Maths is a vital skill for us all, used in all sorts of everyday activities we do both as adults and as children. Despite this, 49% of adults in the U.K.* have the numeracy skills expected of a primary school child. That’s why it is important to reach our children early and make sure they are confident and comfortable with numbers from a young age. Therefore we created National Numeracy Day, which is this year taking place on the 18May. To celebrate we are providing free resources for adults and children alike, including access to the ‘Big Number Natter’, the UKs first ever nationwide conversation about numbers, and the Number Heroes competition which asks little ones to draw their dream job or hobby and explain how it uses numbers.
Top tips for supporting children with numeracy
Whatever our own maths level as adults, or however we feel about maths ourselves, we can help children to feel good about maths.
All parents, carers and practitioners can make a difference to children’s maths learning simply by following these tips:
- Point out the maths in everyday life: showing children the maths in things like cooking, using money and travelling is a simple way to bring maths to life.
- Talk positively about maths: children learn from example, so avoid saying things like “I can’t do maths” around them – keep things positive.
- Praise children for effort rather than talent: praising children for working out the steps to get to a solution is more helpful than simply telling them they’re clever – it helps them see that it’s not about natural ability, but that by working things through they can always improve.
If you struggle with maths confidence yourself, don’t let that put you off. Regardless of your own numeracy level, you can have a positive impact on your child’s maths development. It’s true that some adults may feel more comfortable supporting children when they tackle their own maths skills and confidence, and there is support available for this. The National Numeracy Challenge is a free-to-use website where adults can build their own confidence with numbers.
Everyday maths in the early years
There’s maths in lots of everyday activities you already do with your children. Giving children the best start with maths learning doesn’t have to be complicated!
Pointing out that you are doing maths in these activities helps children to understand that maths is a useful part of everyday life and isn’t a scary thing.
Here are some ideas for including maths in day-to-day activities with young children:
- Match, sort and compare objects by size, shape or weight – talk about ‘bigger’ and ‘smaller’ or ‘heavier’ and ‘lighter’
- Play with building blocks or boxes – talk about the size, colour, shape, weight and texture of the blocks.
- Talk about how long it takes to walk somewhere – what time do we need to be there?
- Count the things you see: how many red cars can you spot?
- Look for numbers on doors, buses, cars, signs, at the shops – anywhere! Remember to talk about what the numbers mean when you see them.
- Find the same amount of different items – e.g., find 3 spoons, 3 hats and 3 socks. This helps your child understand what numbers mean.
- Sing number rhymes and songs to practise counting.
- Do some cooking together – measure ingredients and set a timer.
- Work out ‘how many altogether’ – e.g., asking questions such as ‘We have 3 red apples and 2 green apples. How many apples do we have altogether?’
- Play shops. You could make pretend money or use Monopoly money for your play shop and use items around the house or nursery as shop items.
- Read counting books together.
For more everyday maths ideas, visit www.familymathstoolkit.org.uk
Maths is a key life skill and one that adults and children can enjoy developing together. Learning through play and through everyday conversation is a great way to get children off to the best start.
Sign up to be a National Numeracy Day Champion
You can use this link to sign up to become a National Numeracy Day Champion. Once you have signed up we will send you an easy-to-use toolkit of pre-planned activities, video introductions and resources for all ages which you can use to run activities. Resources will include National Numeracy 5th Birthday party decorations to get everyone celebrating the 5th National Numeracy Day Campaign. Times Tables Rock Stars are inviting you all to take part in a fun celebratory times tables event via YouTube. We have paired with NumberBlocks to create activities for early years. Our Number Heroes competition, open to all children from pre-school to Y8/S2, offers the chance to win one of five bundles of numeracy prizes worth at least £1000 for their school, youth group or community centre (for children pre-school to Y8/S2).