Just like that, the summer holidays are gone. The academic year is upon us and we’re back to figuring out how to get our children back on track as they head back to school.
It’s a busy time, perhaps a little stressful. But it’s also an amazing opportunity to take stock of how to support your child’s learning at home.
The great thing about math is that it is everywhere, and with a touch of creativity and resourcefulness we can find ways to promote mathematical thinking in our children’s everyday lives.
Here are five simple (like, very simple) things you can do to give your child that extra edge in math this year.
1. Have number talks
A number talk is a discussion of different strategies for solving mental math problems. This isn’t about drilling your times tables. It’s about seeing patterns in numbers and coming up with creative ways to calculate sums. It can be as simple as posing a question, say 18 x 5, and coming up with as many ways to find the answer as possible. Or you could just call out a number, say 24, and see who can come up with the most questions whose answer is 24, or perhaps the most interesting question (you can debate what counts as interesting).
We love number talks because you can do them anytime, anyplace – at the dinner table, in the car, during a walk. It doesn’t take long at all, and if you do it regularly enough you’ll be amazed at how creative, flexible and fluent your child’s number skills will become.
2. Play mathematical games
We’re huge lovers of board games because they’re a great way of getting children to learn different sets of rules and to develop strategies for winning games. They’re a great way of bringing the family together, and a perfect excuse for switching off from our devices for a while.
Some games are directly inspired by mathematical ideas – we’ve listed a few of our favourite here.
You can set up board game night once a week to give it that extra sense of occasion. Put the devices away, grab your snacks and get your mental cogs turning!
3. Find the math in your other learning activities
Math is often pitted against other subjects like English and Art, as if they are completely separate. Yet when we look closely enough we can find plenty of exciting intersections between these subjects.
Want to develop your child’s math and reading skills at the same time? No problem – there are so many fiction books that contain strong mathematical ideas. The mathical booklist contains recommendations for every age group.
When we’re out and about, we’re surrounded by opportunities to think mathematically. Our Make Math Stick resource is packed with activities involving sticks and stones that will help bring math to life during your walks.
When you’re in the supermarket you can turn your children into super-helpers by engaging their mathematical skills. Get them to find the best deals, or estimate the cost of your grocery list as you add items to the basket. Play along yourself and see who gets closer! Take this exercise up a notch by giving your child a small budget and challenging them to stretch it as far as they can.
5. Get a tutor on board
At the end of the day (or start of the day for that matter) you also want some assurance that your child is on track with the curriculum. Getting a tutor on board is a proven way of ensuring your child acquires the core math knowledge and skills they need to excel.
Tutors need not consume your time or money – the Math-Whizz virtual tutor, for instance, is proven to accelerate students’ learning with just one hour a week, and at a fraction of the cost of a traditional tutor. With live reports, you can easily keep track of how your child is progressing, and where they might need additional support.
A little bit done regularly goes a long way…
You may not get into all these activities right away. The most important thing is to try a few and see what works for you and your child. Math requires regular and consistent practice so it’s well worth coming up with a weekly schedule that incorporates a rich variety of activities. Our weekly planner can help you – download it now!
Over time, as you embed these activities in your everyday routines, you’ll notice a powerful change in your child’s mathematical thinking. It will become an ingrained habit, something they are familiar and comfortable with, and that raises their confidence and enjoyment in the subject.