Help your child build maths skills

As your child’s first teacher, you play a key part in building their numeracy skills from an early age.

Developing numeracy skills early gives children a foundation on which to construct their mathematical learning. It also prepares them for life, including problem solving, handling money and eventually managing finances.

Mathematics involves numbers, patterns, shapes, time and measurement. Incorporating maths into everyday activities can be easy and fun. Mathematics is all around us – in the playground, at home and at the shops.

Children need lots of experiences in making, counting, drawing and talking about numbers. You may find the mathematics your child is learning is different from how you learnt. Regardless, you can support your child in many ways. Help your child make connections by explaining how numbers are a part of everyday life.

It is important for children to develop language skills related to numeracy. It may take time for your child to use these terms and language effectively. Regular exposure to mathematical talk is a strong support for future learning.

What you can do as parents

Here are some activities you could try to develop your son’s mathematical language:

  • At home or when shopping, use specific terms when asking for items. For example, ask your son to get a one litre carton of milk.
  • When cooking, discuss different measurements used, such as tablespoons, litres, grams, and cups. Discuss ideas about empty, half full and full.
  • Describe your child’s movements as you walk, talk and play together, as they climb ‘over’ the fence, slip ‘between’ the poles, and swing ‘under’ the bars. This helps your child understand positional language.
  • Sorting activities support your child to understand concepts such as ‘same’ and ‘different’. Use recycling as an opportunity to sort items such as paper, plastic, glass, metal and general waste.

Start counting early

Counting is one of the earliest experiences of mathematics for younger children.

Children will often say numbers before they visually recognise and identify individual numbers. Learning to say numbers can begin with a favourite song or rhyme or repeating the number names.

Here are some activities and tips to engage your child with counting. You can watch or listen to some YouTube counting sequences in these songs and rhymes:

  • Five Little Ducks
  • Ten in the Bed
  • 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Once I Caught a Fish Alive
  • Ten Green Bottles
  • Five Little Monkeys
  • 1, 2, Buckle My Shoe

Make counting fun

Children will begin by counting all objects in a group, such as their fingers and toes, steps to the park or their toys. As children move on to counting a set of objects, they begin to link each object with one number. Initially encourage your child to touch every object as they say the corresponding number.

When beginning to count a group of objects, children may need to arrange the objects in a line to help them count. Later, they will be able to start counting from any object without arranging the objects.

Once your child is more confident, start practising counting from different numbers. For example, start counting from three or 14. Ask your child to count forwards and backwards. Ask what number comes before, or what number comes after, a number you give them.

Hands-on learning

Try these ways to incorporate counting into everyday activities:

  • Cut fruit into four pieces and ask your child to count the pieces.
  • Count the number of pancakes you cooked for breakfast.
  • Total the number of knives, forks and spoons on the table.
  • Ask your child what number comes before or after a number when you see one; for example ask, ‘how old will you be after your next birthday’?
  • Count the number of people travelling in the train carriage.
  • Count the house numbers by twos as you walk along the street.
  • Count how many steps it takes to walk from the front door to the back door.

Another idea is to practise counting when shopping with your child, for example counting the number of oranges you put into your shopping bag.

Have fun finding more counting ideas to explore at home.

Brent Brickhill
Junior School Teacher & Instructional Coach