Mathematics: How to help your pre-school and school-aged child

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Learn about the everyday activities you can do with your young child to help develop their math skills.

Key points

  • ​Everyday activities can support your pre-school and school-aged child in developing a positive attitude towards math and essential skills.
  • Workbooks and computer programs provide extra exposure and practice.

Playing games

Supporting the development of your child’s math skills can be fun

  • Playing card games such as Go Fish, War, Spit, Uno and Concentration are an engaging way to support your child’s knowledge of numbers, number sequences and number concepts such “more than” or “less than”.
  • Young children may enjoy setting up a store with a register, which can support money identification, money value, and basic addition and subtraction.
  • Have your child create their own game with dice and rules, and play it as a family. This also allows your child to practice number recognition and planning.
  • Activities using a stopwatch can support the understanding of numbers, time estimation and elapsed time.
  • Puzzle books with connect-the-dots puzzles support development of number sequences.

Math in everyday life

  • Teach your child about temperature and have them report it to you each morning.
  • Point out the time and calculate how much time various activities take to create a schedule with your child (e.g., measure how long it takes the bus to get to school, how long it will be before dinner, how much time there is to play in the park, etc.).
  • Have a calendar hanging up and count how many days there are until an event (e.g., a birthday party, a holiday). Have your child write down and monitor those events to appreciate the passage of time.
  • Cooking or baking with your child exposes them to measuring and fractions.
  • Point out prices while shopping and ask your child to consider what items are “more” or “less”.
  • Have your child plan a movie night and ask them how much they think it would cost for your family to go to the theatre (i.e., the cost of the activity and any snacks).
  • Consider giving your child a weekly allowance, which will let them keep track of, estimate, and balance money.

Fostering spatial reasoning skills: Shapes are all around us

There are various ways of fostering spatial reasoning skills in your child:

  • Use spatial terms including “above”/“below”, “behind”/“in front” and “near”/“far” in everyday activities (e.g., when taking dishes out of the dishwasher) or while playing games (e.g., when setting up a train set).
  • Talk about spatial properties (e.g., doing up laces – over and under; placing things in the trunk of a car).
  • Take turns pointing out spaces around you (e.g., while out walking consider the different shapes that comprise a house or a garden and how they relate to one another).
  • Use paper and pencil mazes to support development of your child’s visual problem-solving, planning and visual-spatial skills.
  • Play games such as Mighty Minds, Tetris and Blockus to support development of your child’s visual problem-solving, planning and visual-spatial skills.
  • Have fun making paper airplanes, paper fortune tellers, and origami.

Looking for patterns

  • Look for and point out recurring patterns (e.g., on floor tiles, clothing, utensils on the dinner table, house styles on the street, windows on houses, stones/beds in gardens, etc.).
  • Make up patterns using different colours, sizes, shapes, rhythms or actions (e.g., reciting nursery rhymes, crafting with beads, clapping or singing music patterns).

General tips

  • Praise your child for engaging in math activities.
  • Encourage your child to ask for help when they need it.
  • Include math activities in daily life.

What if I have questions about my child’s math development?

Early math skills provide the foundation for later math development. Practising math in a variety of contexts, both at school and at home, can support your child’s learning. Without mastering early skills, learning more advanced math can be difficult for your child. If you think your child may be falling behind in math, please speak to their teacher.

Last updated: July 20th 2020