Lucy Davis, Maths on Toast’s CEO, shares her advice on how to create positive and enjoyable experiences of maths during this latest lockdown.
Some children may be struggling in lockdown and their home learning and conversely some may be thriving.For most parents it presents challenges of one form or another and at times everyone will feel they’re not doing it ‘right’.
Research shows that children learning maths in a tangible, hands-on way – using physical props and aids before attempting to tackle the concepts in a more abstract way – will be able to make the mathematical connections with greater ease.
Many adults don’t have the confidence to ‘play around’ with maths or suggest creative solutions to their child
Imagine as an example: building ‘square numbers’ with cubes (2×2, 3×3 and so on), then drawing them, and only then working them out with digits on paper – this is laying the foundations of a mathematical concept with hands-on learning. But this type of maths learning may be difficult to ‘send home’ especially as many parents don’t know how to explore, ‘play’ or be creative with maths – they may often prefer to stick to the more rigid framework of rote learning times tables or only using one method to work something out as this is how they were taught. Many adults don’t have the ‘maths mastery’ ie a deeper understanding of the mathematical concept, or the confidence to ‘play around’ with maths or suggest creative solutions to their child.
We all know reading to our children supports reading and literacy but how do you do the same with maths?
Maths on Toast was founded to give families the opportunity to engage and enjoy maths as a family activity – we all know reading to our children, acting out scenes from favourites books, making up funny stories all supports reading and literacy but how do you do the same with maths? A key thing to remember with any form of learning is that a child will struggle to learn if they are not relaxed, comfortable and engaged.
Sadly, when it comes to maths, parents will often turn to yet more worksheets of practise – potentially leaving a child bored or uninspired; or will get cross when their child can’t do something – creating a stressed child and a negative experience of maths. Neither scenario is likely to lead to positive and enjoyable experience of maths. Furthermore negative and stressed responses to maths – a blanket ‘I don’t like maths’ – can easily become engrained and make a child more reluctant to engage.
Encourage children to explore, experiment and ‘play around’
At Maths on Toast we strive to create child-led, hands-on, creative and crafty activities that will engage and inspire children and encourage them to explore, experiment and ‘play around’ with maths and mathematical concepts. We show that maths is in so many parts of our everyday life and that you are often doing maths without realising it. Maths is in art, maths is everywhere in nature, maths is in crafting, designing and constructing.
A lot of Maths on Toast activities focus on spatial maths – that is, space, shape and measure. Again, research shows that this spatial reasoning is essential in early maths learning to underpin the understanding of more complicated mathematical concepts that come in later mathematical education. It also provides the key skills of problem-solving, making mistakes, testing different things out and taking time to find answers – all absolutely essential in maths, yet these skills often fall by the wayside when a need for speed is prioritised in maths.
Our top tips: Take the time to explore
Parents: encourage your children to take time to explore and enjoy what maths can offer. We hope our activities will allow you and your children to do this and open your eyes to where maths is found and what maths can be. Enjoy!
Teachers: our activities are ideal to be printed and sent home in packs – we have designed them to need as few additional resources as possible and use resources that may easily be found in the home. Glue and scissors, along with coloured pencils and felt tips are always useful if you are sending home any additional resource packs to families who may have few resources in the home.
Lucy Davis is CEO of Maths on Toast, the family maths charity.