3 home maths activities to help your family through self-isolation

This is part 3 of a series of blogs on home learning. Part 1, Part 2.

We’re all spending so much more time in our homes, so it’s worth reminding ourselves that maths can be found everywhere, even in our daily household routines. There are so many opportunities to engage your child with mathematical thinking.

It’s amazing how, with a bit of thought, we can turn seemingly mundane chores into fun-filled routines. So, here are three mathematical activities we’ve come up with to help us through these weeks of self-isolation.


1. 20-second maths drills

We all know the new drill when it comes to hand washing: 20 seconds, not a moment less. It’s got us all thinking: how can we occupy ourselves for 20 whole seconds? Sing Happy Birthday twice, we’re told, or any of the other song snippets that have cropped up on social media.

How about 20 seconds to brush up on your maths skills? You might encourage your child to recite their times tables, number bonds, names of polygons or any other list of useful facts. If they are feeling really creative, perhaps they can come up with their own maths-themed tune.

And here’s a really interesting challenge: can your child accurately measure 20 seconds in their head? Apparently, children are better at this than adults – time yourselves to find out!


2. How long is 2 metres?

The public has been advised to stay 2 metres apart from one another when out and about to avoid the spread of virus droplets. But how long is 2 metres? It’s not the easiest thing to intuit but one way to estimate this distance, if you’re an adult, is to stretch your arms out wide – the distance between the fingertips of both outstretched hands is apparently close to 2 metres.

Obviously this depends on how big your arms actually are but it’s something to try with your child – just have them get the tape measurer (or ruler) out and measure for themselves. You might find you have unusually short or long arms!

It can also help to convert the measurement to imperial units: 2 metres is 6 feet 7 inches, which we know is the height of a very tall person.

What else might measure up to 2 metres? Your bed or doorway are good candidates.

With these rules of thumb at hand, your child will be well placed to maintain a safe distance from others.


3. How many biscuits?

We’re all a bit concerned about the possibility of food shortages and we are rightly being encouraged to shop within our means. We can use simple arithmetic to make responsible choices about how many items to stock up on at home.

Perhaps your family is keen on a certain brand of biscuits. You can sit down together and discuss how many you each think you’ll get through in the next week – that gives you a total. You can then divide this total by the size of each pack to get a reliable estimate of how many packs are needed.

For example, let’s say you all fancy some Jimmy Dadgers: Mum gets through 2 a day, Dad eats 2, little Sarah 1 and greedy baby Derek a mammoth 3. That’s a total of 8 per day, which is 8×7=56 per week. Jimmy Dadgers come in packs of 12 so you will need 5 packs to get through the week (you’ll even have a few left over for when baby Derek gets hungry). Make sure you don’t buy too many more because other families might miss out.

Arithmetic can help us all become responsible shoppers, You can do the same thing with other household items like toilet paper. We’ll (thankfully) leave the details to you on that one!

By embedding these activities around the home, your child will develop a newfound appreciation of how maths helps us to solve all kinds of everyday problems. They will also become more fluent and confident as mathematical thinkers – win/win.

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