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Numbers, numbers everywhere!

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One of the best ways to help a child develop a love of Mathematics, and a good grounding in understanding the basics, is to point out numbers and Mathematical ideas wherever they occur naturally in play and when on trips out and about. Bus numbers, house numbers, interesting shapes, number of people, counting out sweets, counting fingers and toes etc. This comes naturally to some – maybe those who themselves like numbers – and less so to others, but we can all do it. And you don’t have to be good at Maths yourself to encourage it in your children. Not everyone will grow up to be a Mathematician – and that’s clearly totally ok, I’d be lost without the vast array of skills others possess that I don’t! – but everyone needs basic Maths skills for life.

Something a lot of parents do – I’ve definitely been guilty of this myself – is to ‘test’ their child regularly. ‘Do you know what that number is?’, ‘Do you recognise this shape?’ Whilst there is nothing wrong with this to a degree, study after study has shown that young children in particular learn best through play, and many will shut down if they feel they are being examined. Perhaps a better way to help your child learn is to say ‘oh, we are passing house number 12, did you see it?’, or ‘I like the blue hexagon you’re playing with’ (toy in picture). Or maybe ‘I’ve got 6 sweets to share between the two of you, so that’s 3 each’, ‘I’ve got 3 pairs of shoes out, so I need one more to make 4’. Sometimes it may feel a little contrived, and it’s up to you how old your child is and whether it would sit well with them, but it’s more likely to go in if they hear it from you as natural language rather than a test.

It’s really important for children to develop a positive view of numbers and their ability to deal with them. Maths seems to be one of those subjects that people say they either ‘can’ or ‘can’t’ do. But the truth is, everyone can do it, just to very varying degrees. And sitting through dry Maths lessons that did nothing to help those of you to whom it doesn’t come naturally is a mistake of the education system, not your ability to do Maths. I’d love to encourage you to put aside your feelings on your abilities or experiences, and create an environment where children don’t see Maths as something to be feared but to be explored. Maths education has moved on – though still has a way to go – and a good understanding of Maths helps with so many things later on in school and work. It can be fun – I promise!

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