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By Andrew Jeffrey, posted on 12th May 2020

Five ways to improve maths home-learning

While some parents have been home-educating their children by choice for years, most of us are struggling with trying to home-school our children for the first time.

In this blog post, I intend to share five easy-to-implement strategies that can make a real, positive difference to our children’s maths.

1. Check your own approach

How confident do you feel about maths? School maths can feel very different to how it used to be, so you may find yourself a bit confused about the methods schools expect children to learn at first.

For example, last week I was trying to help my Year 5 child with some work on angles that his school had sent home. He had to fold pieces of A4 paper diagonally and make deductions. This was not how I was taught, so it was a new experience for me.

I could imagine that for a non-mathematician this is going to feel intimidating or frustrating. It is imperative that we do not pass our own confusion or negative feelings about maths on to our children. Fortunately, help is at hand – if you are not very confident with maths, be sure to take a look at the National Numeracy Challenge, one of the best resources I have seen to help parents with their own maths.

2. Count and estimate

Every day, you are likely to come across plenty of opportunities to use mathematical language around topics such as counting or estimating. For instance:

How many cornflakes are in the bowl?

How much coffee would this cup hold?

How many books are on the shelf?

What is the volume of this box?

What are the dimensions of the TV?

Estimate then measure – how close were you?

Once you start practising and looking around your home, more and more will occur to you. Who was the second person you saw today? How many different rectangles can you see in this room?

3. Cook

Many recipes assume that there are exactly four people per meal. But often you will need to adapt this for fewer (or more) people. This is an ideal time to engage your child with some scaling and proportion work: “It says 500g of butter for four, but what if there are 5 of us?” and so on.

Using and reading scales on weights and containers is fabulous maths, and a key life skill. Capacity, mass, time, temperature – cooking allows you to talk with your child about all of these in a meaningful and natural context.

4. Shop

Whether shopping online or in person, shopping has almost unlimited potential to engage your children purposefully. Thinking about things such as:

  • which deal is best value
  • average rating (online)
  • multi-buy savings
  • price comparison website deals
  • value for money of differing sizes of the same product
  • how much VAT adds
  • percentage discount deals
  • delivery charges.

5. Use simple home resources

The chances are you can probably get your hands on some dice. A quick web search for ‘maths games with dice’ will provide you with lots of free, enjoyable activities for all ages and abilities. For example, you could try this:

  1. Two players take it in turns to roll a dice. They keep a running total of their rolls.
  2. Each player can use their turn to stop and ‘bank’ their total whenever they want. They can do this instead of rolling for that turn. It might be helpful to write the banked points down on a piece of paper.
  3. If a player rolls a 1, they lose all their unbanked points.
  4. Who can get to 100 first?

Playing cards should also be easy to find and, again, a web search will turn up any number of great ideas. Many card games involve calculations – by practising maths skills through games like this, your child will be doing maths without it feeling like a chore.

Finally, why not check out the Oxford Owl maths page? Take a look to find a wealth of free resources available specifically for working at home.

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