Parents often ask me what books are helpful to use at home to support their child’s learning. There are so many out there, it’s often hard to choose.
As with so many things, it really depends. It depends on the reason you’re using it – is your child behind and could do with additional help, is your child bored and could do with stretching, or is your child chugging along quite nicely and you’d simply like to keep up the good work at home? Or perhaps the question is whether you’re doing work at home for another purpose such as preparing your child for grammar school or independent school entrance exams. If the latter, then please see Preparing for the 7+ (Maths) or Preparing for the 11+ (Maths). I’ll concentrate here on ‘homework’ help rather than specific exam preparation.
For younger children – particularly nursery, reception and year 1 (possibly year 2, depending on your child) – I would highly recommend the ‘Progress with Oxford’ books. They come in a range of topics (e.g. addition and subtraction, multiplication and division etc.), the pages are bright and colourful, and your child gets rewarded with a sticker when they’ve completed a double page spread (which should be easily achieved in one setting).
They are very visual, involving stickers and colouring, and I have found they are easy to get younger children involved with. I would say that you need to choose the level you buy carefully and not necessarily assume that because your child is in reception, they will need the 4-5 year books. I think they are on the easy side for the age group, so you may need to go anywhere between 1 and 3 years ahead of your child’s age.
I think they tend to lose their charm as kids get older because they have a ‘young kid’ feel to them. However, if you’ve got a bright kid who’s several years ahead, then they can be brilliant. I remember using the 7-8 books on my son when he was in nursery and it was perfect because he was able to learn things he was interested in (he was particularly into multiplying by 8 for some reason!), but in an age-appropriate way (so with the 8x table, he was doing colour by number!).
For end of KS1, and for KS2, I would have different recommendations. Exactly what works best depends on how long your child’s attention span is, how independently they work and how quickly, and how much you want to do with them.
These Collins books (left) – which you can get for each year group – are a great way to complement school work.
They cover the syllabus at about the right level, they are clearly set out, each topic has 3 levels of challenges, and they are in manageable chunks for a single sitting. For these books, children who are ‘meeting expectations’ would expect to do the correct year group book for them.
Getting your child to work through the appropriate book for them will definitely be a help in consolidating their maths learning and highlighting any areas they need to re-visit.
The Collins books also begin with a ‘starter test’ that cover the material from the previous year’s book. This is a very useful benchmark to ensure that your child is doing the correct level book. There are regular progress tests through the books to check that they understand the material covered so far.
I love these Schofield and Sims books (left) for years 4,5, and 6. I think they are slightly more challenging than the Collins books, and certainly the ‘Extend’ section on each page will provide a bit of stretch for the more able mathematician.
I would recommend these books for parents wishing to extend their children, or for children who are finding maths at school quite straight forward and would like some more challenging problems to apply their knowledge to.
Both the Collins and the (red) Schofield and Sims books are brilliant for covering the whole syllabus. If you’d like to sharpen your kid’s mental arithmetic, or just give them some mixed challenges, then I think the Schofield and Sims mental arithmetic books are fantastic. They are marketed as KS2, but I think could easily be done in KS1 for budding mathematicians. They are not set for particular year groups, enabling you to choose which one best meets your child’s level best.
Books aren’t right for everyone, but hopefully this helps a bit if you are looking for some books to do with your kids at home.