Supporting your child with maths for the 11+

As the summer holidays begin the 11+ will be forefront of many people’s minds.

How can they support their child and help them to pass the 11+?

You will know that the 11+ is broken in verbal and non-verbal reasoning, English and maths.

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The benefit of additional support in maths is that regardless of which school the child goes to in year 7, this additional support will stand your child in good stead.

There are many worksheets that can be downloaded for free or text books that you can buy to support your child. These are great as they will prepare your child for the type of question and content they will encounter in the exam.

However, you may decide (and I would encourage you to consider) alternative revision techniques than just worksheets and text books. If you want to read more on the benefits of using varied learning styles you can download a section of the e-book I have written in supporting children with their times tables.

Download the chapter of the e-book here

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Teachit maths is a fantastic website for presenting mathematical resources in alternative formats it traditional worksheets.

They use codes to break (also very valuable in the 11+), dominoes, etc. Many of the resources can be accessed on the free plan. All that is necessary is submitting your name and email address to register. (I’m not an affiliate, it’s just a website I’ve found that has some amazing resources and is well worth checking out).

Here are 3 of my favourite alternative games for supporting your child’s maths and helping them to pass the 11+

noughts and crosses

Noughts and crosses can be adapted in so many ways.

This game is so quick and easy to create.

Draw 2 lines vertically. Then draw another 2 lines crossing them horizontally.

In each square (where I have drawn a number in the illustration) write an example question. Before you can claim your square and head towards your row/ column of 3 you need to answer the question.

This is a very brief description but I hope it makes sense.

I will go into more ways of how to adapt it in future blogs.


I love this game. It is fantastic for encouraging your child to look for patterns and sequences.

Even beyond the 11+ I am confident you will receive hours of fun from it.

For the benefit of the 11+ I normally allow pairs and odd numbers to form a sequence as well as just as straight run of numbers.


This is another fairly simple game to produce. Create a grid on a piece of paper which is approximately 6 squares by 4. (Leaving you with 24 squares).

On 12 of these squares write a maths problem/ question.

On the other 12 squares write the corresponding answers.

Now place all 12 squares face down on the table between you.

Take it in turns to turn over 2 squares. If you pick up a question and corresponding answer you win the pair and get another go.

If they don’t match place them back down and the other person gets a go.

The person with the most pairs at the end is the winner.

Regardless of how you choose to support your child with their maths for the 11+ I highly recommend that you ensure your child is confident with their times tables.

A thorough knowledge of the times tables is like providing a strong foundation when building a house.

It’s obligatory to progress on to higher more difficult levels.

I have recently put together the 11+ million times tables challenge.

I explain it in more detail in the following page if you are interested:

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The 1 Million Times Tables Challenge

Any trouble downloading the extract or if you are looking for a tutor this summer to help your child stand a better chance with the 11+, please do get in touch.

Speak soon

Do I need to get my child an 11+ tutor?

Should you get your child an 11+ tutor?

Should I get my child a tutor for the 11+_yes or no_ Facebook

Quite possibly not!

I quite appreciate there will be many people who disagree with my opinion. This is how I will justify my answer.

Only get a tutor for your child if they actually want to pass and it’s not just the dream of the parents.

There are many children who are quite indifferent about the secondary school they attend, for them staying with their friends is what is of importance to them.
The 11+ is designed to be difficult. It is designed to separate the children who can keep up with the pace set by grammar schools.
Passing the exam takes a lot of work and if the child’s heart isn’t in it, is it fair to put them under that pressure.

I know life isn’t fair.

When you tutor a child and they are not enthusiastic and wanting to put in the effort, you realise very quickly that they may not have the dedication it is going to take to put in what it is going to take.

Although you may have a tutor for a couple of hours a week on the lead up to the actual exam, it will still be necessary to put in a fair amount of time with your child yourself.

There are many activities as a parent you can do to support your child:

  • There is a wide range of books you can purchase with sample exam questions.
  • Worksheets to familiarise your child with the type of questions they could encounter.
  • Playing games such as:” Sets” or Rummikub number will give your child practice in spotting sequences and problem solving.
  • Playing anagram games with scrabble letters is great for practising the verbal reasoning tasks.
  • Read together and talk about what you have read.
  • Play games where you are against the clock so that you get used to pressure that this adds.

Too much pressure put on the child’s shoulders by the parents is often detrimental. It is often those children who have motivated themselves which do better.
Keep some of the resources you use a bit lighter hearted so that it helps relieve some of this pressure.
There is a long list of words that children are expected to have a sound knowledge of their meaning. Make them into pairs games, matching the term with its definition.

The 11+ is a huge commitment for both the child and the parents.

Whether you decide to get a tutor or not, I wish you and your child the best of luck with the 11+.
If you do decide you want to get an 11+ tutor, have a chat to us about 11+ tutoring.

We can obviously not guarantee a pass, but no tutor can. We will do our best to put your child in a better position to pass and boost their skills along their way.

Have a great summer and speak soon

Learning needs to be fun to be effective!

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Over the past 18+ years of working and studying in education I have had a keen interest on learning styles.
The one thing that continually emerges is that learning needs to be both fun and varied.

Why does learning need to be fun?

Human behaviour has evolved over time. When we are suffering from stress or a fear of something the “fight or flight” instinct kicks in.

It can be recognised as your heartbeat racing faster, a tight sensation in your chest. Your senses also become more heightened to what is happening around you.

The reason behind this is because in prehistoric times our ancestors may have found themselves in situations which required a rapid response; such as coming face to face with a wolf, bear or other threat.

They needed to be able to respond quickly so that they stayed alive. Therefore, they instinctively took flight or stayed to fight.

Although we don’t have such threats in the modern world, a fear of something will still create this same response from us.

For a child or anyone who struggles with learning there is a heightened sense of fear when face to face with something unfamiliar to them or something that they have previously struggled with.

As parents or educators, I feel it is our responsibility to remove that sense of fear.

As parents or educators, I feel it is our responsibility to remove that sense of fear. blog insert


How can we reduce / remove the sense of fear?

This is quite simple.

We teach through the use of enjoyable resources so that the focus is aimed not only on the end result but also the journey there.

Teach through the use of enjoyable resources so that the focus is aimed not only on the end result but also the journey there. Post insert

The more enjoyable we can make the journey, the less inclined the child will be to want to flee the situation. This is in part why young children are encouraged to learn through play.

Why can’t older children learn like this as well?
The children I work with at Starr Tutoring are aged between 5 and 16 years old. We also work with adults who are returning to education.

We always play a variety of games in our learning such as:

Hangman, creating word searches or playing battleships for learning new terminology or spellings.
These ideas can also be used to stimulate ideas before writing a story, piece of persuasive writing or other piece of extended writing.
Lily pads, snakes and ladders and pairs are frequently used for ideas that need definitions or specific answers (such as in maths).
Drawing pictures to illustrate what a scene in a book describes rather than writing it down.
Annotating pictures of characters with key quotes that they use and the relevance of these quotes.
Use colour and reward every small step that is achieved.

By doing this you are also building confidence in the child that they can succeed.
The more confident the child is feeling the more likely they are to want to participate as the fight or flight mode is removed.

The more they participate the more practice they gain.

More practice means the better they become.

The spiral of success grows and so does the self-fulfilling philosophy of achievement and success.

The spiral of success grows and so does the self-fulfilling philosophy of achievement and success. post insert

Making learning an enjoyable experience, has got to be beneficial. Leaving them inspired and feeling good about themselves will also positively affect them in other areas of their life as well.

If you are looking to support your child with learning their times tables this summer and are keen to make it fun, why not click here and find out more about “The 1 Million Times Tables Challenge”

Or if you want to have weekly emails offering techniques you can use to support your child with their maths or English drop me an email and I will make sure you get them.

Either way, I would love to hear your comments below and please do share this post with the people you care about on Twitter or Facebook.




My 5 favourite games to teach the times tables

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If you have read any of my blogs before you will know that I am a firm believer that learning should be fun and boost confidence as well as knowledge.
I also believe the times tables are a paramount factor in becoming confident in maths.

Why do you need to make learning fun?

There are several reasons for this:

  • If the child is enjoying themselves they will be more likely to want to participate (practice).
  • The more the child practices the more likely they are to improve.
  • With improvement grows confidence. With confidence grows a willingness to have a go.

Why should learning be varied?

Over the past 18+ years of studying and working in educational settings (and with a keen interest to learn more about learning styles) what I have established is that we need to create a wide range of memories to store in our brain.
As we do this we are making it easier for the brain to find the relevant information when it is needed.
A variety of games helps with this.
(I have kept my logic here very short but I expand on it in far more detail in my e-book which is available as part of the Million times table challenge. Click here for more information.

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Noughts and crosses (Also known as tick tack toe)


noughts and crosses

This game is so easy to create.
As shown in the image you need to draw a grid which consists of 2 over lapping horizontal and vertical lines.
In each square you write a different number (normally from 1 to 12) but this can be higher if you want more of a challenge.)

Now choose which times table you want to focus on.

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You play the game in the same way that you would play noughts and crosses normally, except this time before you can claim your square you have to multiply the number in it by your chosen times table.
The winner is the first person to get 3 in a row, vertically, horizontally or diagonally.


This game is also very simple to create.
On a piece of paper write down 12 times tables questions and their corresponding answers.
Cut these up into pieces of paper, each the same size. You may choose to back them so that you can’t see through them and cheat…

Now place them all face down on the table.
Each player takes it in turns to turn over 2 pieces of paper.
If they have found a corresponding question and answer, you keep the pair and have another go.
If you haven’t, you place them back down on the table and the other person has a go.
The winner is the person with the most pairs at the end of the game.

Snakes and ladders

snakes and ladders

This game needs a bit more effort to prepare.
You will need to create a grid which is approximately 6 squares by 5. Then in each square write a times tables question focusing on the times table that you are learning.
You may also want to use relevant division questions.
Then draw in a selection of 3 snakes and 3 ladders.
This is your snakes and ladders board.
You will need a counter each and a dice to play the game.

As you move around the board you will need to answer each question as you land on it and go up the ladders and down the snakes as you fall prey to them.

It is harder work to create but it’s good fun and all the templates for the games are available in the “1 million times table challenge”.


For more information CLICK HERE


Lily Pads

Lily pads

This game is again very easy to create.

On a piece of paper write down the questions for the times table you are focusing on:

Now cut these out into individual squares and lay them out on the table in front of you.

You will need 2 counters each and like “Tiddly Winks” you have to take it in turns to flick your counter on to the squares (lily pads). If you get it on, you answer the question and keep it.
The person who has answered the most when there are none left wins.





Again, this takes a little bit of effort to prepare.
You will need to create 2 boards of 6 squares each. On each board you will need to write one of the questions related to the times tables you are practicing:

3×4, etc
Then cut out bits of paper with one answer on each.

You then take it in turns to pick up a piece of paper. If the answer on it relates to one of the questions on your board, you win that answer.

The first person to win all their answers is the ultimate winner.


I have flown through these games in minimal detail. I hope you get the gist though.
In the Million Times Tables challenge I go into them in far more detail using both videos and my e-book.

Download the first chapter here for FREE


You can also access all the templates for each individual game.
The challenge just cost £12 and can be accessed HERE

My goal behind the Million Times Table challenge is to try and help 1 million children become more confident with their times tables.
Every time one person purchases the course another person (child in care, with special needs or low-income family) will be given access to the course for free.
Please help me to reach my goal.

Again, details of the 1 Million Times Tables Challenge can be accessed HERE

If you want to nominate yourself or someone else you know for free access, please email me with the subject heading “nomination”.

The 1 Million Times Table Challenge


Do you want to make a genuine difference in the world?

I do.

This is my goal, and I need your help.


Conversation is increasingly “exams are getting harder”. The children who struggled before, now struggle even more, and expectations of success are becoming more prevalent from an earlier age.

Parents want to help their children but are often unsure how or where to start.


My goal is to support 1,000,000 children to become confident with their times tables.
It’s a huge goal and I can’t do it alone.

That is why I have created the ‘1 Million Times Table Challenge’.



I have created an online course to demonstrate to parents, carers, educators that the games I use at Starr Tutoring to teach the times tables are accessible, easy to understand and enjoyable.

(I have used these games with children from 5 to 16 years and also with adults returning to education).

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For someone who hated maths with a passion these games have been amazing, giving her confidence and understanding!

Thanks to Dawn, our daughter has started enjoying her maths again!

“He [our son] used to hate maths but his confidence has grown so much and he is really enjoying it”


The course consists of a series of videos which are backed up by the templates you would need to create the games and an e-book which explains the importance of making learning a positive and varied experience for both the student and teacher.


You can read an extract from the e-book here which explains this in more detail.

Read the extract by clicking here

The course will be just £12!


I have kept the price low, not because I question the value it will offer. I believe it will offer you amazing value for money. I have kept it low because I want it to be as accessible to as many people as possible.

The 1 million times tables challenge button


In addition, every time one person invests in the course another person will receive access to the course for free.

This person can be nominated by yourself or someone else.

They may be:

  • A child with special educational needs
  • A parent on a low income
  • A child in foster care
  • A young carer
  • An adult returning to education


If that sounds like someone you know please do email me with a nomination at with the subject line “nomination”.

If you feel you want to make the investment in the course so that both your child and someone else’s child can benefit, more details can be found here:

The 1 million times tables challenge button


Please, share this post and help me spread the word so that I can help that 1 million target and help as many children as possible gain their confidence.

The times tables are a key factor being a confident mathematician and I am sure that with self-assurance in your child’s times tables, their confidence and ability will grow in many other aspects of maths and their education as well.

If you do purchase the course and decide the games aren’t suitable for your child, let me know within 90 days and I will refund your money; no questions asked.

So, with the increase of children in education on the rise and expectations getting higher, please help me to offer that all important foundation of understanding.

The 1 million times tables challenge button
The better support the child has at the initial levels the greater the impact it will have on them and society.
Join me in providing that support and giving 1 million children confidence in their times tables.

Help make a difference.


The 1 million times tables challenge button

Homophones and Homographs

More and more emphasis is being put learning different grammatical terms.

Here are two which you’ve possibly heard of, but not sure what the difference is; homophones and homographs.

Here’s what they both mean:

Homophones: words that sound like another word, but has a different spelling and meaning.

Homographs: One of two or more words that have the same spelling but differ in origin, meaning, and sometimes pronunciation.


This is a really simple game that I often play in the lessons with children who are learning about these. It also helps with the spelling of these words as you are creating a visual image to associate with each individual spelling.

I bring with me a list of homophones/homographs. The list might include:


  1. Witch / which
  2. Hour / our
  3. Bear / bare
  4. Here / hear
  5. Eight / ate
  6. Ant / aunt
  7. Piece / peace
  8. Flour / Flower
  9. Bow / bow
  10. Meet / meat
  11. Four / for
  12. Tail / tale
  13. Berry / bury
  14. See /sea
  15. Knight / night
  16. Knew / new
  17. Sale /sail
  18. Eye/ I
  19. Deer / dear
  20. Write / right / white
  21. Blue/ blew


Take it in turns to choose a word from the list.

Don’t tell the other person which word you’ve chosen.

Now cover the list up and try to draw your chosen word.

The other person has to try and guess what the word is that you’re (attempting) drawing.

Once they have correctly guessed, you need to write the word next to your picture, making sure you choose the correct spelling / version.

Some of the words will obviously be easier than others to draw but that just adds to the challenge of the game.

Don’t forget this is a game and games should be fun, so remember; if your child makes a mistake, mistakes happen. Ask them if they’re sure they’ve written the correct word (they’ll normally spot it themselves once pointed out), ask them to change it and move on to the next person’s go.

Most importantly, enjoy sharing the time together.


If your child is struggling at school and you are thinking about getting a tutor, we can probably help. Click here to find out more details.



5 ways to, creatively support your child with extending their descriptive vocabulary.

Does your child struggle to make their writing interesting due to a lack of descriptive vocabulary making it all seem a bit flat?

If you have read any of my other blogs you will know that I am a firm believer that a child will be more responsive to learning if they are enjoying themselves.

In order to learn a child also needs to repeatedly try several different ways of doing things in order to create a range of memories and make it easier to recall the information (words) when needed. However, if these techniques are enjoyable, they will hopefully be more willing to participate…

These are some of my favourite methods of extending vocabulary that I use for tutoring.

  • Funny pictures

This may be a game you may be familiar with.

You start by folding the top of the paper over and drawing a face (a fairly unusual one) so that the neck sits at the fold of the paper.  You then hand the piece of paper to the other person so that they can’t see the face.

This person then draws the body starting at the fold at the top of the paper. They fold the paper over and hand it over to the other person so that what has been drawn previously can not be seen.

This person then draws a pair of legs and feet.

Open the piece of paper out so that the entire image is revealed.

You now need to try and think of as many words as you can to describe this picture alternatively write down the alphabet and try to think of a word starting with each letter to describe it.

(The more detail each section is given, the easier the task is).


Scrabble letters


This game is simple.

Take a bag of scrabble letters and divide them equally between the 2 of you. You then have to use all of these letters to create a variety of words. You can’t use the names of people; the words must be at least 3 letters long and spelt correctly.

It sounds very easy, which initially it is, however, as you are left with fewer and fewer letters it gets more and more challenging making you think hard about the words you know that could be used.


Describe the picture

This is similar to the first activity except this time the picture can be one from a magazine, from Google, a book or any other source that you have available. Again you need to think of as many words as you can to describe the picture.


A to Z of…

Think of a theme. Anything you like: countries, animals, colours, places, synonyms, antonyms, etc.(I often blend this with the; describe the picture and the funny pictures tasks so that you have to think of a word starting with every letter of the alphabet to describe the picture).

You now have to think of a word starting with every letter of the alphabet associated with that theme.


Extend the sentence

Finally this can be used with quite young children. You now have to think of as many descriptive words as possible to extend the sentence.

Start with a very simple sentence such as: “The cat sat on the mat.”

You may then choose to add brown resulting in: ”The brown cat sat on the mat”.

The next person may add to it and say: The tired brown cat sat on the mat”.

Keep going thinking of as many adjectives as you can that make the sentence more interesting.

Please don’t discard these ideas as being “too young” for your child.

I have played them with children aged from 5 to 16 and with adults. I suspect there is no upper limit to the age they are relevant to if you/your child are willing to adapt a range of creative resources into learning.

I hope these ideas have given you some food for thought for activities you can try with your own children. I would love to hear what you think in the comments below.

If you would like to sign up for the weekly free email offering ideas on how you can support your child in maths and English please drop me an email at:

If you think having a tutor is the way forward for you, please do get in touch and I will do my best to help.

Look forward to speaking to you soon


Warm wishes