A few years ago, Cilia who is a member of my church wanted to become a school teacher. She is a university graduate so ideally it should have been relatively easy to go ahead with the PGCE course and become a teacher. If only things were that straightforward! Alas, Cilia could not realise her ambition at the time because of one small but vital thing, she did not have a credit in GCSE maths and therefore was not admitted to the course. Incidentally, like many others, when she was a child she had no one in her life to make maths fun for her. That resulted in her finding it boring. Unfortunately, that dislike and /or fear of maths translated into her not passing the subject at GCSE level.
Sadly, it did not matter that she was in early thirties and had taken the exam more than 10 years before. The door was shut firmly in her face unless she was prepared take her GCSE maths again and get the minimum grade required for the teaching profession.
This doesn't have to be your narrative
This need not be the case for your son or daughter. A few months ago, I shared the story of my secondary school-age nephew who developed a liking for maths because of his tutor. One thing that became evident when his tutor was asked about the secret to her success was her love for maths and the fact that she knows how to make maths fun. You can find out here what else she had to say about teaching maths.
If you are the parent of a child who dislikes maths or finds it boring, don’t wait till GCSE exam time to sort it out. The best time to tackle the issue head on is whilst your child is still young. What a travesty it would be miss out on so many opportunities because of one subject. Luckily, there are several helpful resources available today, much more than when Cilia was in primary school. One such resource, designed to make maths fun is the game, Race To Infinity created by Dr Grace Olugbodi whom I had the opportunity of interviewing recently. Grace genuinely has a love for the subject and this came across very clearly in our dialogue.
Find below more about her motivation for creating Race To Infinity and what the experts have to say about her game.
When and how did you develop the love for maths?
I developed a liking for maths when I was 10 years old because my father supported me and he made maths fun and creative for me.
He turned me from an average C student to an A student pretty much over a summer. It was the period between Primary School and Secondary School.
I then went into Secondary School and started winning maths prizes. This gave me a lot of confidence and brought offers my way that I could never otherwise have dreamt about.
Because of my experience at Secondary School, I chose to go on to study a BSc in Computing in which I had a 1st Class Honours result. I then went into Investment Banking as a Java programmer/software programmer and did my Masters in Financial Markets with Information Systems.
What triggered the desire to make maths fun through a game?
When I was at University, I used to help out other students at the Students’ Union building.
I was giving support to students with any problems they had with maths and programming, so I used to go to the Students’ Union building a lot. The program was called Peer Support.
One day I went to the Students’ Union building and I saw an advert on the wall. The advert was asking for volunteers to go into schools and help children who were struggling with their maths confidence.
These children had low confidence in mathematics. This broke my heart because it was not my experience. Why should children be suffering just because they are learning maths? This looked like a travesty to me so I resorted to doing something about it, by joining in with the Education Charity and a Foundation Partnership.
We were asked to make maths fun by helping them through games in a very simple but special way. It meant we would go into schools and play games with the children at lunch times once a week for just half an hour.
Within six weeks I received remarkable feedback that the children had started to raise their maths confidence and that they no longer had as much mathematical anxiety. They were now engaged in maths classes, raising their hands up, not being aloof and not being as detached as they used to be.
By the end of the year, they had each raised their maths attainment levels by one level.
I was shocked at this result, it was a pleasant surprise and it felt very fulfilling.
What did you do with that experience?
After that episode, while I was pregnant with my son and doing my Masters, I started to think about how else I could help parents make maths fun at home. I wondered how I could scale this special way of helping children increase their maths confidence through play. I wanted children to play without realising that they were learning.
So in 2003 I made it my mission to turn mathematics into a game that every child would love to play every time. I wanted to create a game that was different from the other games that I could see around that were maths games. I realised that though there were good games, they didn't have what we call replayability in the games industry.
Replayability is what makes you want to play the game over and over again. I wanted to create something different where children would effectively and creatively practise maths without knowing they were learning. I wanted something that was truly fun, not one just labelled as fun.
Tell me more about Race To Infinity
It has taken a number of years to get it right, but I have now created and I’m selling a fun Maths Game internationally called Race To Infinity.
It's an educational game, with excellent replayability and it covers the fundamentals of Key Stages 1 and 2, and some parts of Key Stage 3.
It makes maths fun for both adults and children, improves children's maths skills tremendously and reduces maths anxiety. What children and their parents find is that children get to learn and improve their maths abilities, thinking they are playing, without realising they are learning.
The game also develops decision making skills, social skills, problem-solving skills, creative thinking skills, critical thinking skills, analytical thinking and spatial ability.
Where can I get this fun maths game from?
Race To Infinity is first and foremost available on Amazon in several countries. After about one year of selling on Amazon, they approached us and asked to partner with us. They wanted to become a distributor of the game, such that they now buy wholesale and sell retail. We have been partners with Amazon for quite a while now.
I’ve learned so much to enable me to sell the Race To Infinity game in many countries globally, including the UK, USA, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Norway, Australia, Canada, and some African countries.
Race To Infinity has won quite a number of awards including the Amazon #1 Bestseller and AmazonChoice Badges multiple times. It has been endorsed by The Good Toy Guide, National Numeracy and Explore Learning Tuition Centres amongst others.
Why should I get Race To Infinity for my child?
From my experience as a mum and an Education Industry avid supporter, I've realised that there are some key issues surrounding children learning maths. Too many children:
- Hate maths, don't see the point in doing it, cannot relate it to real life or find it boring
- Don’t believe they can get good at it.
- Do not have effective, creative, fun methods of doing maths
I strongly believe that every child and everyone can improve their Maths skills. I also believe that talent is overrated - there is no such thing as a "Maths person." Maths is simply a skill, and any skill just needs deliberate practice to get good at it.
Many parents are afraid of Maths themselves and don't know how to help their children. The world is a lot more competitive and demanding now, and this generation is finding it harder to get good jobs without Maths.
In addition, government statistics show that half of the adults in the UK have numeracy levels no greater than that of an 11-year old and this is costing our economy £20 billion a year.
Race To Infinity is aimed at solving these problems by catching them young, making maths fun and getting fundamental maths ingrained in children.
What advice would you give to anyone who has a dream to make a difference?
Try everything. If you don’t try, you’ll never know.
- If something does not work, pick yourself up and try again.
- Don’t give up!
- Believe in yourself. If you don’t, nobody will.
- Get involved in your niche in your local community and volunteer.
- What started out as volunteering led me to my passion and mission.
So get out there, and volunteer to support others.
What an inspirational lady Grace is! She is still volunteering; currently Chair of the Board of Governors and a Trustee and Director on a Multi Academy Trust comprising six schools. She is also the Governor in charge of their Teaching & Learning Curriculum. In addition, Grace is currently a Trustee and Director on one of the Boards of a Central London University. In closing, I will leave you with this quote from her, "I want to make a difference to the society and impact children across the world, just as I have done with my own children who have become excellent at maths."