Easy ways to engage your child with maths

Do the words “I need help with my maths homework” strike fear into your heart? Our tried-and-tested tips from maths experts will help change your child’s attitude to numbers – and yours
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Is maths is your child’s tricky subject? Try a few simple strategies to boost their interest in numbers and help them adopt a new approach to their arithmetic assignments.

Step one: have a positive approach

“Being positive about maths is hugely important,” says Lizzie Tubbs, Support Manager at Number Partners. “Many parents doubt their own maths skills, and it’s important not to convey this to children and to empower them to feel that they can do it!”

Number Partners arranges for volunteers to visit primary and secondary schools to play number games with small groups. The organisation isn’t looking for rocket scientists, just those who are interested in young people and education, so any parent certainly fits into this category. “It's fun and useful to focus on mental maths skills,” says Lizzie. “Often, children don't realise they're learning if the activities are engaging!

“It's also useful to ask children to explain how they came to their answer,” Lizzie continues. “This consolidates their learning.”

Step two: encourage independent learning

“A positive attitude towards learning will encourage kids to learn,” agrees Davina Greaves from maths tutoring company Kumon. It’s also important to understand what your child knows and tailor the activities you are doing with them appropriately. “Parents should try to find what it is their child can do,” explains Davina. “The work has to be right for the child.” Ask your child about their maths classes, and try to find out what they enjoy.

And don’t always jump up to answer every question your child has – encourage them to think through a problem to reach the answer on their own. “Enjoying learning and feeling confident in learning is linked to doing it yourself,” explains Davina. “That’s why the Kumon methods encourage children to become independent learners.”

Step three: put maths into practice

Showing your children that maths is more than a sheet of homework very night will help them see how it can be useful in a multitude of ways. “Help your child think mathematically,” says Sue Southwood, Programme Director of Literacy, Language and Numeracy at The National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE). “Talk about maths, and make it relevant and fun.”

For instance, ask your children to figure out how much time it takes to walk to school, or quiz them on weights and measures while you’re baking their favourite cake together at home. “Children may think that parents don’t use maths, but show them that you do,” says Sue.

Through Maths4us, an organisation that encourages adults to improve their numeracy skills, Sue sees plenty of people who had bad experiences with maths when they were in school. “Lots of adults have stories about bad maths teaching, but methods have changed so much over the years,” she explains.

It’s now the norm to encourage students to work through problems themselves, and understand the concepts that help them reach the correct answer whether they get it straight away or not. So, by doing this at home, you can support the learning style that they’re getting at school.

Engaging your child with maths involves more than homework help – the right attitude, positive encouragement and a different approach can make maths click for kids in a whole new way. Keep adding to your list of engaging maths-related activities and homework help methods, and try new things to keep study sessions fresh and fun.