Updated: Jan 13
Maths isn’t every child’s favourite subject at school and can sometimes be a little hard to teach. Some children demonstrate a natural interest in Maths, whilst others find it challenging. Nevertheless, encouraging children to engage in maths early on is essential because it provides them with a foundation for lifelong numeracy demands both in school and the wider world.
Thinking mathematically supports children to become better problem solvers and develop analytical and logical skills. Below are a few everyday examples that can be incorporated into the household to make maths more enjoyable and engaging for your child:
Start teaching Maths Young
Although there is no fixed timeline, you can start to teach your child maths concepts as young as the toddler stage. We use maths language with our children daily without realising. For example, comparison words such as big and little, identifying shapes, recognising colours and patterns are all mathematical concepts.
Another quick tip that can be implemented in the early years is asking children questions and answering their own questions with questions. Sounds a bit confusing, so let’s break it down. When your child asks a question, it is a great learning opportunity to develop their knowledge. Instead of a simple response which answers the question, foster a discussion instead. For example, a common question like “are we there yet?” can be met with “How long do you think it will take us to reach?” This will automatically challenge children to estimate and use logic and reason to answer their own question.
Manipulatives & Concrete Materials
Through the use of maths manipulatives, such as dice, play money and counting blocks, children can learn abstract concepts through hands-on experiences. When you help children visualise the concept and provide tactile materials for them to hold, they use all their senses to spark their curiosity and get a better understanding of the maths involved.
Concrete materials you can use at home can include:
- Straws to practice patterning and counting
- Dice for visual counting and arithmetic practice
- Matchsticks for teaching spatial awareness
- Deck of Cards for addition, subtraction and sequencing
Research has also demonstrated that board games are also a subtle way to promote mathematical skills in an entertaining and inclusive way! Here are a few board games that are fun but also involve critical thinking and mathematical concepts. You can consider adding these to your collection:
The impact of your perception of Maths
Parents’ attitude towards maths can highly influence how your child perceives the subject. Previously it was believed that students pick-up maths anxiety from teachers and the classroom environment. However, research from the University of Chicago demonstrated that parents' anxiety towards maths has a significant influence on their outlook of the subject. For example, parents who aren’t particularly fond of Maths may not respond well to questions and can avoid explaining the problem-solving procedure and steps to answer correctly. Avoid answering the question for them, instead, work through with your child how to solve the problem.
You can also try to familiarise yourself with the Australian National Curriculum for Mathematics. This will give you an idea of each developmental stage and what areas you can focus on to strengthen your child’s skills depending on their age.
Integrating Maths in daily routine
As summarised above, by using opportunities within the daily routine, it is less likely that maths will feel like a burden for children. Moreover, encouraging your child to informally problem solve outside the school context will make it less overwhelming and relatable. Instead of getting a paper and pencil and asking children to solve a question, encourage them to use ‘mental maths’ to calculate easily in their mind. Here are a few examples:
Cooking- following recipes with children encourages them to estimate and think about quantities.
Groceries: Ask children to add, subtract, multiply and divide at the grocery store. You can ask them the price of 4 cartons of milk or how many apples you will need for the week if everyone has one per day.
Money- Encouraging children to save up money, working out how much change you will receive at the shop and involving them in working out percentages decreases during sales.
To sum up, we can think of mathematics knowledge as a pyramid. The base and foundation need to be strong and sturdy for children to build their way up. When given opportunities, children are remarkable problem-solvers. We have only mentioned a few, but parents can use several other strategies to make maths more enjoyable and entertaining for children. Like everything else around us, your child’s skills, confidence, and enthusiasm about maths will improve with daily practice, support and reinforcement from you!