Learning maths: connecting school and home
Your child has been learning about maths since birth. And when your child starts school, you have a big role in helping them continue to build, practise and improve maths and numeracy skills.
Here are ways that you can help your child learn maths concepts and skills at home:
- Ask about the maths topics your child is learning at school and talk about how maths can help with everyday activities. For example, understanding fractions can help you measure ingredients when cooking.
- Be available to help your child with maths revision. You could ask 1-2 questions about a topic your child already knows so that they feel encouraged when they answer correctly.
- Use objects, words, numbers, pictures, drawings or symbols to help your child understand maths problems. For example, you could cut an apple into pieces to help your child understand fractions. Or you could add up the items on your family shopping list.
- Encourage your child to show you how they worked out a maths problem. For example, you could ask your child, ‘How did you figure that out?’ or ‘Is there another way to figure this out?’ Or you could both do the maths problem and compare how you worked out the answer.
- Encourage your child to try different ways to solve maths problems, especially when they get the wrong answer. Learning maths isn’t just about finding the right answer – it’s also about learning how to solve problems.
Some primary schools have maths information sessions to show parents how their children are learning maths. If this doesn’t happen at your child’s school, you can ask the teacher how the children are learning maths in class. This can help you understand how to help your child at home. You might even be able to help in the classroom during maths sessions.
Maths skills and everyday numeracy
Numeracy is the ability to recognise and apply maths concepts in all areas of life – and there are endless ways you and your child can do this together.
For example, by bringing maths questions into activities that your child enjoys, you’re helping your child make sense of everyday situations and develop numeracy skills at the same time.
Here are examples of questions you could ask your child about everyday activities:
- How many oranges did we get in the bag?
- Can you pack your lunch box so that everything fits?
- How much milk can fit in this carton?
- Which way will we go when we get to the end of the street?
- What’s the fourth item on the shopping list?
- How much money do you need for the canteen at school?
- Do we have enough strawberries so that everyone can have 3 each?
And here are everyday activities involving maths that you can do with your child:
- In the car: look at number plates or road signs and ask your child to read the numbers, order them from highest to lowest, and add or multiply them.
- On public transport: look at maps, timetables and signs to work out how many minutes between each bus, how many stops to your destination, or how long it will take to get there.
- In your neighbourhood: talk about the shapes and patterns of tiles, bricks and stones on houses and driveways. Ask your child, ‘How are the brick patterns similar? How are they different?’
- At the playground or park: count out how many times a child throws a ball through a hoop or how many rungs there are on the monkey bars. Or ask your child, ‘How many steps will it take to get to that tree?’ Count and compare the number of steps it takes you and your child to reach the tree.
- At sports games: talk about how the scoring works and predict scores. For example, if you’re at a football match, ask your child what the team’s score will be if they get the next goal.
- At the shops or markets: look at price differences. Guess how many apples you get in a kilogram and then compare this with another fruit. Talk about which item is cheaper and why something is a good buy.
- In the kitchen: ask your child to measure out different ingredients. Ask your child how much of each ingredient will be enough for a family meal. Ask your child to sort ingredients into groups and explain to you how they’re grouped.
- At the beach: ask your child to estimate how many scoops it will take to fill a bucket of sand.
When you and your child apply maths knowledge and numeracy skills in everyday situations, it helps your child see and enjoy the value in using maths.
Concerns about school-age children’s maths skills and learning
If you’re concerned about your child’s maths skills, it might help to know that sometimes children need to practise the same maths concept many times and in different ways before it starts to make sense. This can take time.
But difficulties with maths can affect your child’s motivation and confidence and stop them from enjoying maths activities with their peers.
So if you notice that your child is becoming frustrated or is consistently making the same mistakes, it’s a good idea to talk with your child’s teacher. The teacher can tell you more about your child’s maths skills in class and let you know whether their learning is on track.
Your child’s teacher might suggest ways to support your child’s maths learning. For example, you and the teacher might talk about:
- activities and resources that you can try with your child at home
- classroom changes to suit your child’s learning needs – for example, seating your child closer to the front of the room
- an individual learning plan for your child
- additional school support – for example, time with a classroom support worker
- professional support – for example, an educational psychologist can assess whether your child’s maths skills are typical for their stage of development.
You can ask your child’s teacher for records of your child’s progress in class and a copy of the maths topics to be covered for the term. You might also be able to sit in class to watch how your child learns at school. All of this can help you keep track of your child’s maths learning.
Your feelings about maths influence how your child thinks about maths. Even if you’ve grown up thinking that you’re not very good at maths, you can show your child that you appreciate how maths helps you to do things that you enjoy – for example, cooking, sports or card games. This can help your child develop a positive attitude towards maths and feel more confident about maths.
How children learn maths at school
Mathematics is one of the key learning areas in the school curriculum. Children will probably spend a minimum of 5 hours each week formally learning mathematical concepts.
Maths today is about understanding numbers, patterns and problem-solving. It’s not just about memorising information.
Maths education in the primary school years focuses on:
- learning about number names, numerals and quantity
- linking numbers with quantity, size and order
- learning maths language
- developing thinking and reasoning skills
- recognising patterns and shapes
- using different units of measurement
- understanding probability and statistics.
In the classroom, your child will learn maths in many different ways – through watching the teacher work out maths problems, doing problems, talking about problems, drawing and writing, playing games, and using calculators, computers and other materials.
Your child will also develop numeracy at school by using maths skills in everyday school activities. For example, the concepts of first, second and third will come up when your child lines up for class.
As your child moves through primary school, teachers will give them opportunities to use maths knowledge and skills in other subject areas. For example, your child learns about volume when they measure ingredients for a recipe. This helps your child see that maths is connected to all parts of life. It also further encourages numeracy development.