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Helping your deaf child with maths

We use maths every day with our children and families play a key role in helping maths skills develop. For children to be good at maths, they need to feel confident about giving it a go. Praising your child for their effort will increase their confidence and make them want to learn more. Your child has the same ability to develop maths skills as any other child.

Children don’t learn maths skills separately from other skills, maths learning is linked to language, reading and writing and knowledge of the world. Children who have good maths skills are explorers, problem solvers and thinkers.

Numeracy is the ability to practically use maths concepts in all areas of life. It involves many skills including understanding numbers, counting, solving number problems, measuring and sorting.

Everyone needs numeracy and maths skills in life to do things like:

  • solve every day problems
  • make sense of information
  • understand patterns and sequence events
  • make choices.

Don’t worry about not knowing how to do things the same way as your child’s teacher. Ask your child or their school to explain what they’re learning about and how they do it. Encourage your child to talk about how they might solve the problem and what they think the answer might be and why, before working it out.

The National Curriculums for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have lots of useful information, maths language and examples of maths activities.

You can find out more about helping your child with maths at different stage on the following pages: 


  • Maths is developmental and early maths skills are the foundation for later maths development. Children need to spend time learning, understanding and practising the basics before they can move onto the next stage. Different skills will develop at different times depending on your child’s age and understanding.
  • Children need language to do maths. Language allows for children to think about maths and communicate their thoughts. Introduce maths vocabulary right from the start in every day conversations, when playing and through games, stories, books and songs. Encourage your child to use maths language to explain what they’re doing, or what they think the answer to a maths problem might be. Support them to solve simple word problems using open questions like, “how much do you think we will need”, or “how shall we work this out” or “what do you think will happen if we…?”.
  • Children need lots of skills to be able to do maths including being able to plan for, and solve problems. Set simple challenges at home and out and about and encourage your child to tell you what they did and how they did it.
  • Use real objects every day to help your child understand new maths learning. Count and sort objects around the house or use fingers and toes to work out simple addition and subtraction. You can also teach children how to use number lines and squares and support them to draw or write down their thinking when solving more complex problems.
  • Maths happens all around us everyday. Encourage your child to be interested and involved in everyday maths in and around the home and in their world. The more maths they do the more skills they’ll develop. Use everyday objects like weighing scales, kitchen timers, clocks, containers and tools with them. Hep them to learn about money, timetables and plan journeys and events and involve them in simple problem solving activities.

Using and understanding the correct maths language is crucial for thinking, learning and communicating about maths. Children will build knowledge through remembering information that they hear and see, but maths language will help them to communicate, reason, explain and explore what they know and want they want to know.

Deaf children may need extra help with maths vocabulary because:

  • they have less opportunities to overhear maths language being used around them in everyday contexts and situations. The more often you use maths vocabulary in everyday conversations and to solve problems, the more maths words they’ll know.
  • some words used in maths have different meanings when used in everyday English, for example: ‘face’, ‘take away’, ‘match’, ‘odd’, ‘lots of’ and ‘product’. Ask your child what they think a word means first, then focus on explaining the different meaning in maths. Use specific mathematical vocabulary, such as ‘divide’ alongside ‘share’ as children will need something to ‘hang’ the new word on.
  • many words used in mathematics are terms specific to the subject area and not used in every day conversations for example: ‘multiple’, ‘factor’, ‘trapezium’ and ‘denominator’. Ask your child’s teacher to send you any new maths vocabulary that they’re using and help your child remember it through diagrams, definitions and real life experiences.

There are lots of easy-to-understand maths definitions on The School Run and Scottish Sensory Centre websites.

Executive function skills play a big role in learning maths successfully. They help children apply the knowledge they already have and build on it to gain new maths skills.

  • Working memory: This is the child’s ability to hold information in their mind and then use it, for example, to help answer a question.
  • Cognitive flexibility (also known as flexible thinking): This is the ability to think about something in more than one way.
  • Self-regulation (includes self-control): This is the ability to ignore distractions and resist temptation and manage emotions

If your child is struggling with executive function skills, they may also struggle with:

  • Reflection: Reflection is a process that helps us to stop and think before we respond to something. This skill is key for solving problems. The more children practice reflection, the better they get at it.
  • Processing speed: Children need to go through the reflection process quickly to solve problems in time. That’s where processing speed comes in. Deaf children may find it more difficult to work through spoken information quickly.

We use executive functioning skills all the time and they can improve over time and with practice.

Here are some ideas to help improve these skills:

  • Encourage your child to tell you what they think they’re being asked. Use simple techniques like highlighting key information and make sure they understand all the vocabulary.
  • Ask them what learning or knowledge they could use to help them. Remind them of events, objects and experiences.
  • Help them to plan for solving the problem. Real objects and visual information are really helpful.
  • Discuss what kind of answer would be sensible. This will help them to reflect on what would expect to find out.
  • Evaluate how it went and what could have been done differently

Homework supports your child's learning at school, and is a great way for them to develop life skills, such as time management and self-discipline. However, it can be stressful because teaching methods today are often very different. Whatever your maths skills, you can still help your child with homework.

Here are some ideas for how you can help your child with homework:

  • If you don't know something, that's OK. Try and work out the problem together.
  • Set a time to do homework and agree it with your child. Many deaf children come home from school tired but are ready to go again after a short break.
  • Find a quiet place for your child to work and remove any distractions if possible.
  • With younger children, you could set yourself ‘adult homework’ time. Do 'homework' yourself, for example, write a shopping list or check your phone bill. This will show them that you’re using the skills they're learning.
  • Rephrase questions using things that your child’s interested in.
  • If they're doing well, praise them for their effort. This helps children learn that their abilities can develop as long as they work hard.
  • When they get stuck, ask them to explain what they've done so far and what they're finding hard. Try and help them work out where they've gone wrong.
  • If they are finding the homework too hard speak to their teacher.
  • With older children, still show interest but let them be more independent and figure out problems for themselves.
  • Explain that with maths there’s often more than one way to a solve problem. If you want to learn more about current teaching methods, you can find out more
  • Ask your child to explain their understanding - get them to teach you.

Children are tested on their maths skills at different times throughout primary school. Children should not feel anxious or pressured and all testing and assessment must take into account the needs of your child, for example, their communication and learning needs. Your child’s school should keep you informed about when and how these tests will be administered. If you have concerns contact the school and ask them what they will do to support your child. Find out more about test and assessments

There are lots of maths cartoons, programmes and games which children can watch and play to help them practice maths skills. Many young children enjoy watching and playing the same thing over and over again and this can help them feel confident and secure about maths. For younger children, it’s particularly helpful if you sit with your child when they’re watching a television programme or playing a game or app so that you can interact with them and support their learning.

It’s also important to check that any programmes, games or apps are accessible for your child including whether they have subtitles, or British Sign Language (BSL) interpretation. Ask your child’s audiologist or Teacher of the Deaf how your child can make best use of their hearing technology when watching television or playing games and apps.

There are lots of great websites which can help you and your child with the school maths curriculum and have lots of ideas for activities and games, including BBC Bitesize and The School Run.