Do the Maths! Helping children to learn number skills and develop a love of numbers.
Even before your child goes to school, most of us have done what we can to get hold of books. We buy them or borrow them. We all know that reading with your child is essential. Nobody questions this. The bedtime story is welded into our psyches. Schools send reading books home and we do our best to read with our children every day.
But, when it comes to maths, are we as good at helping our children gain essential number skills? What do parents do to support the early development of numeracy? Lots of us count a bit with our children. Some stop at 10, others at 100. Many of us forget to count backwards or in steps other than one. And few venture beyond counting.
And when we do count with our pre-school kids, most of us don’t realise that counting is no different from learning the words of a song – we can be word perfect without understanding the meaning. A child might count accurately to 100 in the same way they recite a poem from memory; it is a string of sounds which may or may not have meaning to them.
If a young child can count fluently to 100, all I know is that they have a good auditory memory, in other words they can remember what they hear. It tells me nothing about whether they are going to be “good at maths.”
Counting fluently is really important but our kids also need to understand something about the numbers. For example, do they know what 8 represents? Do they know if it is more or less than 5? How do they know? Do they know what one more than 16 is, or one less? Can they explain that 25 is the same as 2 tens and 5 ones?
The truth is that many parents know how to pass on a love of books to their child. They read and discuss the words and pictures intuitively and with passion. Few of us are good at instilling a love of number in young children. We don’t know what to do, and we don’t make it fun. This is a cultural legacy – if your parents don’t play around with numbers with you as a child, you don’t naturally do it with your own child.
A New Approach
This is where schools could make a difference. Schools expect parents to read with their child every day. We could ask parents to play with numbers every day, and show them how. We could provide the resources. There could be a staged programme of activities for children to work through, just like we have a stage reading programme with all the books provided. It could and should be fun. The FunKey Peer Mentoring Programme is full of games which parents could play with their kids which would make a material difference to children’s understanding of the number system and their confidence in the classroom. Why are schools not helping parents to do more on maths?
As a nation we perform much better in international rankings in literacy than in maths. In literacy we are 15th in the world, in maths we are 27th. Maybe the problem starts in the early years, when parents miss the opportunity to create a buzz around all things mathematical.
It really is time we did the maths. At home and in school.
Blog by Maggie Steel.
FunKey Maths evolved from Maggie’s passion for helping young children enjoy and succeed in maths.