Maths for parents

Financial section of newspaper
You want to help your children with their maths learning, but what if it’s just as much of a struggle for you? Read on for top tips to help.
Login or Register to add to your saved resources

According to recent figures, there are six million adults in the UK who struggle with maths. One study by the Basic Skills Agency found that almost half – 48 percent – of the 12,500 people surveyed had below-average mathematic skills.

Are we scared of maths?

It seems that children, parents and teachers can all be quite anxious about maths. In her book Maths and Dyslexics, Anne Henderson tells of a case where a student fainted during a maths lesson because he feared his weakness with subtraction was about to be found out. And some teachers have confessed that they do not enjoy teaching maths. One secondary head teacher said she experienced ‘sweaty palms and shivers’ each time she thought about maths.

Most parents are willing and ready to help their children with most areas of their school and homework, however when it comes to maths some tend to be more reluctant. Mum of three, Sandra Stevens says, “As soon as my kids brought out their maths homework, I would just freeze. My mind would go blank and I just felt totally unable to help them.”

Overcoming your maths demons

Sandra eventually bit the bullet and decided to tackle her trouble with maths head on: “In the end, I realised that if I was to be any help to my kids at all, I needed to swot up on the techniques and methods they learn today, and in a sense teach myself maths all over again. I asked the class teacher to let me see some of the resources she was using to teach with, and this also helped me adapt to new forms of maths. I also did some internet research and chatted to other mums. I now feel a lot more confident to offer my kids support, and it's even helped my personal maths skills!'

If you want to hone your maths skills, many adult education centres and colleges offer basic or key skills courses. You could also take advantage of the many distance learning opportunities available on and offline. Going to see your child’s teacher is an important step, too. They will able to offer helpful advice and tips, and some schools run basic skills programmes designed to help parents intent on supporting their children’s learning.

How could improving your maths skills help you?

From understanding a newspaper article about inflation to working out the metric equivalent of goods displayed in pounds, we use numeracy all day everyday to support our daily lives.

Some examples of using numeracy in everyday life include:

  1. sharing bills among several people
  2. working out the cost of credit instalments
  3. working out the unit cost of gas or electricity
  4. calculating your shopping bill while at the supermarket
  5. working out what the ‘10 % off marked price’ offer can save you

These days more and more jobs require people good data handling skills. They may be required to manage budgets, handle payments, accounts and invoices, or to interpret charts, graphs or statistical data. You can always use a calculator but it helps if you have a good idea of what the answer should be, and how to work it out.

So brushing up your maths skills could help you as your child.