I'm not really sure that maths can be described as “fun” but it should be; after all was fun in the beginning! From being a toddler you were your child's first maths teacher. Counting, singing songs and making things out of cardboard all have their part to play in encouraging your child to explore the magical world of numbers.
Once your child starts school it's important to continue to support their growing understanding of mathematics. So if maths is not your thing, don't say so. Instead, have fun finding out together.
Children do better with their school work when mum or dad is involved. From early years children learn by copying an adult – not just in action but also in words. If dad is enthusiastic about what happened in a lesson the child is much more likely to aim to complete homework to a high standard. Sitting with your son or daughter and having some ‘quality time' are the best investment you can make in your child's learning.
Ask a question that makes them think
Many children will want to find the fastest way to complete their homework and may not appreciate the lessons to be learned. Ask open questions such as “Why do you think you've been asked to do it that way?” or “What else can you try?” Questions such as these might encourage your child to think through the problem a little more. Sometimes, children can't see the point of maths. But without mathematics, we wouldn't have cars or computers, or countless other things we all take for granted. So tell your children stories about history's great engineers – from the pyramid-builders of Egypt, to the teams who build Formula 1 Cars. They'll soon get the message that maths makes the world go round. (For inspiration visit BIG Questions).
Help them to see the problem
Sometimes a child might find it difficult to understand a maths problem that is presented using words. They are usually the type that will begin “Johnny wanted to get a bus from ….” or “There are 1000ml in 1L” and the problems can be a little difficult to visualise. It might be helpful to explain using cartoon drawings or real life examples. Spending a few minutes with a measuring jug full of water will really enable the student to appreciate relative quantities – would they prefer to get splashed with 50ml or 500ml?! Likewise a quick pencil drawing can bring words to life.
Make maths part of life
Children develop a love of books if parents read to them regularly, and the same principle applies to maths. Play maths puzzles every day. See if your child can spot number patterns in the prices when you're doing the supermarket shop. On a car journey, who can be the first to find a number plate that adds up to 15?
Don't underestimate the power of estimation
This is an excellent skill and is probably used 90% of the time when you're an adult. As maths skills improve there is a real benefit in asking “what do you think the answer will be?” This will encourage the student to think through the problem, discard inappropriate answers and become more confident. Good estimation skill will also improve accuracy as the child will begin to trust their own judgment.
Finally don't be concerned about contacting your child's teachers to discuss progress and expectations. Many teachers welcome the opportunity to speak to parents and value the support given at home.
Do you have any hints or tips?