Dr Samantha Hornery – Supporting Children's Learning

Managing the “after exam” slump

Posted by on Jun 6, 2016 in Tips for Tutors & Teachers | 0 comments

I am always amused when my students come to tutoring and when asked what is happening at school they reply”Nothing”. Further promoting often yields the second part of this answer, “Our exams are finished, there’s nothing else to do this term.”

After I smile, count to 10 and breath deeply … we begin our work.

It takes some selling to keep everyone motivated during the weeks following half year exams and preceding school holidays. As a tutor I know how important this time is for us to work on some areas that we can’t get to when the school curriculum is moving along so quickly. I always work to be as clear and honest with my students as possible and this is how I explain it to them too.

In addition, I use a goal focussed approach, together the student and I identify two areas they would like to master in these few weeks and we use tracking systems and regular tests/checks to keep focussed and maintain momentum.

What strategies do you employ in these tricky weeks?

Read More

Self-Correcting Division Cards Now Available

Posted by on May 17, 2016 in Teaching Resources | 0 comments

Self-Correcting Division Cards Now Available

Division facts are often the forgotten operation – and one that students immensely dislike!

I’ve created a fun set of self-correcting division cards to support mastery in learning these. I have attached one set here (Division 3) to download and play. The full set is available for purchase from my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

These self-correcting division cards facilitate independent practice of the division facts. Each division fact family (1-12) is prepared as a set of PDF cards to print (double-sided in colour) and cut.

  1. Students place the cards face down on the table and begin by turning over the “Start” card.
  2. Each card has a division fact question on the back. The student locates the matching answer and places on the pile.
  3. If successful, the final card to be turned over says “Well Done”.
  4. If unsuccessful, more cards are remaining on the table and the student can attempt again.
  5. These games can also be extended with the inclusion of a timed practice to build fluency.


Students enjoy playing these games and gain much satisfaction and confidence in successful completions. A fun and engaging way to build accuracy and fluency in the final of the four operations – the often forgotten – division facts!

Read More

Reading Jets A to Z

Posted by on Sep 7, 2015 in Tips for Tutors & Teachers | 0 comments

Reading Jets A to Z

A cute app to consolidate alphabetic knowledge and letter-sound correspondence. The plus is that an Australian voice can be selected (hence our vowels are intact) and close to foundation font has been used. Children select a robot as their avatar, a letter to start and are guided through some letter formation (tracing), sound identification (select pictures beginning with sound) and transfer tasks (concentration). Some correction is provided throughout and so the app can be used independently, but also with an adult for consolidation and extension purposes.

Read More

Learning Differences Convention August 2015

Posted by on Aug 26, 2015 in Tips for Tutors & Teachers | 0 comments

Learning Differences Convention August 2015

August 2015, “Practical Strategies to Support Students with Learning Difficulties in Mathematics” @ Learning Difference Convention at Rosehill, Sydney. Click here for copy of slides. Learning Difference Convention 2015

Read More

Perimeter, Area, Volume & Surface Area Resource – try it now!

Posted by on Aug 24, 2015 in Tips for Tutors & Teachers | 0 comments

Perimeter, Area, Volume & Surface Area Resource – try it now!

Thank you for the feedback from the Integers resource I posted a few weeks ago – they are taking some time to produce, but are definitely more manageable than my question database.

These resources will eventually be available as an entire study pack for students or teachers available for sale through this website and TeachersPayTeachers. While in Beta mode, though, you get the goodies for free.

Here is a link to a downloadable package, click here. In the package you will find:

  • Visual Representation: this single slide summarises everything needed for 2D & 3D Measurement, you can print as a single page or play the animated .ppt file for review (2D & 3D Measurement PT without narration .pptx .pdf)
  • Study Sheet: a cloze style review sheet with gaps from the original visual representations (2D & 3D Measurement Study Sheet)
  • Written Quiz: questions for the whole topic (in worded form) and space for answers (2D & 3D Measurement Study Questions Written .docx .pdf)
  • Quiz Slide: these questions are again presented, in random order, on .ppt slides with the answers revealed through click animation (2D & 3D Measurement Study Questions with & without animation .pptx, .pdf).

Enjoy & I welcome continued feedback.


Read More

Initial Numeracy Screening

Posted by on Aug 10, 2015 in Tips for Tutors & Teachers | 0 comments

Initial Numeracy Screening

Thank you for your comments about the maths posts of late.

I received quite a few emails from readers wanting to know a little more about how I am assessing maths in the beginning. So, I thought I would share this short screening checklist with you.

I don’t like to give students a big written maths test, I prefer to customise this based on what I am observing.

But, as I also like to be well prepared for anything, I also am armed with everything I need.

So, here is a quick screening checklist I use to ascertain where to start with the four operations.

As time goes on I of course delve into these areas further and look at place value, problem solving skills and beyond (fractions, space, measurement …) but this is definitely my “Step One”.

Just click here and enjoy!


Read More

Why Is Maths So Hard?

Posted by on Jul 29, 2015 in Support for Parents, Tips for Tutors & Teachers | 8 comments

Why Is Maths So Hard?

I am presenting a practical hands-on session at a convention in a few weeks about maths strategies (www.learningdifferenceconvention.com) and have a restricted time limit (one hour) – how on earth will I condense this topic?

Well, I begin by not condensing anything – my first draft of anything is always incredibly long, but the initial brain dump is the best way for me to then shape a final product. And, as a complete aside for any students reading this – I am a creature of habit and complete this initial plan early in the piece so I can have a few days break before revisiting it to start the cull, this extra thinking time allows the overall shape of my presentation or written piece to really form.

So, I am going to present a single slide with this title, “Why is maths so hard?” with a few dot points.



There is much to “know” in maths – there is simply no way around this, mathematics relies on an enormous bank of symbols and words that must be remembered and recalled at the appropriate time (working memory issues make this so difficult for some children). You can’t be expected to add 4 and 3 unless you know that 4 is 4 and means 4 objects, that 3 is 3 and means 3 objects, that the cross symbol + is add and means combining, and finally the equal sign = is where the answer is written!

A list you ask? Here are but a few examples:

  • Numbers 0-9, 10-19, 20-99, 100-999, 1000 à (then upon reaching high school the curtain is unveiled and all of these numbers have a matching mirror with the negative symbol – in front of them)
  • Symbols + – x -:- = > < …
  • Shapes (2D, 3D)
  • Words (add subtract multiply divide equal)



The wonderful thing about maths is that there are no exceptions to the steps that guide the procedures, once you have learnt and mastered these you can always rely on them. The horrendous thing about maths is that there are so many steps to remember …

Procedural learning is about mastery, completing these steps many times under supervision and in as errorless as possible, before progressing to independent practise until mastered. These steps are both cognitive and kinaesthetic (remembering that long multiplication involves drawing 4 lines under the question and placing the 0 in the middle row becomes a kinaesthetic memory for students). They take time, but without this they are incredibly effortful (and often error filled!)



Maths involves numbers, right? Unfortunately, not all the time!

The introduction of a very specific language related to mathematics is a factor compounding its complexity. There are some clear cut words – “add” and “subtract”, but “difference” can mean subtract or qualitative distinctions between shapes. The word “rose” doesn’t mean the sweet smelling flower in my garden and depending on the wording of the question may actually mean addition or subtraction. Strategies can be taught to approach a worded problem and some commonalities can be established, but in these questions each one must be considered in its own context.


So, “Why is maths so hard?”

Because even after a great deal of time is spent recognising and recalling numbers, symbols and maths words and then procedures are rehearsed and mastered, the question will then be hidden in a worded problem that requires unique comprehension!

I haven’t even mentioned maths anxiety, both inherited (parents and siblings who regularly publically comment on their poor maths) or the result of failed experiences (a percentage written in red can be soul destroying). Maths anxiety is a complication that weaves its way throughout the complexity of mathematics as a subject and can hinder or facilitate success.




Read More