Mathematics forms a key part of children’s learning at primary school: it introduces them to ideas, skills and ways of thinking that are crucial in everyday life and supports their learning across the curriculum. Through their learning of maths, children develop their understanding of the numbers, patterns and shapes they see in the world around them, learn ways of handling data in an increasingly digital world. Mathematics makes an essential contribution to children’s development as successful learners.
Children solve mathematical problems with enthusiasm, especially when those problems lead them to an unexpected discovery or new connections. As they become more confident, they look for patterns, use logical reasoning, suggest solutions and try out different approaches.
Mathematics provides children a powerful way of communicating – they learn to explore and explain their ideas using objects, pictures, diagrams and symbols as well as spoken and written language.
Through their learning across the curriculum, children learn how mathematics has developed over time and how it contributes to our economy, society and culture.
Learning in mathematics inspires curiosity, nurtures creativity and provides children with the skills they need for the next steps in their learning as well as life beyond school.
Derek Haylock with Ralph Manning, (2019), ‘Mathematics Explained For Primary Teachers’, Sage Publications Limited
At The Mead Academy Trust, we use the ‘mastery approach’ to teach maths. This involves ensuring that:
- Learning is achievable for all – we have high expectations and encourage a positive ‘can do’ mindset towards maths in all pupils, creating learning experiences which develop children’s resilience in the face of a challenge and carefully scaffolding learning so everyone can make progress
- Learning is deep and sustainable – lessons are designed with careful small steps, questions and tasks in place to ensure the learning is not superficial
- Learning builds on previous learning – pupils’ learning of concepts is seen a continuum across the school
- Children learn to reason about a concept and make connections – pupils are encouraged to make connections and spot patterns between different concepts (E.g. the link between ratio, division and fractions) and use precise mathematical language, which frees up working memory and deepens conceptual understanding
- Children develop ‘conceptual’ and ‘procedural’ fluency – teachers move maths from one context to another (using objects, pictorial representations, equations and word problems). There are high expectations for pupils to learn times tables, key number facts (so they are automatic) and have a true sense of number
- Problem solving is central – this develops pupils’ understanding of why something works so that they truly have an appreciation of what they are doing rather than just learning to repeat routines without grasping what is happening
- There is challenge through greater depth – rather than accelerated content, (moving onto next year’s concepts) teachers set tasks to deepen knowledge and improve reasoning skills within the objectives of their year group
Maths No Problem!
The ‘Maths No Problem!’ approach is at the heart of our maths curriculum. Teaching is based upon a series of textbooks and workbooks written to meet the requirements of the 2014 English National Curriculum. ‘The Maths – No Problem!’ Primary Series was assessed by the Department for Education’s expert panel, which judged that it met the core criteria for a high quality textbook to support teaching for mastery. As a result, the ‘Maths No Problem!’ Primary Series are recommended textbooks for schools.
The Maths – No Problem! textbooks are skilfully designed by expert authors. They contain carefully varied questions and examples which:
- Are easy for pupils to access while still containing challenging components;
- Encourage pupils to think about maths;
- Deepen pupils’ understanding
- Reveal misconceptions to be quickly addressed
The scheme has the concrete-pictorial-abstract (CPA) method at its heart which encourages children to use and discover through the use of equipment (concrete – such as cubes or tens and ones blocks), then they progress to representing this in picture form (pictorial) and finally moving on to the final stage which uses equations and mathematical symbols (abstract). The CPA approach allows all children to access maths and deepens their understanding of key topics, enabling them to make crucial links between topics and develop their mathematical thinking, ability and confidence.
Supporting children at home
By involving your child everyday activities, you can help them understand the importance of maths in real life. It will also help them to develop their basic maths and problem solving skills, which are really important in the UK primary curriculum.
Don’t underestimate yourself, or the power you have as a parent getting involved in your child’s learning. There is clear evidence that parental engagement raises pupil achievement!
So here are some tips and ideas to show how you can improve your child’s maths skills at home.
Start with a positive mindset
This is perhaps the single most important tip! Do you ever hear yourself saying “I’m really bad at maths”? Unfortunately, your children can pick up on negativity towards subjects and this can be a real barrier to their learning. No matter how you feel about it, try to use positive language around your children when talking about maths – this really can improve their maths attitude as well as their achievements!
Practice telling the time
In this digital age, many children are growing up not reading analogue clocks. Make sure your child practises reading analogue clocks in everyday life – it’s still part of the maths curriculum. This can be as simple as reading the clock you may walk past on the side of a building!
Play Maths games together
Many games use mathematical and logical skills that your children will need in later life – plus they’re fun! Games like jigsaw puzzles help children to develop logical & spatial awareness skills. Board games with dice develop children’s counting skills. Other games that may help develop your child’s maths skills are darts, scrabble, and chess.
As everybody knows, it’s essential for children to learn their times tables in order to access harder maths questions. This is an easy thing for parents to practise with their children – sneak it in when they’re bored! Make car journeys go by faster, or distract them on the bus by asking times tables questions. Challenge them to say their times tables backwards if they get bored reciting them.
Use Fractions in daily life
Fractions can be simple for you to practise with your child. Simple common fractions can be reinforced at home even if you’re not too confident with fractions. Stick to fractions you know such as ½ or ¼. See a window split into four coloured panels? Ask your child “what fraction of the window is coloured in blue?” Just make sure the separate parts of the shape are all the same size (children learn that fractions are equal parts of a whole).
Involve your child problem solving
As parents, you can help your children practise problem-solving skills by asking them to tell you which is the best deal for a particular product at the supermarket. You could also ask them how much a particular item is worth when there is a 30% sale on, or which internet provider has the best deal when you need to switch, for example.
Learn their maths methods
You can also support your child’s learning by getting to grips with the maths they learn. Sometimes parents try to help by teaching their children methods they learned in school. This can confuse children. Try instead to learn the method that your child uses. This ensures continuity between school and home learning for your child and genuinely improves their learning!
Play to your child's love of technology
There’s no substitute for personal support with your child’s maths, but when you’re busy – or even just for a change – giving children short bursts of online practice can be really helpful. We’re spoiled for choice with maths apps on the market and most really engage children. There’s definitely no need to spend lots of money. Many are free or economically priced.
For supporting Key Stage 1 children:
- ttrockstars.com (Numbots and/or Times Tables Rock Stars)
For supporting Key Stage 2 children: