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6 TIPS FOR MASTERING MATHS

Maths is everywhere. We use it every day, even if we don’t realise it. Mastering maths helps us to understand and describe our world, solve everyday problems, make predictions, develop our abstract reasoning and make better decisions.

But, for many kids, a love of maths doesn’t come naturally. Or easily. Helping your child learn to love maths starts at home. Here is what you can do to get them mastering maths.

1. Promote a sense of relevance and interest in mathematics.

Make connections between math and everyday life which encourages them to want to use maths.

Taking part in everyday activities like going to the shops, cooking, or even setting the table can help your child with maths. Getting dressed and learning to take turns when playing a game all help your child to understand pattern and shapes, measuring and sorting.

2. Bring maths into your daily reading routine.

Reading to children is a treasured activity. What better way to integrate mathematics into the lives of children than to read them stories that bring mathematical ideas to life? Children’s books related to mathematics can be separated into four categories: counting books, number books, storybooks and concept books.

Some good ones to consider are Alfie’s Number by Shirley Hughes, One, Two Buckle My Shoe by Melissa Everett, Sorting Through by Spring-Lizann Flatt and What’s a Fraction by Nancy Kelly Allen.

3. Connect play time with maths.

There are plenty of board games and card games that can help encourage maths but you can also incorporate math lessons in other ways as well. Play ‘shop’ and count out money. Play ‘builder’ and measure various items around the house.

Children need lots of experiences in making, counting, drawing and talking about numbers. Make connections for your child by explaining how numbers and counting are a part of everyday life.

4. Think outside the traditional maths lessons

You may feel that the maths your child is doing at school is different from how you were taught, but you will still be able to support your child in many ways and encourage your child with other ways to solve maths problems.

Giving your child more than one way to solve a problem is highly beneficial to their learning. After all, there is always more than one way to get the right answer.

5. Encourage them to problem solve.

Problem solving is about engaging with real problems – guessing, discovering, and making sense of mathematics. It is about developing young mathematicians who have an ‘understanding of the world, the ability to reason mathematically, an appreciation of the beauty and power of mathematics and a sense of enjoyment and curiosity about the subject’.

You can help them build their problem solving skills without them even realising it, and in no time they’ll be mastering maths. Encourage them to ask questions, to analyse the information they have been given and to look at the various ways to solve the problem.

6. Focus on their individual journey.

Like reading and writing, maths is something that we are constantly learning and consistently using. Maths today is about understanding number patterns, not learning by repetition.

Avoid comparing your own maths skills with that of your child’s. Saying things like “I was bad as maths too” is one of the worst things you can do as it lowers their own expectations of themselves.

HOW TECHNOLOGY CAN HELP NOT HINDER

Research into the effect of excessive screen time on oral language development and later schooling success is still in its infancy, but the more a child is engaged with technology, the less they are interacting with humans.

This results in fewer opportunities for children to listen to and engage in conversations which are fundamental in learning to speak and communicate effectively. These early interactions provide children with the opportunity to build their vocabularies, understand social rules of language such as turn taking and asking questions as well as understanding body language and facial expressions.

Health authorities have become concerned with the boom in the use of technology by young children. It is feared that there will be serious knock-on effects in the areas of education and health which has prompted the Australian Department of Health to issue guidelines regarding screen time for children aged under five years.

The guidelines are:

  • Children younger than two years of age should not spend any time watching television or using other electronic media (DVDs, computer and other electronic games).
  • For children two to five years of age, sitting and watching television and the use of other electronic media (DVDs, computer and other electronic games) should be limited to less than one hour per day.
  • Infants, toddlers and preschoolers (all children birth to five years) should not be sedentary, restrained, or kept inactive, for more than one hour at a time, with the exception of sleeping.

Between two and five years of age, children are like sponges. They soak up all the oral language input and learning new words (sometimes words we wish they didn’t learn) at an incredible rate.

At two years of age, children should have a vocabulary of 50 words and we should begin to see them combining two words together to get their needs met and to express themselves such as “more milk” or “Daddy home”. In order for this development to occur adults need to spend time engaging with their children in play, book reading and conversation to model how communication works.

Linking oral language skills and reading and writing

It is heavily documented in the literature that there are strong links between oral language skills and a child’s ability to read and write. In fact, a recent study has indicated we can predict how good a child can read and spell at 11 years of age based on their oral language skills at age two.
With all that being said, technology is here to stay and there are some very real benefits of using technology to supplement children’s language and literacy development.

Obviously, reduced screen time and more time interacting with your child will prove most beneficial in developing their communication skills. However, the following strategies can be utilised to enhance your child’s oral language when they are engaging with technology:

  • Introduce new words around the game they are engaged in.
  • Expand on their utterances. For example if they are playing a game about animals and they say ‘dog barking’, you can expand on that and say ‘Yes. The dog is barking at the boy’.
  • Have your child predict what will happen next.
  • Pause their game and ask them to retell what has just happened.