The National Curriculum for mathematics gives advice on what children should learn.
A key feature of the National Numeracy Strategy, which began in 1999 and is now part of the Primary Strategy, is to involve you, as a parent, in your child's mathematics as much as possible. In this section you will find ways that this can be done.
Helping your child learn maths at home
One of the most valuable things you can do with your child is talk to them about mathematics. But if you think about it, you are probably already doing a lot of mathematics at home without realising it. If you involve your child in cooking, weighing and measuring for instance, you will help them learn. Remember, though, that maths at home is meant to be fun! You should enjoy it - and so should your child.
With young children you can help by doing some maths for a few minutes every day:
1. Sing number rhymes and songs such as:
'One, two, buckle my shoe'
'One two three four five, once I caught a fish alive'
'Ten green bottles'
'There were ten in the bed'
2. Talk about:
how many knives and forks you will need to set the table
how many people are in the queue at the supermarket check-out
which glass will hold the most orange juice
3. Play games like 'Snakes and Ladders' that involve taking turns and using a dice and counters to move around a board and talk about numbers
4. Look for numbers in books, on posters, in comics, on buses, cars, and road signs
5. Talk about the shapes of things
6. Do jigsaws
With older children you can:
1. Talk about any maths work
that they bring home from school
2. Ask them to help you when you are doing things with money, or measuring or weighing
3. Help them to learn their multiplication tables when they are ready (ask your school about this)
4. Tell the time
5. Use magazines to find out when a TV programme is on and set the video recorder
6. Look at the price of things in catalogues and work out if you can afford them
7. Weigh ingredients when you are cooking
8. Put pattern pieces together when making clothes
9. Measure floors for carpets, walls for wallpaper and paint
A typical daily maths lesson
A maths lesson lasts between 45 and 60 minutes depending on the age of the children in the class. There is a great emphasis on children talking about mathematics and on using correct mathematical vocabulary. It is often, but not always, divided into three main parts:
1. Oral and mental session
All the children will be taught together for about 10 minutes. They will keep their maths skills sharp by:
- counting ( in 1s, 2s,10s, backwards and forwards, and so on)
- recalling addition and subtraction number facts (and for older children, multiplication tables)
2. Main teaching activity
After the oral/mental session comes the main teaching activity. This lasts for about 30 to 40 minutes. In this part of the lesson:
- the teacher might introduce a new topic to the whole class
- the class might practise previous work or try their skills on harder problems
- the children might work for short periods in groups, in pairs or on their own
The lesson may use a plenary session at the end or during the lesson. This means that for about 10 minutes the teacher finds out what the children learned and reminds them about what to remember.
Sometimes mathematical skills may be taught in other subject areas, such as science, and skills will be applied across the curriculum.
Helping with maths homework
Homework is just one of the many ways in which you can help your child to develop confidence with mathematics (or literacy). It might help you to know that:
- Homework should be enjoyable rather than a chore
- Homework will usually follow on from what has been happening in class. It might be further practice, a game or a puzzle
- Your child might be asked to do some preparation for the next topic to be covered in school, for example, collecting some information for a graph about favourite TV programmes
With younger children your help will be essential. With older children, there should be times when they work on their own, but they will always benefit from talking to you about how they have tackled their work.
What you'll see in your child's maths books
When children are asked to do a calculation, the first question they should ask is
"Can I do this in my head?"
With younger children the emphasis is more on mental work and somewhat less on "sums" written down in columns. The aim is for children to do mathematics in their heads. If the numbers are too large they use paper and pencil to avoid losing track.
Some children will sketch pictures and diagrams to help them. You may be surprised to see these in your child's mathematics book.
Most younger children will set sums out like this:
57 + 5 =
42 - 6 =
You will see them keeping track of what they are doing in their head like this, or using arrows:
86 + 57 = 86 + 50 + 7 = 136 + 7 = 143
67 + 24 = (60 + 20) + (7 + 4) = 80 + 11 = 91
In the later primary years, children will be taught conventional written sums, many of which you will recognise. If you don't recognise these methods please do not insist that your child carry out calculations in the way that you do them, as this may lead to confusion and will certainly take the fun out of homework sessions!