Apr 26, 2021

How to Support Your Child with Maths at Home

Supporting children with maths at home

Are you one of the many grown ups who dislike, or maybe even fear, maths? Do you happily read your child a bed time story each evening, but would never suggest a bit of early morning maths?

Research has shown that many adults harbour their own personal anxieties around maths stemming back from their school days and so subconsciously veer away from using every day maths interactions with their children. It’s important to know that you aren’t alone but also that we are here to help!

We’re here help families overcome any worries they may have and to give you some ideas about how to easily support your child with their mathematical knowledge at home – no experience needed!

I can count!

Many children begin counting by rote (counting numbers sequentially) at an early age, mimicking the number sequences they have heard grown ups around them use. You can support your child’s rote counting through using songs such as:

  • “one, two, three, four, five, once I caught a fish alive”
  • “one, two, buckle my shoe”
  • “one potato, two potatoes”

These will help children to remember the melodic and rhythmic pattern of the words used for counting in sequence. At this stage, children are repeating the word patterns they have heard in order; this is called rote counting. To learn this, children benefit from lots of repetition from grown ups, and often a tune helps to stimulate their senses and aid their recall.

Carry on counting

From rote counting, children then gradually progress onto what is called ‘rational counting’. This means that they are starting to make a connection between the number names they are saying to actual objects in front of them.

Grown ups can help their children during this time by giving them lots of real life objects which they can move as they count:

  • Knives and forks as they set the table
  • Pennies as they post them into a money box
  • Toy cars being rolled down ramps
  • Conkers into a bag when out on a walk
  • Cup cake cases into a muffin tin

Taking it deeper

After real life objects, children start to realise that anything can be counted: jumps, steps, scoops etc. This is the very beginning of more abstract forms of maths. To support children, grown ups can use fun opportunities such as:

  • Counting the spoonfuls of flour when baking
  • Playing games which count steps, like “What’s the Time Mr Wolf?”
  • Counting spaces when playing board games like snakes and ladders

These are also great way to introduce children to the very first step in addition, by asking them “and if I and one more spoonful/step/space, how many will it be?”. If children have developed what is called ‘cardinality’ they will be able to say the next number in the sequence, rather than need to return to 1 and start counting again to find the new total.

Super subitizing

You might start noticing that your child doesn’t need to count items when there is only 1 or 2 in the group, because they can tell by looking at it how many there are. This clever skill is called subitizing, and starts to develop around age 3, although every child is slightly different. To support your child in extending this skill, you could play games which use dice. The regular patterns of dots on the dice helps to create a visual image of the number and the grouping – such as 2 rows of 3 for the side with six spots – which also supports addition skills.

Finger games

No dice? No problem! Our hands also have regular arrangements of items! Sing songs together which count down, using your fingers to show the number. You could use:

  • 10 fat sausages sizzling in a pan
  • 5 little ducks
  • 5 little speckled frogs
  • 10 green bottles
  • 10 in the bed
  • 12 days of Christmas

Not the next Beyonce? Don’t worry, us neither! Many of the songs suggested in this article are available online here for you to practice the tune. Just remember, children don’t judge your vocal talents, they just want to have fun!

Out and about

Once children are confident counters, they can then start looking at written numbers (numerals). Make it as fun as possible – be number detectives and go for a number hunt around your local area or supermarket and see which numerals you can spot!

Want more ideas?

Speak to your child’s Key Person at nursery about their current stage of mathematical development and the types of activities you can use at home to support them.

Most importantly, don’t shy away from simple and fun maths related games that you can do at home with your child. Hopefully this blog has given you a few ideas of some activities that you will feel confident in carrying out at home. We are always here to help so please do get in touch for more ideas or any additional questions that you may have!

Aisling Armstrong, Nursery Manager at The Old Station Nursery Houlton


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