Exploring numeracy with your child
Family participation in learning is one of the most accurate predictors of a child's success in school and beyond.
Providing opportunities to discuss and engage in mathematics supports your child’s learning in and out of school. Your child will also begin to connect the importance of maths with their everyday activities, such as navigating public transport, comparing and choosing the best item to buy in stores, setting a budget, and cooking.
Talk positively about maths so your child also values it. If your experiences in maths at school were less than ideal, avoid making comments like 'I was bad at maths at school,' or 'I didn't like maths because it was too hard.' Comments like these can lower your child’s expectations of themselves and can perpetuate myths about people being naturally bad or good at maths.
Conversely, if you did well at maths in school, avoid jumping in with answers or solutions. Encourage your child to talk about how they might work out maths problems. This helps boost their confidence and deepens their understanding.
Regardless of your own school experiences in maths, be reassured that maths today is not about learning by rote. Today, the focus is on recognising that there are multiple ways to get an answer, and being able to explain how and why you chose the approach you did.
There are many activities you can do at home to help explore maths with your child. When participating in these activities, avoid associating them with speed. Expecting your child to work quickly on maths can cause maths anxiety. Try to focus on the process and not the outcome.
Sports provide a good opportunity to engage your child in maths, particularly if they are a keen sportsperson. Here are some questions to ask your child when watching or playing their favourite sport:
- How does your favourite sport tally the score? What maths is presented on the tally?
- How do other sports tally the score – for example, tennis, golf, cricket, netball, football?
- What maths do you use to find the total of the scores?
- Who is at the top of the ladder? How is this determined?
- Are there other ways to record the score?
- How long do your favourite sport games go for in minutes and seconds? How is the time in the game divided? Into halves, quarters or something else?
- What are the shapes of different playing fields and courts? Talk about edges and angles.
- How can you estimate the perimeter and area of a playing field?
- How many cars could be parked on the MCG field or at your local sports ground? How could we work this out?
Watching the weather
Because it changes daily, the weather can be a great topic to discuss maths with your child. Try these activities:
- Visit the
- Use a thermometer and/or rain gauge to keep graphed records of your local weather conditions.
- Ask your child the difference between each day’s minimum and maximum temperatures. Do they notice a pattern or trend in the weather changes?
- Find a seven-day forecast, then record the actual temperature for each day and compare. Ask your child if the forecast was accurate. Ask them what similarities and differences they notice.
- Use the information on the weather website to explore differences in weather between your area and other areas. Ask your child how much rain you get compared to other areas. Ask your child to identify differences in temperature between your area and other areas. Who might be affected by an increase or decrease in rainfall?
Discussing maths when cooking can provide a daily maths lesson involving measurement, time, and cost. Here are some activities you could try at home:
- Collect and read recipes and discuss the use of fractions, millilitres and grams. Encourage your child to make accurate measurements using measuring cups and spoons.
- Discuss how you would double or halve a recipe. Encourage your child to record new measurements for the recipe. Discuss why and when you might need to do this.
- Identify the temperature and cooking time on the recipe. Discuss why different recipes have different temperatures and cooking times.
- Estimate the cost to buy all the ingredients to make the recipe. Compare this with the actual cost of items. Ask your child if they think it was better to buy the ingredients and make dinner or get takeaway.
- Make a list of the abbreviations used in the recipe and then write them in full – for example, l for litre, ml for millilitre, tsp. for teaspoon, tbsp. for tablespoon.
- Investigate the prices of fresh fruit and vegetables available in the supermarkets compared with market vendors.
Discussing catalogues can be a great way to improve your child’s maths knowledge of money and percentages. Here are some questions you could ask:
- How would you spend $40 from a catalogue? How many products can you buy for $40?
- Select five products from the catalogue, then calculate what the cost would be if there was a 50% sale. Does it make a difference if you add up the items, and then deduct 50%, or if each item is reduced by 50% then totalled?
- What is the best value sale item in the catalogue? Can you explain your reasoning?
- Compare the cost of a product across different stores using different catalogues. What did you find?
- Find an example where there is a discounted cost for multiple items. Calculate how much this will really save.
- ‘Consider how to find 10% of an item and then 20%. Is there a pattern that would make calculations in multiples of 10% easy?’
Here are some questions to ask your child that improve their knowledge of time and their problem-solving skills:
- Can you identify your starting point on the timetable?
- What is the earliest and latest time to travel on this route?
- How long does it take to travel the entire route?
- How many stops are there on this route?
- What is the difference in the time travelled when not making all the stops?
- What is the cost? Is it good value compared to other travel options?
- Which is the best route to travel? Why do you think this?
- To get to training on time, when will you need to leave?
Encouraging your child to think about money, saving money, and considering how they spend money is very important. Here are some tips and activities:
- Encourage your child to work out how much change you will get after buying something.
- Investigate costs for family trips together. For example, a visit to a theme park may include the cost of transport, entry tickets, food and transport.
- Discuss saving money for presents or something your child may want to buy. Work out how long it will take to save this much if they get a small amount of money each week.
- Negotiate increases in pocket money as percentages. For example, a 5% increase would be how much money per week? Is this better than a monthly increase?
- Encourage your child to save a percentage of their pocket money or birthday money and work out how much this would be. For example, how much money would you have if you saved 40% each week?
- Read the newspaper or watch the news. Discuss what is happening with the stock market and why these changes may occur.
Fractions is a maths topic that is very relevant to everyday life. We use our knowledge of fractions to solve problems and make decisions all the time.
Support your child by using mathematical language to talk about fractions. Here are some maths language terms your child uses at school:
- Fraction – any part of a whole, a group or a number (for example, )
- Numerator – showing the number of parts of the whole (for example, in the fraction , the numerator is 4)
- Denominator – shows how many equal parts the whole is divided into (for example, in the fraction , the denominator is 5)
- Proper fraction – when the value of the numerator is less than the denominator (for example, )
- Improper fraction – when the numerator is greater than or equal to the denominator (for example, )
- Equivalent fraction – fractions that have the same value or amount (for example, = )
- Mixed numbers – a whole number and a fraction (for example, 1)
Children begin by learning that there are many numbers between whole numbers. A number line is an effective model to help your child understand this:
Your child also begins to develop an understanding of the relationship between fractions, decimals, ratios and percentage.
- Decimals – a fraction that is made by dividing a whole into ten equal parts (tenths) or one hundred equal parts (hundredths). For example, 75 red pens of 100 total pens can be rewritten as 0.75 or .75
- Ratio – a comparison of two or more amounts. For example, in a fruit bowl there are 3 apples and 4 pears. This ratio of apples to pears is represented as 3:4.
- Percentage – is the number of parts out of 100. For example, in a collection of 100 buttons, 75 are red. This can be represented as 75 per cent or 75%.
Talk positively about how you use fractions in everyday life. Making models of fractions for your child will support their understanding of fractions. Try some of these ideas by making use of everyday objects:
- Can you show me halves and quarters as you cut the orange?
- Can you cut up the apple to make six equal pieces? What fraction of the whole apple is one piece? Four pieces? How else could you say that?
- What percentage of the glass is filled with water? What is the ratio of water to air in the glass?
- How do the hands on the clock face show the time quarter past? Why do we use the word ‘quarter’ when telling the time?
- If you fold a towel three times equally, what fraction does it show?
Here are some other useful websites you can access from home or the local library. Some are also available to download as apps on various devices:
Reviewed 24 January 2023