Mathematics helps to practise problem solving skills including thinking, analysing and reasoning. This is important because it helps children to solve problems and find solutions. Engaging in mathematics and becoming numerate allows children to apply mathematical ideas in the real world.
If your child is attending school, it is important to have an open dialogue with your child’s teacher/educator in order to be a partner in your child’s education. Our understanding of the way students learn and the strategies we are teaching and learning have changed to a degree from when the majority of today’s parents attended school.
Some questions to ask are:
- What topics/concepts are being taught this term?
- How is my child going with the concepts taught in class?
- Is my child answering maths facts questions quickly or needing time to think?
- Are my child’s reading and writing levels affecting their maths result?
- Does my child succeed with problems more when they use concrete materials?
- How can I support learning in the classroom?
- Does the school have any subscriptions to online learning platforms that my child can participate in? For example, Mathletics.
- If your child is not understanding a concept, how do you adjust the learning and teaching so they have a clearer understanding?
The classroom is no longer just “chalk and talk”. Students are working in collaborative teams, physically solving maths problems using concrete materials, engaging in games that have a mathematical element, learning through interactive maths apps and online platforms, building and constructing. The use of inquiry-based learning, gradual release teaching and open-ended questioning is also allowing students to find multiple ways to solve problems and realising that there can be more than one solution. Understanding the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of mathematics is key. Giving children purpose and meaning to their learning with real-world scenarios assists them to engage and take ownership of their learning.
Beyond the classroom, and especially at a young age, it is about providing an environment that children feel safe in and giving them confidence. It is ok to make mistakes as it is from these mistakes that we learn and can improve. With parents as first teachers there are a variety of ways to incorporate numeracy skills into your everyday lives. Numeracy skills are important to help develop thinking and reasoning skills. It also helps to teach children life skills such as budgeting, using money, telling the time, measuring and comparing, being able to follow and give directions, explain their thought process and justify their reasons.
Encouraging children of a young age to engage with numeracy can be as simple as:
- counting fingers, toes and toys
- recognising numbers and shapes on objects like clocks and phones or in books
- discussing how many pieces they want their sandwich cut into
- comparing things of different sizes – ‘big’, ‘small’ and ‘medium’
- grouping things together and talking about ‘same’ and ‘different’
- using words to describe where things are – ‘over’, ‘under’ and ‘next to’
Get your child involved in the kitchen and during meal times. This can be as simple as:
- measuring quantities for recipes and using different sizes of measuring tools (how many . cups of flour will make 2 cups of flour)
- working out cooking time
- changing the quantities of the recipe if you are to feed more or less people
- cutting and sharing food into different sized portions
- looking at bottles/jars/tins and discussing capacity of various containers
- setting the table for a particular number of people – this requires them to sort cutlery and crockery and determine the amount required
We spend a lot of time travelling in the car and this is the perfect time for numeracy to be discussed. You can:
- use car number plates to create the biggest or smallest number
- estimate the length of the journey
- count the number of particular coloured cars
- looking at road signs to discuss distances
- calculate the time it would take to travel based on speed and distance
- use maps and give directions
- compare journey distances using different routes
Shopping is another way to practise numeracy skills. This can be done by:
- identifying and discussing prices
- calculating change and different combinations of coins and notes
- guessing the value of the coin or note from its description
- weighing fruit and vegetables and working out the cost
- reading labels and discussing capacity, weight, shape, colour
- reading nutritional panels and discussing which contains less or more
- sugar, kilojoules, vitamins, salt
- calculating the cost of a trip to the movies
- reading catalogues and comparing prices of items at different stores
- working out which item gives the better value based on price and quantity
- counting items as they are scanned
- calculating the cost of items when applying a discount (eg. 25 per cent off)
Have fun with your child and make memories. Playing games and exploring the environment around us is a practical way to encourage numeracy skills.
You can engage in:
- board games such as Monopoly, Yahtzee or Snakes and Ladders
- counting games to practise times tables
- dot-to-dot activities to identify the order of numbers
- card games such as Uno
- sudoku puzzles
Take your children on a “maths walk”:
- compare the size of trees and plants
- have your child find a number of items
- ask them to locate an object that has symmetry
- count the petals on a flower
- discuss seasons
- measure the temperature – is it hotter or colder today and by how many degrees?
Structure mathematical problems around your child’s interests. For example, if their interest is trains then while playing with trains get them to:
- count them or order them in size
- plan a train journey and look at timetables and costs for your family to go on an adventure
Reading books that feature numbers and counting can introduce young children to numbers. Some books to consider:
- The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
- At the Beach I See by Kamsani Bin Salleh
- Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox
- 12 Days of Aussie Christmas by Colin Buchanan
Learning is a journey and we are all lifelong learners. Start as early as you possibly can to teach young children how to count, recognise numbers/shapes, measure, sort, match and share.
All children are different and so are their learning styles. This is why it is so important to provide a variety of experiences, strategies and hands-on activities to engage them and encourage them to decide how they learn best and what strategies they feel confident to use to solve problems. Hopefully, with this growing confidence in maths, your child’s love of numbers will grow too. After all, mathematics is something that they will use for life, regardless of what road they decide to travel down.
Rebecca Brown is a teacher at St Therese’s School, Bentley Park