Until the age of about six or seven, a child is likely to pick up basic maths concepts by counting, sorting, weighing and measuring in everyday life. A child with pocket money will quickly learn to do money sums. You could make a pretend shop if you like, and create some paper money and practise buying and selling. You could play Junior Monopoly, or other games that use money, and your children will quickly grasp the rules of adding and subtracting. My page on number bonds can give you some ideas for taking this further.
Maths concepts in converation
Most learning comes through discussion. You can talk to your children about coins when appropriate; you can encourage them to pay for their own things in the shops and work out what they have to spend. Talk too about shapes and sizes: point out the regular shapes all around us (windows and doors are rectangles, plates are circles etc) and make a game of finding different solid shapes in packets and bottles. The page geometric shapes gives you the names of the common regular shapes. If you need to fit curtains or paint a room, involve your children in the calculations necessary to prepare, so they see some of the use of practical arithmetic.
If your child likes workbooks, you might want to get hold of some of the early maths ones. The ones we like best are published by Collins Educational, Ginn, and Heinemann, but there are a wide variety available which change from year to year. Some may be available in your local bookshop, or you can order them online. It is always best if you can check bookshops yourselves; WH Smiths usually have a selection for all stages, or online shops such as Amazon UK can provide almost anything in print, while the Advanced Book Exchange can find many out-of-print or second-hand books.
Thinking logically and mathematically
By the time your children are 7 or 8 they will probably have started to develop logical reasoning skills. Some children enjoy using workbooks – if so, you may find you want to introduce some to help them with maths. There are many available text books; browsing your local bookshops should give you plenty of choice.
If you’ve used early workbooks with younger children, you might want to continue with the same publisher. Alternatively you may find that your children’s maths skills develop in different directions, and they’re more interested in practical maths than workbooks. With home education, you can be as flexible as you like. Each child is an individual, and learns in unique ways. You can find ideas for some mathematical topics at my maths index, or search online for further explanations.
For those who want to know roughly what schools are teaching: Level 3 – the beginning of Key Stage 1 – is usually started at the age of about 7-8 in schools; level 4 is started around age 9 and is the average achievement level expected in SATS Key Stage 2 tests at the end of the primary school years (age 11). There are many text books and work books available which can ensure your child covers the relevant concepts. While some of them are obvious, there is much that’s interesting in primary school maths – no longer are children expected to study arithmetic in all its painful detail before they can start on algebra or geometry!
An excellent site which has interactive pages and examples of the concepts taught at each level is Nrich. If your child likes the more formal structure of American style maths, a useful site for this age-group is AAA Math. Each topic has a clear explanation, examples, and exercises that can be done interactively.
Of course, it’s always possible that your child might decide that maths is another form of torture. If so, you might as well abandon all books for a while and concentrate on other topics.
See the next maths page for some ideas for maths with older children.