Ten Ways to Help Your Child Enjoy Mathematics

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By Charlotte Gater, Head of Curriculum at Explore Learning

If I got a penny for the number of times I have heard people say: “Oh I’m awful at maths”, “I hate numbers!” or: “I’m not a maths person” with a shrug or a smile, I would be a very rich person! 

It’s so commonplace amongst adults, but you would never hear someone in public admit: “I can’t read” or: “I’m terrible at writing” – and if they did, it certainly wouldn’t be said with a smile.

Maths, whether we love it or hate it, is a fundamental part of everyday life. It’s a global language. It underpins many essential life skills and yet can also be the key to many of life’s biggest questions. 

For something so indispensable we should definitely seek to master it, but more importantly have fun with it – from an early age. I believe that maths can and should be enjoyed by anyone and everyone. 

But how do you inspire your child to love and enjoy mathematics?

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  1. Firstly, drop your negativity on the subject – remember that your child is hugely influenced by you so if you are proudly claiming how bad you are at the subject they will do too! 
  2. Play games – There are so many games that you can play with your kids to improve logical thinking, like chess and draughts.  Maths related board games like Monopoly and Rummikub are also great fun and are a good way to spend some quality time together. Playing cards is so beneficial – I remember learning a lot of maths through cribbage. Or check out Ulti – a great card game that helps you master your tables (www.ulti-ltd.com).
  3. Mix shopping with learning – When you’re on your weekly shop, get the children involved by asking them to recite the prices and add up what’s in the trolley.  Playing the ‘guess how much the shopping comes to’ game is great fun, just hope that the lowest guess wins!
  4. Bake and learn – All cooking requires some element of maths. Baking cakes and cookies can easily become an educational game.  Test their maths skills by asking them to add up or adapt a recipe for different amounts of serving.  The great thing about this is that they get to eat the results at the end!
  5. Games and Apps – We’re lucky to live in a generation where our children are spoilt for choice with the amount of games and apps on offer to keep them entertained.  There are so many apps out there and Explore learning has a free Times Table app to help children while they’re on the move 
  6. Don’t pass on your insecurities – If you’re a parent who proudly claims to be bad at maths – STOP!  Even if it’s true that you could be a lot better, don’t shout about it.  By saying how much you dislike maths, you are passing this negativity down to your child who will see that it’s acceptable to not be great at maths. Encourage them by making it fun, and if they’re good at it, remind them that they should be proud of it!  Why not take some action in building your own maths confidence? There's a fabulous free website called the National Numeracy Challenge that helps you identify your weaknesses and suggests activities and tutorials that you can do to boost those areas. Go on, give it a go!
  7. Language – listen out for the ‘I can’t do it’ statements, arms folded, head in hands and respond with ‘You can’t do it YET’. I love using this and whilst some children need a further nudge, it can often be enough for getting them looking at the problem again.
  8. Step back – this is probably the hardest change to adopt. It’s so tempting to step in and coach the steps a child should take to solve the problem. Resist and step back. There is not one correct method of approach. The reward comes from the personal journey of discovery and yours from watching it unfold.
  9. You’ve found something that doesn’t work – brilliant! – yes we want to celebrate the mistakes. Explain: 'That’s been a really helpful discovery, that’s helped us avoid a pitfall’. It isn’t a race – the best problems are those that create more and more questions. What if we changed this or that? There’s no need to rush to an end point and close the problem. Equally it’s important to allow enough time to feel satisfied and understand.
  10. Enter competitions – Each year Explore Learning, together with NRICH at the University of Cambridge, organises the National Young Mathematicians’ Awards which is the only school team maths competition in the UK.  Schools enter a team of four year 5 or 6 pupils where they compete against other schools in their areas in a fabulous low threshold – high ceiling activity.  There are three rounds with five of the best teams competing in the grand final at the University of Cambridge in December.

Let us know on Facebook how you encourage your child to develop a love of maths.