Maths is an area where homeschool parents often feel that they can’t help their children, both stemming from their own bad experiences being taught maths at school and now trying to triangulate their way around adoption of the modern methods schools deploy to embed key skills into a class of 30!
Here, I have listed some things to consider when supporting your homeschooled child with maths.
- If you have inhibitions around maths, don’t share them with your child, they can rub off and cause unnecessary anxiety around the subject. If something is tricky because you haven’t seen it before just say, ‘hmm, I didn’t cover this when I was at school so let’s look it up’. There are a wealth of tips, tricks and support on the internet – you can google ‘how do I work out what cubed numbers are?’ and there will be answers for you, along with video clips showing you how to do it.
- My big tip is to make maths practical. Generally, children don’t enjoy endless worksheets and text book maths. Maths is a really practical subject and by helping children to physically carry out maths activities they enjoy doing it, remember what they’ve done and are better able to recall it at later stages.
- Instead of exercise books and endless bits of paper, use a small whiteboard to carry out maths investigations. Whiteboards are great as children can easily correct themselves and nothing is permanent. In schools, exercise books are helpful so the teacher can see the mistakes children make to help plan future lessons but at home its just not necessary with you following them. Being able to wipe away mistakes helps children feel less precious about what they are doing so they can focus more on the task at hand.
- We use the Collage app to load up images that capture their work/calculations onto their online learning journey. This saves paper and enables storing and keeping track of what they are doing. It can upload evidence against the subject maths and create a chronological timeline of their work or, for those following the National Curriculum, it can upload the evidence against the maths National Curriculum objective so you can tick off what they have done and see the progress (and what’s left to do)!
- There are many online maths programmes that you can use to deliver curriculum maths. This is fine if your child enjoys it but consider adding or modelling practical opportunities for maths so they can connect maths with real life.
- Make it purposeful – whenever you can, model how you use maths. Say maths problems out loud, e.g. ‘Oh, the garage just rang and said it will cost £369 to fix the car but Bob over the road says he can get me a part for £80 and will charge me £50 to fit it, how much would I save?’. Last year we needed to paint the outside of the house so needed to calculate the area of the walls to get the right amount of paint, this became a great opportunity to see maths being used for real experiences.
- Give your children pocket money, whatever you can realistically afford. Although costly, debit card style kids bank accounts are gaining popularity, especially as coins and notes fade out. It is a great opportunity for them to experience saving and buy things, whether electronically or coin/paper based. As well as pocket money, try working out your annual spend on children’s clothes and convert that into a monthly clothing allowance for them to buy their own clothes, with a rule that they can’t use their clothing money for anything else! This may create some interesting debate around buying second hand, mending clothes, the value of hand-me-downs, etc to enable them to save more money. It can lead to better awareness of how much things cost and how to look after their things.
- When the children shows signs of being ready and interested focus on the key learning skills and don’t move on until they are grasped. For example, counting forward and back to 20 and number bonds to 20. Then counting on and back to 120, basic times tables x2, x10, x5 and then x2, x4, x8, x3, x6 and x9. Finally place value, what does each digit represent.
Maths really does fit into every aspect of life. Here are some examples of how we use maths in everyday activities and how we can tie these in to the children’s learning:
- Geography/Travel; how far to get somewhere, navigating routes using compass and ordnance survey grids references
- Money; how much things cost, researching the difference of costs, percentage of money off something in a sale, savings interest earned
- Cooking; time and temperature, measuring ingredients, weight, volume of liquid, dividing cakes or pizzas or for fractions and percentages , Art; angles, symmetry, patterns
- Sport; timing ourselves, comparing scores/measures
- Construction/house maintenance; decorating, measuring for new furniture, garden layout
- Business; costing materials out to know how much to charge, how many you need to sell to make a profit
Maths also pretty much links to every subject when considered in a Curriculum context. Here are some ideas for how you can make links with other areas of learning:
- Science; capacity, timing experiments, measuring, gardening (plant growth), months of the year, temperature
- Music; patterns and sequences
- D&T; shapes 2D and 3D, patterns, angles, symmetry, dimensions, area, measurements, calculating
- Art; ratio of paint, symmetry, angles, patterns, measurements, primary colours, secondary colours, perspective
- English, symmetry in capital letters, spacing, indents, numbered bullet points
- Reading; speed read, how many words in two minutes
- RE; pattern, symmetry in symbolic images
- History; timeline
- PE; timing yourself, how many steps, how far, speed, scoring system
- Following National Curriculum maths will be useful if you want your child to take examinations such as GCSE’s from 14 onwards. At least 2 years before exams you will want to start prepping for them, beyond the ‘lifestyle’ maths outlined here. This is normally done by following one of the examining board resources/books. Often, homeschoolers prefer to be more hands on with maths during a child’s’ primary years and focus on a more structured curriculum model in the secondary age phase.
You can use toys to support maths; counting with Lego bricks and dividing with playdough. But there is also lots of everyday household equipment that is great for supporting maths. Here is a list of some useful things to have around the house;
- Height chart
- Clock (digital and analogue)
- Wind measurer (Anemometer)
- Compass (for drawing circles)
- Set squares
- Measuring tape
- Scales (body & food)
- Measuring jugs of different sizes
- Small mirror for symmetry work
- Squared paper
- Tracing paper
- Board games like Monopoly (money version), Rummikub, What’s the Time Mr Wolf (orchard), Pizza Fraction Fun (Learning Resources), dominos, pack of cards
- Apps, lots of the above suggestions come as apps which are fun to use like stopwatches where you can set laps up.
Whatever you do, it is about enjoying maths and sharing the moments together 🤓.