Developing maths skills: Primary school
As your child settles into primary school, they’ll be coming across lots of new maths vocabulary and learning. Working individually, as a class and in groups, they’ll be investigating, counting, playing number games and using everyday objects to help them solve problems and do simple calculations. They’ll be encouraged to talk about their methods for solving problems and presenting their results. You can easily practice the maths your child is doing at school when you’re at home so don’t worry about taking things more slowly with your child.
Here are some ideas of things you can do at home:
Use real life experiences such as games, everyday objects, songs, rhymes and stories and visual information like pictures and diagrams. Lots of the activities and games you’ve been playing your child will continue to enjoy. The time you spend helping your child to understand and feel confident with maths, will be key to keeping them engaged and positive.
Board games can help children to develop a wide range of maths skills while having fun. Snakes and Ladders is a good game to start with for counting and recognising the number patterns on a dice.
Playing card games with a standard pack of playing cards can help teach children new strategies for using mathematical information, categorising patterns, sequencing and sorting to develop maths skills and thinking. You could start with Snap and Pairs and move onto Pontoon or Rummy. Find out more about how playing cards helps with maths on The School Run website.
How to help your child with:
Counting and numbers: Put numbers, words and symbols, in order – how high can you go? Look at odd and even numbers on houses when you’re out and about. Pay attention to number patterns, for example, on dice and dominoes.
Adding and subtracting: Use toys, objects and your fingers and see what happens when you add more or take away. Use language such ‘one more’, ‘less’, ‘how may altogether’ or ‘if we subtract or takeaway one how many will be left?’. Begin to explore which numbers added together make 10 using cards or dominoes.
Multiplication: Practice counting in twos, threes and fives when you’re in the car or walking to school. Talk about adding and multiplying. You can use small objects in bowls to help your child understand that 2 2 2 is the same as three groups of two or 3x2.
Division: Play lots of games sharing out sweets or fruit between toys or family members so it’s fair or ‘equal’. Use the words ‘share’ and ‘divide’ together. Seeing and doing will help your child to practically understand that division is the same as ‘grouping’ or ‘sharing’. For example, 9 ÷ 3 is nine divided into three equal groups or shared between three objects or people. As they get better at doing this you can make the task more difficult, for example, sharing out 16 raisins between four people or asking how many groups of four can be made with 12 raisins.
Fractions: Pizza, cake and fruit are great opportunities to talk about different parts of a whole object. Use the words ‘half’, ‘third’ and ‘quarter’ when you divide things into two, three and four.
Shape: Identify different shapes when going on walks or out shopping and make collections of 2D and 3D objects at home. Explore where you find different shapes and how they’re used every day. Spot patterns in nature and use objects you find to create your own.
Measurement: Your child can be introduced to quantities and weights in everyday activities. For example, in cooking where ingredients can be weighed out, or shopping where fruit and vegetables can be put on scales at the supermarket. Shopping is also a good way to introduce your child to volume. For example, encourage them to compare a litre container of milk with two-litre and four-litre containers. If you’re filling up the car with petrol you can talk about how many litres it takes to fill the car. Use rulers, measuring tapes and smart watches to measure distances at home and when you’re out and about.
Time: This is an abstract concept, which means it can’t be seen or shown easily and to describe and understand abstract concepts children need to use language. Use lots of words to describe time in everyday routines such as ‘now’, ‘then’, ‘later’, ‘soon’, ‘tomorrow’, ‘yesterday’, ‘before’, ‘after’, ‘next week’, ‘last week’, ‘in a month’ or ‘last year’. Calendars and other visual planners are a great way to show the passing of time and talk about it. They can also help your child learn the days of the week, the seasons and the months of year in the right order.
In order to tell the time children need to understand how we divide time up into hours, minutes and seconds. They also need to be able to work with numbers up to 60, understand a clock face, how time can be recorded digitally and understand the many ways we describe the time. Talk about the time and give your child opportunities to play with and explore clock faces, stop watches, timers and see all the different ways time is recorded.
Money: Using real money in play activities like setting up a restaurant or vet’s is a great way of familiarising children with money. Help your child to buy things like an ice cream and use words such as ‘amount’, ‘price’ and ‘change’. Giving children small amounts of money of their own which they can count and spend helps them understand value.
Statistics: Data handling at primary school means gathering and recording information and then presenting it in a way that’s meaningful to others. Ask your child to find out which fruits different family members prefer, for example apples or pears, so you know which ones to buy. Find out how to record the information in different ways on The School Run's website.
Problem solving and reasoning: Children love challenges. You can set your child simple, practical problems to solve using objects, timers, containers and real life situations. For example, ‘Who can do the most many star jumps in one minute?’ Ask who they think will be able to do the most, identify what object they’ll need to measure time and how can they could present the results.
Word problems: Maths problems which involve lots of language and several steps, can be difficult for deaf children. This is because they might struggle to remember and process and order all the information or not understand some of the vocabulary. Use objects and toys to help solve word problems.
An example of a word problem could be:
A class of 10 children each have five pencils in their pencil cases. How many pencils are there in total?
Encourage children to draw 10 children or use 10 bowls and then place five pencils in each bowl.