Successful learning, understanding and performing mathematics relies on a range of factors, including motivation, language ability, attention, attitudes, IQ and social and educational experiences.
Due to the complex nature of maths, and the variety of factors involved, kids learn at different paces and in different ways. Some kids require hands-on experiences, some require opportunity to practice drills repeatedly, some need step-by-step break downs, whereas some just get it! Furthermore, some kids will struggle more than others, and could be experiencing a specific learning difficulty with mathematics called Dyscalculia.
Studies have shown children who do not have opportunities to practise mathematical skills, and have not mastered foundational mathematical ideas prior to commencing schooling, may be disadvantaged when it comes to formal schooling. Studies have also shown introducing kids to numeracy in early childhood is important for overall academic achievement.
So it’s important parents and caregivers are introducing maths at home to help kids develop ‘number sense’.
Number sense refers to an intuitive grasp of numbers, i.e. a child’s fluidity and flexibility with numbers, understanding how numbers relate to one another, the ability to perform simple mental math, use numbers to solve problems, and spot unreasonable answers.
Here are some tips for at home:
- Play maths activities and games!
Maths games make the process fun and motivating, it helps kids develop number sense and get involved without the threat of grades or embarrassment they may experience in a formal classroom environment. They also increase a child’s confidence in maths and are able to transfer information learned through the games into the classroom. Check out our range here
- Introduce maths in everyday life!
Practising maths skills in context makes a child’s learning more relevant – and provides an opportunity to deepen their understanding and enhance their number sense. These activities are helpful for home:
- With your child, take a handful of marbles, paper clips, pencils – anything that can produce ‘a bunch of’. Ask your child to guess and write down an estimate of how many are in the bunch, then count to confirm. Counting while using their hands is perfect for kids who learn better with tactile validation.
- For older children, open your wallet, separate coins and notes into their denominations and together add up the total amount of money
- Collect a group of toys or items in their room and line them up from lightest to heaviest – then get out scales and weigh them to confirm their estimations.
- Don’t worry if Maths isn’t your strong suit!
A study of first and second grade children found those with maths-anxious parents tended to learn less maths and were more likely to have maths anxiety themselves –when their parents provided were involved frequently in helping with maths homework.
Though parents had great intentions, conveying their own attitudes towards maths can be detrimental to the child. If an individual experiences maths-anxiety, their performance is affected as their working memory is consumed with worry and anxiety – and they don’t have enough left to do the actual maths. So, how can maths-anxious parents help their children at maths? Dr. Cooper suggests that parents of young children create a maths-positive environment by modelling “maths behaviour.” The game plan: Tell your child, “‘You have your maths homework, and I have mine,'” he said, and show them whenever you “count your change, calculate when dinner will be ready, look at prices in a grocery store.
Stearns, M. (2013). LEARNING MATH: Why kids get frustrated and what parents can do: Ideas to share with parents. The Education Digest, 78(5), 38.