Helping children aged five to six with maths at home
The two most important things when it comes to learning maths are enjoyment and motivation - and they are closely related.
Children will improve at maths with practice, and then will enjoy it when they succeed. A great deal of this depends on the experiences children have at home, and it helps if you praise them for their efforts and are patient when they're slow to grasp a new concept.
Wherever possible, ask your child to explain to you what they have done by talking about it. This will show you how they're thinking and often it will become obvious where a mistake has been made or how they have worked it out.
At this stage children will have started counting in 1s, 2s and 10s in school, so counting rhymes and stories are still important eg 2, 4 ,6, 8, who do we appreciate? 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, once I caught a fish alive.
Door numbers are often useful, as they usually go in twos and you can start to introduce the idea of odd and even numbers.
Counting pairs of shoes, gloves and socks is a useful way of counting in twos and of finding how many items there are in pairs of objects. Comparing different-sized groups to identify which group has fewer or more items in it is also useful.
Children enjoy using number lines for filling in missing numbers to 20, or they can make their own. Number lines help with ordering numbers and counting in 2s or 10s.
It is also important at this stage for children to begin to recognise and remember number bonds, such as 3 + 3 = 6, 4 + 2 = 6, 5 + 1 = 6 and 6 + 0 =6.
They can do this in a practical way by using six grapes and seeing how many different ways they can split them (if they don't muck up their sums by scoffing them). When children are confident with this, they can start working out simple problems and puzzles.
Have a supply of small toys, buttons, playing cards, dice and dominoes - even pasta shells will do. Cards numbered 1 to 10 will also be needed.
Put 10 objects on a tray and ask your child to choose three numbered cards, eg 2, 4 and 3, then put the correct number of objects against each card and add them altogether.
Repeat with other number combinations. You can also choose combinations such as 2, 4 and 6 to encourage addition and subtraction eg 2 + 4 = 6 and 6 - 4 = 2. This helps with number bonds and recognition of number facts. (Children gradually learn that in addition the numbers we add together can be in any order, but in subtraction the larger number has to come first.)
The skills needed for multiplication are developed by counting in 2s and 10s, and also by learning doubles. The idea of sharing - in any context - helps with the idea of division eg sharing sweets, biscuits, segments of an orange etc.
Continue to play games your child enjoys, such as snakes and ladders, Ludo, dominoes etc, and let them win frequently (but not always).