There are plenty of opportunities to develop your child's maths skills through carrying out simple activities and daily routines. For more ideas on specific activities select a mathematical focus area from below.
Maths is a key skill which children need to acquire for use in their everyday lives. There are many aspects to maths, and these can be explored at an early age through everyday informal contexts. There are also many workbooks and activity books available for your child to develop their maths skills further in preparation for school.
Number recognition to ten and subsequently twenty and then further is a key part of early maths. To begin with children can be introduced to numbers up to five and when able to recognise these, move on to numbersto ten. A lovely way to introduce numbers to ten and develop your child's coordination is through hopscotch or an outdoor foam number puzzle such as a Number Soft Foam Play Mat Puzzle.
By talking about numbers in the environment your child will develop the ability to recognise numbers more quickly e.g. mention the number bus you are catching, the numbers on houses, numbers in car registrations, telephone numbers. Give them the opportunity to see the different contexts in which numbers are used around them. A simple Numbers 1-20 Wall Chart in your child's playroom or bedroom will reinforce number recognition on a daily basis.
Counting is also an important part of early mathematics and a skill needed in our daily lives. Begin by encouraging your child to count to five, perhaps through familiar number songs. You can also develop counting skills though simple jigsaws which are ideal for younger children such as a Wooden Number Jigsaw Puzzle. When they are confident with counting to five, count to ten and subsequently twenty.
By using fun and familiar objects counting can be taught in an enjoyable way such as by counting teddies, toy cars, marbles, shells or even chocolate buttons!. Model counting to your child, and emphasise pointing to each object slowly and saying the numeral aloud at the same time. By learning to count objects up to five and then perhaps matching the correct number card to the five objects, your child is beginning to link the number five to the five objects. Keep practising this skill until your child is competent with counting objects to five. You could develop this further through a simple Number Puzzle.
As and when you feel your child is ready, you can introduce them to counting objects to ten and then progress further to twenty. Give your child time at each stage to grasp the concept and number skills involved.
Number formation needs to be practised and refined. This can be done by simply writing numbers together and your child progressing to do so independently. A Megasketcher is an ideal and enjoyable way to practise numbers, as it allows your child to make mistakes and easily erase them.
You may want to introduce number formation by writing numbers in different fun contexts such as sand, shaving foam, flour or glitter. This informal context makes it more enjoyable and relaxed and will not put pressure on your child to write numbers correctly the first time. Coloured chunky chalks are also great for outdoor number practise or perhaps you fancy a trip to the beach where your child could have fun writing numbers in the sand! Keep practising informally until you feel your child is ready to start practising on paper. Another lovely way to learn number formation is though our rhyme to help children write numbers.
When your child first forms numbers with a pen you may decide to use a whiteboard marker and child sized whiteboard so you child does not become over anxious about making mistakes. Firstly let your child try writing over numbers you have written and talk about where to start and how each number is formed. To begin with start with numbers one to five and then progress to numbers up to ten.
Tip - By having a colourful and fun Number Line up in your child’s bedroom, they will become familiar with the order and formation of numbers. Children also love a Step-by-Step Number Line which develops your child's gross motor skills such as jumping and hopping.
Once your child is competent with counting and writing numbers one to twenty they are usually ready to progress to simple addition. It is helpful to work though simple addition sums at home, using concrete object to support your child such as buttons, shells, counters or beads. You may find a Play and Learn Addition Workbook useful for your child to complete, as they progress. However, it is important to still use practical examples to explain the concept e.g. adding two objects together such as buttons or shells.
It is best to concentrate on adding numbers to five using objects to explain this concept. You could use marbles or coloured counters to help your child understand how we can count and add two objects together. When they understand how to add and count objects introduce them to the number sentence and addition sign (+). Practise simple addition sentences together again using the Play and Learn Addition Workbook.
Give them plenty of practise with simple addition to five and encourage them to write out the addition sum and work out the answers (1 + 1 = 2). Again a child sized whiteboard and marker pen are great for practising number sentences, as your child can confidently erase any mistakes.
If your child is competent with number bonds to ten they can progress to adding ten to a number. This can be introduced through using simple objects to represent ten e.g. marbles, buttons etc. As with number bonds, it is important that your child is able to write the number sentence and answer e.g. 4 + 10 = 14, 7 + 10 = 17.
Your child may like to have their own Book of Addition.
Number bonds to five can be introduced once your child has understood the concept of addition. This involves your child learning and understanding what pairs of numbers make five and then being able to write these out in number sentences e.g. 5 + 0 = 5, 4 + 1 = 5, 3 + 2 = 5, etc.
When your child is competent with number bonds to five, they are usually ready to move onto number bonds to ten. This can be done through using objects such as pasta, shells, counters or buttons to help them understand the idea of making ten in different ways e.g. 5 + 5 = 10, 6 + 4 =10 etc.
Tip- When not use the Number Bonds - Story to 10 Placemat to make learning number bonds fun and relate to everyday experiences.
Subtraction is an important concept for children to grasp and is best taught after addition has been understood. Subtraction can be introduced through practical activities where object are taken away and the remainder then counted. When children understand this concept, they can progress to formal ways of recording subtraction i.e. number sentences. There are also written workbooks which provide activities for children to practise their subtraction skills such as My Book of Simple Subtraction.
You might want to buy a Counting Songs CD so your child can sing along to each song, perhaps during long car journeys where you can also reinforce subtraction skills. Once you have modelled this to your child, they may surprise you with how quickly they are able to sing the number rhymes on their own.
Our everyday lives provide many hidden opportunities to teach maths skills. They often require no planning for and occur naturally on a daily basis. These situations should be taken advantage of and used to help your child learn basic skills such as counting, addition and number recognition.
There are many opportunities for maths at the supermarket, here are just a few ideas.
Let your child count out the items and put them into the trolley. e.g. Ask them to find five apples/six onions. This will develop your child's counting as well as independence.
Use mathematical language such as 'one more', 'one less', 'less than', 'more than', 'half a dozen' etc
Encourage them to spot numbers around them, such as on the isles.
Challenge them to work out the total of two items.
Take time to talk about shapes around you such as different shaped food packaging. Introduce 2D and 3D shapes. Can they spot a cylinder, pyramid, cube, cuboids etc
Encourage your child to count the items in the basket. Can you go to the checkout for less than eight items or do we have more than that? Questions like this develop mathematical problems solving skills.
Mention the till number you are queuing at, do they recognise the other numbers in the environment?
Cookery activities are another way in which you can bring maths into your everyday routines. Cooking can be used to develop many aspects of maths such as an understanding of number, measuring, size and shape. There are a wide range of child friendly recipes which are quick and easy to prepare in this Children's Step-by-Step Cookbook.
Encourage your child to weigh out the ingredients and use simple mathematical language such as ‘more than’ and ‘less than’. Can they measure out two teaspoons of salt? Are they able to crack three eggs? Introduce the concept of fractions- one third of a cup, half a cup, three quarters of a cup and explain how we can measure different quantities. Explore different measuring apparatus. Give them the opportunity to practise filling the measuring jug with different quantities of water. With younger children start by introducing simple language associated with capacity such as 'full', 'nearly full', 'half full', 'nearly empty' and 'empty'. As your child develops an understanding of this, introduce them to standard units of measure such as pints, litres etc. Let them look at the recipe with you so they become familiar with numbers and are aware of mathematical ways of writing fractions.
Introduce the passage of time and talk about how long the meal takes to prepare or how long the cake will need in the oven. Explore different ways in which we can measure time such as an egg timer, sand timer, clock or stop watch. Discuss how we tell the time using an analogue clock and slowly introduce your child to reading the time, beginning with o'clock time and then progressing to half and quarter hours. For more information see Telling the Time.
Introduce fractions by sharing out portions of cakes, quiches and pizzas. Use vocabulary such as whole, half, quarters and thirds. Your child will enjoy seeing how fraction are useful in our daily life.
Provide opportunities for your child to explore different measuring apparatus such as weighing scales, measuring jugs and cups. You may choose to provide them with dried pasta, pulses or lentils so they can explore this in their own time. You will be amazed at how long children can spend filling and emptying containers with various sized measuring cups. It is a worth while activity in developing mathematical language associated with size and quantities.
The outdoor environment provides an ideal opportunity to develop mathematical understanding in a practical way. When outside in the garden encourage your child to get involved by...
Letting your child count out the bulbs, seeds or plant pots
Asking your child to space out the bulbs in the pot leaving a certain distance between them.
Getting your child to measure the bulbs as they grow.
Encouraging your child to water the bulbs and explore measuring through looking at the graduations on the watering can or jug.
Helping your child read the temperature on the thermometer in the greenhouse or count the tomatoes growing.
Finding the tallest and shortest plants in the garden. Can they find a plant the same height as them? Taller than them? Shorter than them? These sorts of simple tasks introduce mathematical language associated with size and will help your child understand these terms in a practical way.
If you have a sand pit or go to the beach why not get your child to practise writing their numbers in the sand?
Collecting objects to order according to size and shape.
Making patterns and shapes using pebbles, coloured gravel, shells or sticks.
There are a wide range of games available which promote mathematical language. To ensure a wide range of skills and mathematical vocabulary develops, it is best to at first play these games with your child. Once you have modelled them your child can then play these with other children or siblings. After playing the games a few times your child will then feel comfortable and confident with using mathematical language and developing these skills.
A game of skittles involves counting those knocked down and also those still standing demonstrating subtraction and number bonds. Parents can also introduce positional language when rolling the ball. Pen and paper could be used to try and find a symbol or recall a numeral to represent the number of skittles the child knocks down each time.
Try and ask questions such as: How many skittles have you knocked down? Who has knocked down the most skittles? How many skittles are left standing?
This is an ideal game to introduce doubles. For young children picture dominoes could be used. For example, finding the ladybird with two spots on and searching for the other domino with two on. Your child could then work out the answers to double three and find the correct domino i.e. six. This game can then lead onto practising number sentences and experimenting with representing the pictures on the dominoes with numbers.
Ask questions such as: Can you find the other ladybird with six spots? How many more spots has this ladybird? Does this ladybird have the same number of spots as this one? Which ladybird has more spots? Can you find the double for this ladybird?
Snakes and Ladders
This game develops a range of mathematical language and skills through rolling the dice, moving the counters and moving up and down the snakes and ladders.
Ask questions such as: How many more spaces do you need to finish? Can you count on six spaces? What direction are you moving in? You could also introduce positional language such as first, second, third and fourth to discuss who finishes in what position.
Giant Ludo is ideal to reinforce counting, colours and shapes whilst being a fun game to play with your child. It is beneficial as it introduces children to a dice and turn taking. It is a brilliant game for position and direction and gives your child an introduction to positional language. Another benefit is that this game can be played outdoors and is ideal for children's parties or when having your childs' friends visit.
Ask questions such as: How can you describe the position of your counter? What direction are we moving the counters in? What shapes can you see? Who has what colour counter?
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