Think of maths as learning another language. Your child needs to practise it in real life situations in order for them to remember it and for it to make sense. Here are some fun and simple ways you can help maximise your child’s mastery of maths from the comfort of your own home.
The term ‘mathematics’ can send shivers down some parents’ spines. Memories of boring maths lessons and a lack of confidence in maths often tends to bring out a ‘love it or hate it’ divide in people. However, like it or not, maths is in our everday lives and is essential to success in school and beyond. So if we can teach our children early to gain competency in numbers, shapes and counting, and avoid any mindblocks about maths being too hard or stereotypes that only boys are good at maths, then your child will be on the right track.
how to get started
Make maths hands on: the more your child can manipulate objects and physically see the effect of taking one bead from one pile and placing it into another, the better your child’s understanding will be. If they are learning about halves and quarters for example, get out a cake and cut it up, get out the play dough and cut it up, grab a newspaper and cut it up.
Learning basic facts
(addition to 5 = 1+4, 2+3, 0+5, addition to 10, multiplication, division):
- Start by using objects that the child can move around and see. For multiplication, use pasta, buttons, stickers or even cutlery, anything goes. Give your child 40 buttons. Tell them to put them into 4 equal piles. Ask them to count how many in each pile = 10. Write down 40 = 4 lots of 10 = 4×10. The more you can repeat this exercise, the quicker your child will get it.
- Sit around the table, ask your child how many legs are under the table without looking. 2 legs x 4 people = 8 legs. Sitting in traffic, you can see 5 cars in the queue. How many tyres on the road in the queue? 5 cars x 4 tyres each = 20 tyres.
Verbal questions: once your child has an understanding of the basic fact concept, take away the objects and introduce flash cards to help them answer them in less than 3 seconds. Once your child has become efficient with flash cards, take away the visual cues and use verbal cues (ask the questions) only.
Writing numbers: Writing maths numbers neatly is essential. A lot of mistakes can occur because a child has not written 10 properly and it looks like a 6, for example. Practice writing numbers neatly, to avoid confusion.
Vocabulary: children will never get a real feeling for maths nor learn more advanced concepts without an understanding of its vocabulary. Check that your children can define terms such as divide, multiply, subtract, percentage, etc. If not, have them use models and simple problems to show you they understand how the term is used.
Mental maths: trips in the car are a great time to practice doing mental maths (‘in their head’). You can also practice story problems: I went to the store and bought 10 apples, I ate 2 on the way home, 1 got dropped and then I decided to go back and buy 5 more. How many apples made it home?
Everyday maths: try to make maths part of your child’s everyday life. Every time you divide up the vegetables, cut up the pizza, set the table, sort out the socks, read recipes, double the ingredients while baking or go shopping, talk about what you are doing, show your child how it works, let them take a turn. These are all good, non-threatening learning situations.
Keep it fun: always try to make maths at home fun – don’t turn it into a test or a chore. Games, puzzles and jigsaws are a great way to improve math skills. Remember to praise for effort and don’t underestimate the importance of getting your child to explain their answers. Often an actual answer may be wrong but the workings behind it are perfect!
Remember to praise for effort and don’t underestimate the importance of getting your child to explain their answers.
By Jo Apperley