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Adding It Up

We can have a huge effect on how our children’s mathematical ability develops and even if you don’t have much confidence in your own numeracy skills, bringing maths to life with them at home can actually be a lot of fun. With thanks to the experts at National Numeracy, here is some great advice that really adds up

Maths: a love hate relationship

Parents give children their first experience of maths. From counting “1, 2, 3” as they pick up their tiny bundle of joy, to building up a tower of stacking blocks as high as the sky.

When parents take an active interest in their child’s learning it’s no surprise they make greater progress at school. This includes maths.

Sadly, compared to literacy (particularly reading), parent involvement in maths is generally underdeveloped. In the UK we have a wide range of barriers to blame for this: many adults struggled with the subject at school, feel out of practice, unconfident in their ability or nervous about discussing it with their children’s teachers. Others are simply up against a lack of time or busy work commitments.

The good news is that even if maths leaves you feeling downright terrified, there are simple things you can do that make a huge difference to how your child’s confidence and ability develop. In fact, there is a good chance that you already are doing some of them. We use maths every day, often without realising it. Think of singing nursery rhymes, playing counting games or telling the time – all of this helps to give your child a head start and even if you don’t do anything else, then it’s worth remembering a few top tips:

Be positive about maths – “You can do it” – Don’t say things like “I can’t do maths” or “I hated maths at school”; your child might start to think like that themselves.

Point out the maths in everyday life – Include your child in activities involving maths, such as food shopping, using money, cooking and travelling.

Praise your child for effort rather than talent – This shows them that by working hard they can always improve.

Let’s look at the evidence

In a recent project, 28 schools in London tried out a new approach to getting parents involved in maths at home. Instead of traditional homework, they sent home a weekly maths challenge, which families completed together and wrote up in a scrapbook. Three school terms later 88% of children that took part said their maths confidence had improved.

The benefits of the study even went beyond the children’s development, with 86% of parents saying that doing more maths activities at home had increased their own confidence in helping their child.

How to bring maths to life

  • Focus on asking questions and exploration – Ask your child why something makes sense, instead of simply getting to the ‘right’ answer.
  • Talk through activities as you are doing them together – Ask your child to explain their understanding. Get them to teach you!
  • Involve siblings and other family members – This can help to create a positive buzz which boosts everyone’s confidence.
  • Look online for resources and activities that you can do – The Family Maths Toolkit by National Numeracy is a great place to start! You can find this at

We all use maths every day, often without realising it. Every child can develop the numeracy skills they will need at home, at school and throughout their lives. Helping your child feel confident about maths now, can give them a real head start. And by trying out some of our tips you never know, you might just end up improving your own maths skills too. Good luck!

National Numeracy is a charity dedicated to helping to raise low levels of numeracy among adults and children. Visit for more information about the charity. Visit for advice, ideas and activities for parents or contact  / 01273 915044.