an exam at all. So I am totally unqualified! But, but but......
I love maths
I try to encourage maths enjoyment with every child and parent. I love showing how maths is everywhere in the hope that children will catch the confidence to carry on. I want them to see how maths shapes our lives every minute of every day.
I've written a book
It’s not a self published title! In fact I have been asked by head teachers to design resources. Then parents requested I designed the resource for them to use at home! Now the funny bit is I cannot retain any of the info unless I go over it all the time. I take much longer than others to process this information, but apparently this is the skill Head teachers love. I struggled, but still try. So do remember to give all pupils enough time to think and process.
Stand up! Let’s see what stupid looks like!
This all might seem surprising, bearing in mind that back in the day I was told to stand so that the class could see what stupid looked like! Just imagine the impact of that!
All this happened when I was 9 years old (it was the late 70's). I was the girl who ran away from maths and truly hated it. I went to art college to do anything but maths, but soon discovered it was everywhere, (but you knew that!)
“I’m no good at maths!”
My change of heart came as a parent. My children, despite also being dyslexic, had to first see their parents enjoying maths, enjoying numbers and not using the phrase "I'm no good at Maths". This has developed into 3 boys not hating maths and being confident to ask when they need help.
I really believe that everyone can cope with maths.
You just have to find your way. People need to stop saying that you can’t do it. This is from the woman who hid in a cupboard so I wouldn’t have to do it! How things have changed.
I now come to maths from an odd direction.
I did anything, cry, be ill, sit in cupboards to avoid the pain that was maths for me. Now I know it was dyslexia and dyscalculia. I would love to train to be a maths teacher but can't pass the desired test so can't get past the first hurdle, sadly.
I can teach primary maths as long as I go over it the night before. If I try the online maths test I find being timed is difficult. It is tricky and I know many young people feel exactly the same way. It’s hard for people who don’t feel like this to understand.
The other Carol Vorderman
But when I speak with TAs, they think because I have written a maths book and maths resources they need to sit up straight. When they discover that I can’t pass exams they relax. ‘Oh’ they say ‘we all thought you were Carol Vorderman!’
So how did this all happen? I was always interested in encouraging the basic foundations. Interestingly my eldest son refused to go to school for 4 years as he too has dyslexia.
Lewisham education authority said home school would be ideal and they would check us annually. So we went for it!
Times table seemed to be more a list than a table.
My husband and I decided to get a grip on main subjects. So we did it. As I was helping with multiplication, times tables seemed to be more a list than a table. Then I noticed the pattern and therefore set out the numbers in different patterns. Suddenly it all clicked and gave me the kick I could really do it.
Suddenly friends asked me to teach their children. Then Ragged Bears found out and asked me to write the sister book dyslexia rules. That’s when Multiplication Rules came into play. I also make resources. I know it all seems like an odd story.
Bear in mind that actually I trained as a hat maker or milliner.
I chose this to get away from maths. So I chose art school rather than PE. Back then sport wasn’t considered a proper job! My embroidery teacher actually suggested that I go to art school, ‘You’d be good’ she said.
There was no escape!
But on the first day at art school I was taken out of one lesson ‘You are going to have to do maths every Monday as you need maths to sew.’ I was devastated. But I soon realised a lot of maths was involved and spent my time walking round with a tape measure hanging around my neck. We had to convert metric to imperial all the time. We cut patterns in metric but fabric in yards; the shops wouldn’t convert for us. So, I had no choice!
Maths is everywhere, we can’t escape it as a milliner; I was even using pi a lot. Radius and diameters were calculated. I was making 30 hats for the English National Opera’s chorus and some famous heads. We had a certain amount of fabric and head size. So it was maths maths maths! I learned to cope with it.
Even my friend who is a hairdresser, who did my maths homework by the way, told me how much maths she has to do every day. For example the dye percentages of bleach and colour. Also as a self employed hairdresser you just have to do your own books! There's no escaping maths!
Please don’t think you’ll never do maths because you will be surrounded. Maths is everywhere
In the past students with difficulties were dealt a harsh deal. Now it’s time to think. Everyone has to learn and hold their nerve.
I say, learn strategies to get some of the answers. You can do it!
Penny Topsom, author of Multiplication Rules!
If you like the idea of inspiring people to develop a passion for maths why not apply for Initial Teacher training and then Apply For A Maths Scholarship. Start the Maths Scholars process right here.