“I want to help my child with Maths but I don’t know how.” Sound familiar? Were you taught differently and not sure how today’s methods work? Maybe you didn’t like Maths and felt you couldn’t do it but you don’t want your child to be the same. Having worked as a UK primary school teacher for many years, and now as a private tutor, this is one of the most common concerns raised.
Primary maths has changed, almost beyond recognition over the last 20 years. There has been a renewed focus on understanding Maths rather than just rote learning traditional methods. In the primary classroom, a wide variety of manipulatives are being used to help children develop their understanding and support their explanations. For parents, who were not taught this way, this can seem very daunting, especially when their children seem to know more than them! So, what can you do?
Below are my top 3 ways to help your children with maths.
All children love games – I play games with the children I tutor on a regular basis. The majority of games have some element of Maths included in them – from a simple game of Snakes and Ladders that involves children counting on from different squares to Monopoly, where money is used for renting and buying property. For a young child, just starting out in their education, simple games like Snakes and Ladders are appealing.
1. Play games – adapt the rules to be maths based
One of the games that I am currently using in my tuition sessions is Skyjo. This is a fun game that all my tutees (young and older) really enjoy playing. It is adaptable to the ability of your child – it can be as simple as focussing on finding the total of all the cards, discussing the different ways to total them, including finding groups of cards with number bonds to 10. With older children, we have discussed the probability of certain cards coming up and how we can use this to try and win the game.
Playing games like these are far more motivating for your child than answering 20 questions on a worksheet. All of my tutees enjoy playing games as they develop confidence with maths, become more relaxed and start to ‘like’ and ‘enjoy’ Maths (again).
2. Use money to practise maths
All children love playing with money. They enjoy counting it, sorting it and spending it! When you are shopping at the supermarket, perhaps talk with your children about adding up the basket and estimating the total when you get to the checkout. How close is their estimate? What decisions did they make? How accurate were they trying to be? This is a great opportunity for so many discussions about different strategies you both use.
Another very popular activity with my tutees is to choose different objects and a give it a price. On a basic level, your child can work out the coins needed to pay for the object.
Children are very motivated when they are using toys that they really love. On a grander scale, perhaps your child could make something, working out how much it has cost, and then sell it at a profit. It is never too early to train children in financial literacy!
3. Create maths quizzes
A quiz naturally has an element of fun about it whereas a test or worksheet does not. Children love quizzes but even more than that, they love setting quizzes for their friends and parents. My tutees really enjoy creating a quiz to give to their parents. It is an excellent opportunity for your child to demonstrate what they know and are able to do, as they create the questions and the size of the numbers involved.
Many of my students really push themselves to make ‘hard’ questions with bigger numbers and it is so fantastic to see! They also have to create a set of answers so that they can mark the answers (pretending to be the teacher is very popular), meaning it is not a case of making the questions and leaving you to do the hard work!
Do you have any other ways that you and your child practise Maths that you would like to share? I am always interested in hearing how people adapt games, money and quizzes so please share your ideas with me.
Catherine Rooke is a private teacher, living in Colliers Wood, offering Maths and English tuition both face to face and also online.