Maths is an extremely important school subject. At school maths is usually taught in specific lessons, but children practise and use their maths throughout the school day. This advice will help you to make sense of the different terminology used and understand how maths is taught.
So here are ten important things to know about maths at school:
All schools have to follow an agreed curriculum in the teaching of maths. Follow these links to find out more:
Wherever you are, the different areas of maths studied are similar: number and counting, shape and space, measures and data handling. Children also learn how to use and apply the maths they learn in different situations
Maths will normally be taught on a daily basis, in a timetabled lesson, but children practise and use their maths throughout the school day.
From the outset, there will be a lot of focus on developing basic maths skills, such as times tables and remembering basic addition and subtraction facts, for example, 9 – 6 and 4 + 6. Teachers often set aside part of each lesson to devote to this learning.
There are a variety of different methods used in schools today. You may hear terms such as the grid method, partitioning and place value. See the 'jargon buster' for further explanation of these terms and methods. Whatever method your child is taught at school, lots of practice at home using numbers and times tables in fun activities will be a great help. If you're interested in learning about the methods they use at school, ask your child to teach you! Talking through different approaches will also help your child clarify their thinking.
Your child's school will probably use a number of different resources to help support children in their learning. Used effectively, these can really help your child enjoy their maths lessons and improve their learning. Along with textbooks, workbook, worksheets and computer software, children may use practical, tactile resources to help them in their learning.
Numicon is a multi-sensory programme that uses lots of maths equipment such as Numicon shapes, to help children think, talk and investigate maths. The Numicon approach helps children understand number ideas and number relationships which is essential for success in maths, from pattern and algebra to calculation. Children using the Numicon approach learn maths in a hands-on way with lots of talking, experimenting and making connections. This leads to them feeling confident and enthusiastic about maths.
Maths Makes Sense provides a clear whole-school approach to maths. It has a unique learning system that makes maths easy for children to understand. The learning system makes consistent use of tangible objects such as cups, cards and sticks, combined with exaggerated physical actions and a special vocabulary for each symbol. Maths Makes Sense children have an active, spoken and visual image of each maths concept, which completely embeds understanding.
The curriculum your child is following at school will be accompanied by a series of levels that are used to measure your child's progress. The levels, together with the description of what the learning 'looks' like at any particular level provide a framework for the teacher, helping them to see where your child may need additional support or acceleration. They use them to check on children's progress, so that they can match their teaching to children's needs and abilities. However, don't get too focused on what level your child is at in relation to where others might be - they will be making progress. The important thing is to help child through positive encouragement and enjoying maths together.
Developing speaking and listening skills is really important. At school, these skills are practised in all areas of the classroom, including maths lessons. Developing these skills helps children to embed their maths learning, improve their use and understanding of maths vocabulary and create a strong foundation for problem solving skills. You can help develop these skills at home by using number words regularly in everyday situations and asking your child maths-related questions and listening to them explain their thinking. For example, ask: 'How many footsteps do you think it might be from here to the end of the street? How did you decide on that number?'
The ability to solve problems and think mathematically is important in everyday life. Your child will meet all sorts of word and number problems, puzzles and investigations during maths lessons. Many of these will relate to real-life situations. Help them develop their problem solving skills by encouraging them to explain their thinking to you whenever they are working with problems. This is also a great opportunity for them to practise their speaking and listening skills.
- attend curriculum meetings to hear about how the school teaches maths and how you can best help at home.
- read the school prospectus or look on the website for more information about the wider curriculum. Use your school's communication book to send in messages about your child or home.
- speak to the class teacher after school if you have a very quick query or concern.
- wait for open evenings or parent consultation meetings for one-to-one meetings with your child's teacher.
- book an appointment if you have an urgent concern and need a little bit more time to discuss it.
- offer to help in the classroom or school if you can; teachers love to have extra support.
Communicate with your child's school so you understand what your child is learning.
You should try to:
Schools constantly assess and invest in ways to improve teaching and learning. Using computer technology (known as ICT) is an effective way of complementing both structured and independent maths learning. This is evident in maths lessons where children may learn using a variety of resources, from using an interactive whiteboard to work with the whole class, through to working individually, in pairs or in small groups using different computer software programs. Children may also use ICT to present their work.
We hear lots in the press about tests and assessment but don't worry, it isn't all about exams. Assessment for young children is informal and discreet and helps to inform the teacher's planning so they can support each child in their class. Ask us a question here if you are unsure about anything.