Tuesday, 26 November 2013


Maths is arguably the school subject that has the worst reputation for being difficult and boring. Some adults look back at their maths lessons with dread and years later still feel that they are no good at the subject. Even those people  recognise  that  a  good  knowledge and an understanding of maths are essential in our everyday life and those declaring themselves as a ‘failure at maths’ will still be using maths skills, without realising that they are doing so. Maths is more than just a pen and paper activity; it has many practical applications to our lives and through practical activities a child’s understanding and knowledge can develop. Children and adults alike respond more positively and are more motivated when they realise the relevance of a subject to their lives. As with all learning, maths is best understood when we can explore the concepts through practical activities. No matter what your own experiences of maths are it is possible to support your child with their maths at home - and have fun doing so. The activities below are just a few examples.


Through cooking your child will have hands on experience of fractions, capacity and weight. (If you are following a recipe they will also be reading). When cooking, ask questions like; how much more do we need to make a litre? Can you estimate how much this weighs? Can you half fill this? Can you cut this into quarters? How many jugs, pans and containers can you find that hold a litre. And so on.



Use empty pockets and containers for your child to play shopkeeper. Encourage older children to create or reuse vouchers and coupons, asking them questions about which is the best buy and why? For example, is two for three better than 50 per cent off? If your child is shopping with you involve them in deciding which the best value is for money and explain your choice. Children enjoy using both play and real money. Perhaps you can use foreign coins left over from your holiday. When playing with coins ask your child how many ways they can make 25p or match different amounts of money.


Old or current newspapers are a good source of mathematical activities. Children can look for symmetry in letters; search out numbers that they can sequence

from one to 100 or another numerical pattern such as multiples of four.

Newspapers are also a source of a range of graphs, for example children can read and record weather temperatures using both bar and line graphs.



Give your child a budget to source and cater for a party (this could be a real or hypothetical activity). Ask them to consider how many people will be at the party? How many plates will they need? How many cupcakes should they provide? Children can use store catalogues to research and plan their party.



TV and timetables


Encourage your child to read TV schedules from newspapers and magazines, linking these to telling the time using analogue and digital clocks.  Ask your child out how long a programme lasts, how long there is before the programme starts, or to calculate how many hours and minutes they spend watching TV in a week. Older children can generate their own

TV schedules based either on their own favourite TV programmes - fantasy TV or a real activity in which they are given a set time in which they can watch TV in a week. This will also encourage your children to timetable which programmes to watch.


Encourage your child to use graphs to record how long they are doing an activity in a week. Ask them to consider the numbers they should use and how to label the axis. Graphs can be on paper but can also be 3D; children may use toy cars or even the bottle tops. Your child can also create a 3D pie chart. To do this you will need 24 equal strips of paper. Over a 24- hour period your child should record how many hours they spend sleeping, eating, at school, playing.  It your child was sleeping for eight hours they write sleeping on eight of the strips.  Once all 24 strips are labelled, join them together in a circle.




Learning the tables can be tricky and tedious for some children. Chanting or singing the tables and multiples of numbers can be a way to develop your child’s understanding. Your children or you can take turns to give the next number in the sequence whilst trying to keep in time with the rhythm set. If your child responds to this activity use it to introduce the prime numbers, square numbers, doubles and halves etc.



Many of the traditional games such as dominoes, darts and cards use a range of mathematical skills, encouraging children to group, sequence, analyse, and add. In addition, playing games is a good way to develop communication and social skills. Plus there are many websites, you-tube clips and CDs that can support your child and these can be found using search engines.


Whatever the activity, ask your child questions and encourage them to ask the questions for themselves and to explain their thinking.  Encourage them to look for patterns in their answers.  Support your child to understand that it is ok to make errors.  Try to avoid too many closed questions, i.e. questions that require only yes or no answers or those that have a definite answer, instead use open questions, where there are many possible solutions. ‘What if...?’ is a good example of an open question?   Many of us are kinesthetic learners responding more effectively to activity. The more relevant and more practical the activity the better our understanding and knowledge. Maths is all around us, maths is relevant and maths can be fun.

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