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"Nobody told me that before!"

17 Dec 2015

By Dr Rosemary Russell, an expert in Parental Engagement with Mathematics.

‘Nobody told me that before!’ exclaimed the young mum, excited and happy, during one of the sessions of the Maths for Parents course I was running.

What had she just learnt to cause that response? She had just learnt that by singing nursery rhymes and playing counting games whilst bathing her little 5-month daughter - in other words, doing the things she was already doing with her daughter – she was actually helping her daughter with maths.

She was laying the foundations that maths is part of everyday life, not to be feared and this really encouraged the mum as she herself had a very negative attitude to the subject before the course started.

It seems so simple, but many parents are unaware of the very simple, everyday activities they can do to help their child with maths.

The fact is many of us are making mathematical decisions as part of our daily life without even realising it!

This is one of the aspects I cover in my 4-week Maths for Parents course.

I usually start off that session by using a quote from my first book, ‘You can get your child to do maths without sitting them down to do reams and reams of exercises’, (Maths for Parents Piccadilly Press) and then give some examples of activities and games parents are probably already doing which are actually mathematical too, and explain how they are helping with maths.

For example, when setting the table, ask your child to fetch four spoons ‘just like this one’. What’s the maths involved with this? Here your child is counting out four spoons and the ability to recognise and match items is a very important mathematical skill. Playing card games like Snap, or Matching Pairs is excellent practice for this too.

Another example, when playing at launching a rocket, start the countdown … and let them complete it! 10, 9, 8, …. The ability to count up and down is important.

Playing boules at the beach, how do you decide who has won? Understanding the comparatives such as nearest and furthest, shortest and tallest, heaviest and lightest are very important mathematical concepts that parents can help their child with through conversations using everyday situations.

And of course, singing Nursery Rhymes, ‘One, two buckle my shoe…’

Starting off like this, I encourage parents to start thinking of their own examples and usually parents then begin to recognise the things they are already doing to help, and that causes them to feel encouraged and enthused, just like the mother I mentioned!

I discuss some more activities on my website, in my books, Help Your Child With Numeracy, and Maths for Parents. See also the activities on the National Numeracy Parent Toolkit.

Have fun with making maths part of your everyday life with your child. Remember...

If parents engage with their children's education, the attainment of the child will increase by 15% no matter what the social background of the family. Professor Charles Deforges