Help your child love maths for life

Some children have a natural talent for numbers, while others tilt towards subjects like art. But whether your child is a future data scientist or a musician in the making, maths is all around us.

Good numeracy is vital, but many British parents are quick to confess that they don’t enjoy maths, or struggle with it. In fact, according to independent charity National Numeracy, one in four people in the UK are put off from applying for a job if it involves numbers.

What is maths?

A boy draws an algebraic mathematical graph on a chalkboard

When you boil it down, maths is the study of patterns, structures, and the relationship between quantity, shape and arrangement. It’s part of everything we do from buying a toy to designing a skyscraper. From early on, children are naturally enthusiastic about their world and are eager to learn basic concepts like splitting things in equal parts, understanding distances and measurements, and recognising shapes and patterns through play. Children can see the world in numbers as much as they can see the world in colour.

These core concepts are what is known as emergent numeracy and lay the foundation for maths long before the formal education process starts at school.

How you can help

A girl and a boy play with two large die while sitting on a mat that has numbers from one to 100
Photo – Hip Hoppin’ Hundred Mat™ Hundreds Activity Mat

As a parent, you hold the biggest sway over whether your child develops a love for maths and feels confident in with the concepts. Experts including the UK Department for Education agree that your attitude to learning dramatically shapes how your child regards education, and continues to have an impact long after they finish school.

“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,” explains Dr Rosemary Russell, parental maths coach and author of two books on the subject.

To get you started, let’s look at some ways you can encourage your child to love maths, while you grow in confidence, too:

• Talk about maths positively. Avoid saying things like “I wasn’t good at maths” or “I don’t get numbers.” In a guest post on Mumsnet, National Numeracy trustee, Wendy Jones explained:  “Maths is not a ‘can’ or ‘can’t do’ subject. Everyone can learn to get better at it.”

• Point out maths in everyday life. This could be singing a counting song with your toddler or asking your pre-schooler to help set the table by fetching four spoons. An older child may enjoy reading and adding up prices on the supermarket shelves using a calculator or doing a ‘stock take’ of the grocery cupboard. Check out our ideas on how to bring maths to life.

• When it comes to formal maths education and helping with home learning, be sensitive when your child gets something wrong, explains Dr Russell. Avoid saying “You’ve got that wrong. This is how you do it.” Rather try “Tell me, how you got to that answer.” As they explain you’ll be able to spot where they went off course.

• On our blog, this year 3 maths teacher had some helpful advice on asking your child’s teacher for guidance to ensure you’re teaching the same methods.

• It’s never too late to improve your own maths. National Numeracy runs an online course to help adults boost their numeracy skills. When you feel more confident, it’ll be easier to inspire your little learner to love numbers.

At Learning Resources, numbers make us tick. We love thinking of new ways to help kids love maths. Check out our selection of home and classroom maths resources and be inspired. Mums and Dads, you’ve got this sorted!

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