Maths is a tricky subject. Ask most parents and they will say that they are either good or bad at maths. There’s rarely an in-between and it’s an opinion that can be hugely damaging to children’s own views of their maths capabilities.
Schools are now starting to recognise this and some are starting to run workshops for parents to attend within the classroom. Their aim is to get the message across that there’s no such thing as a ‘maths brain’. Everyone can be good at maths, it’s just finding the right way to teach and engage them.
So how do you bring maths into everyday life for your child and make it fun? Here are some tips to help.
Such a simple thing, but when was the last time you paid with cash rather than tapping your card? Many little people don’t even realise that the card you tap is linked to a bank account. Some struggle with the concept of money and bank accounts and believe that cashback is free money from the shop.
As more and more people use plastic, even for the smallest purchases, money has become less of a focus in the curriculum as it’s so infrequently used. However, it’s a great way of teaching children how to add up, take away and to see the value of things.
By giving your child money to pay for items at the supermarket or a café, they get to see exactly what the coins are, work out their values, see the different ways of putting them together to make up the correct amount and get to see the worth of those little shiny coins.
Many items come in different sizes as well, so it’s a great way to look at measurement in terms of money. Explain to them that if I buy the large bottle of ketchup at £2.00 because it’s on special offer instead of two small bottles, which add up to the same amount of ketchup, I’d actually be saving money, as they’re £1.50 each.
It may seem silly, but little things like that help them to work out and use so many maths skills and they don’t even realise it. Weighing pick-and-mix is also a great way to work out how much something costs by weight and showing them how expensive it is to buy from a pick-and-mix compared to buying a bag of sweets that costs half as much, but contains twice as many sweets.
This is critical if you’re going to work with your child. When you were at school the maths terms and ways of doing things were totally different to today’s terminology and methods. Get your child to explain the processes they use for adding up, division, multiplication etc. Not only will you learn their way of doing things, but they’ll also learn by explaining it to you.
There’s nothing worse than missing a teaching moment because you ask them to subtract rather than take away. At that moment they feel that they don’t know enough and can be demoralised by not being able to follow your suggestion.
Allowing them to teach you works in two ways; one, it shows you as a parent how much they know and two, it shows them how clever they are and how well they understand the method.
Know your tables
As every maths teacher will tell you, knowing your tables is the key to all maths. But, as parents, if you don’t it can be hard to encourage your child to learn theirs.
If you’re less confident with your tables there’s a couple of great ways you can still encourage your kids, whilst building your own confidence.
CDs are great, play them in the car on the school run and sing along. You’ll be surprised how quickly they sink in and stick in your head. There’s also a great range of pull down tab books which allows you to hide and reveal the answers. A great way to turn learning into a game.
If you’re really finding maths a struggle, speak to your child’s teacher to see if they can offer more support in the classroom to your child, or if they can run a parent workshop to teach you the methods they use in class. Local colleges also run adult maths classes which can give your mind a welcome refresher.
If you find figures just don’t make sense to you, you may not be alone. Thousands of adults and children go undiagnosed with dyscalculia – like dyslexia, but for numbers. If the figures move around on the page, you’re reading or writing them backwards or you simply can’t concentrate on the figures, it’s well worth seeing if you can be tested for dyscalculia so you can be given the help you need in order to help your child.