Lucy Davis, Maths on Toast’s CEO, shares some top tips on how to enjoy maths at home and encourage wider thinking and exploration.
Maths on Toast develops creative, crafty, playful activities that are all based on mathematical ideas. We offer the opportunity to discover that you can find maths almost everywhere you look. Creative, enjoyable experiences lead to a can-do and positive attitude to maths.
Let children take the lead
Let them choose how they do an activity; where a topic or challenge takes them; what they try next. Playful, child-centred learning is something that is taken away from children more and more as they get older, but exploration leads to discovery.
Don’t rush your child.
Self-direction and the confidence to try are essential in any learning process and imagination is not only needed in the arts world, it is a vital skill for scientists and mathematicians. We very often think of STEM subjects as rigid and defined but, without time and space for broad thinking, experimentation and exploration humans would never have made all of the discoveries we have.
Mistakes are good!
If we don’t try, we don’t learn. Don’t try and do everything for your child or insist how it should look. Let them do it and ask for help if they need.
Encourage and ask questions
Some children do need more encouragement to carry on with open-ended activities and independent thinking, especially if they have little experience of child-led learning and are used to worksheets, ‘closed’ activities and hectic timetables.
Your role can be to prompt them think of ideas to take the activity or challenge further, asking them “what could we do next?” or “what could we use to recreate this in a different way?” For example:
- turning a paper pattern into a 3D one with lego, blocks or any other building material
- making their own 3D shapes from a ‘net’ – the flattened-out template/pattern of a 3D shape (find an example net here) – then turning these 3D shapes into constructions
- using empty boxes, cartons and other junk modelling items for construction or mathematical shape sculptures
- looking at patterns in art, looking at patterns in nature – are they symmetrical, can you see how the pattern repeats; how can you recreate the pattern/repetition?
- asking them to set YOU a challenge!
You can also encourage your child to think about how the activity they are doing links to:
- real world situations
- maths learning at school
- other learning at school
- their own play, exploration or interests
Last but not least… join in if you can
Children love to see their parents try and often they will be the ones offering you encouragement and guidance. Explaining and demonstrating an activity or idea aids understanding and reinforces learning, but equally you’ll be creating happy associations with maths as a family and all learning to be confident and positive about maths.
Lucy Davis is CEO of Maths on Toast, the family maths charity.