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Maths is good for you!

Research has shown that:

  • Numeracy exercises are very good for the brain
  • In the long term, it helps employment prospects
  • Maths qualifications can lead to more earning power

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How this website will help

This site will explain some of the milestones children make between the ages of 3-and-11-years-old.

It is not a text book! It will:

  • Secure your own knowledge
  • Show you what schools are trying to do
  • Give you ideas of how to help
  • Lead you to more resources

The most important help - providing the right environment

One of the things that are true at any stage in a child’s education is that, as a parent, your love, care and support has possibly the biggest positive influence on your child’s achievement. You can help in this way even if you think (probably wrongly) that you are ‘rubbish’ at maths. Make sure they have a good diet, which includes fruit and vegetables, and are getting enough sleep. Let them enjoy a mixture of social activities. Have a laugh with them. Organise trips out like going swimming, visiting places of interest or going to the theatre. Having this balance is important, especially during exam times when they are older.

Everyday maths

Making maths part of everyday life is one of the best ways for children to feel confident in using and working with numbers and shapes. For example, look out for sequences in patterns on curtains, fabrics and wallpapers. Being able to predict when the pattern next occurs helps mathematical thinking. Practise matching objects and getting over the concept ‘same as’: Please fetch me a spoon the same as this. Use words which communicate comparisons: Which is the tallest / shortest tree?

For older children, shopping gives many opportunities for practising numeracy skills. Look out for offers: Buy two get the third free. Work out with them how much each item costs, and how much has been saved.

Start from where they are

Be sensitive when a child gets something wrong. Don’t just say, “You’ve got that wrong, this is how you do it.” Instead, start from where they’re at and ask them, “Tell me, how did you get that answer?” As they discuss things with you, areas of misunderstanding and so on will become clear. Then show them where they went wrong, and help them to correct the mistake. Often, they have misunderstood or half-learnt a procedure, or they do not understand certain mathematical words or symbols (see the glossary). It could be that they have just misread the question!

Lots of ways to learn

There is no single, exclusively correct learning style in maths. We learn things in a variety of ways, so help children to learn by using two or more of their senses, e.g. hearing as well as seeing. Children can make use of a multi-sensory approach to learning multiplication facts (tables):

  • Write out tables
  • Draw arrays or groups of objects
  • Learn tables to a rhythm or rap
  • Cover the tables over
  • Write down the multiplication facts
  • Check what you have written

Some of the methods used to teach the basics such as addition, subtraction, multiplication and division may come as a surprise. Hopefully this book will help you to recognise what is going on, and the thinking behind it, so you can work alongside school, and not confuse your child. If you are unsure, do ask the teacher.

Keep in touch with the teacher, and don’t be afraid to discuss any concerns you may have. Remember to pass on any good news too!

Praise and encouragement – building self-esteem

It is tremendously important to praise what is right, and not focus only on mistakes. If there has been a lot of failure at maths, a child’s self-esteem can be brought down and this does not help them to learn. So, encourage them to ask questions if they don’t understand, and reassure them that no question is too simple to ask. They may need another type of explanation, so be ready to give that. Remind them that other people probably have the same problem, but don’t have the courage to ask. If they get stuck, backtrack to the point where they did understand, and start from there. Build self-esteem by encouraging them that these are quite common experiences. The key is to celebrate what is right!

Great expectations – but not too great!

Good maths is built on solid foundations, and these take time to settle. It is very important to develop mental arithmetic skills, even though calculators do exist. Be patient. Be aware that there is a huge gap between the very important early stages of informal, mental arithmetic and the formal, written methods that adults expect to see. Don’t try to jump too quickly! Using practice books can be helpful, as long as sessions are not too long and the tasks are appropriate for the child’s age.

Remember that children learn at different rates.