It can be hard for parents to know how to support their children’s numeracy and maths. An essential thing to remember is that you should never leave it solely to the school to teach your children. In fact, mathematics has to be taught in partnership with the school, and parents can make a start in teaching mathematical ideas as soon as your children are born.
There are so many songs which familiarise babies and little children with numbers and counting. From the very beginning sing them to your child so that he learns to listen and enjoy their rhythm and beat. You can look them up on the internet if you cannot remember them, or borrow nursery song books from the library. Check out familiar nursery rhymes and songs such as ‘1, 2, 3, 4, 5 Once I caught a fish alive’, ‘One little piggy went to market’, ’10 green bottles hanging on the wall’, ‘5 Little monkeys bouncing on the bed’, ‘There were 10 in the bed and the little one said roll over’, etc. They are charming songs that provoke lots of smiles and laughter to engage your child’s attention.
As much as you can, use the correct mathematical language to compare sizes, weights and lengths.
If you take an interactive approach to communication, you talk about what you are doing and how you do it with your child so that he begins to relate language to meaning. This is particularly relevant in respect of encouraging him to understand mathematical concepts. For example, say things like,
‘Where did I put your nappy? Is it in the cupboard or on the shelf?’ or
‘You have grown so tall, you no longer fit these trousers. They are too short for you?’
This seems like common sense but so often the communication that goes on between parents and children is short and often based on commands rather than on descriptions that explain the world around them. We live in a mathematically organised world and it is our responsibility to enrich our children with words to describe it. Similarly, when you go for walks, talk about the directions you are taking as you turn left or right, are reaching the end of the street or passing the park and the library etc. Children learn to identify specific landmarks and to enjoy the repetition of seeing the familiar places that begin to define their outside environment. Reading numbers and letters from number plates is fun too.
Encourage your child to identify coins and to begin to understand the value of money and how to spend it. Your child will enjoy learning how to be responsible for small amounts of money so that he can make decisions about how to spend it. From the age of three years if not before, he can begin to recognise different coins and sort them. He can be given weekly pocket money to save for presents for his family and to buy things that he wants. That growing sense of responsibility is so useful to develop and stimulates essential mathematical understanding of adding and subtracting for practical purposes.
Offer your child daily opportunities to learn how the shape of the objects around him impact on his world.
We live in a structured and engineered environment. Everything we see and use in the home has been built for a purpose to fit into the spaces that we occupy. There are simple shapes to point out when he is young – plates are round, windows are arched, doors and beds are rectangular, and crackers are square. Paying attention to the detailed description of structure enriches your child’s perception and feeds his inquiring mind. Interest in form and technology should be stimulated and inspired by the opportunity for your child to make models with recycled boxes, as well as create his own art using modelling materials, paints and crayons.