Maths can be a difficult subject to get the hang of, whatever age you are. For children, being able to apply simple mathematical processes, rules and reasoning in the real world can certainly help them learn more quickly and understand a wide range of different concepts.
If you are planning ahead for the 11+ test, you’ll already know that maths word problems and problem solving are integral parts of the test. The good news is that you already have most of the tools to help your child to tackle these tricky questions in your own home.
Maths impacts on practically everything around us, often without us even realising it. If you’re a parent trying to encourage your child, simply looking around your home can provide a range of mathematical challenges to boost those grey cells and improve competence in time for the 11+ exam.
Set Time Aside to Learn
The first thing you need to do is to provide a structure for your child to do maths at home. It helps if you can keep track of what they are currently learning at school and find ways to incorporate this into daily activities. It’s the sort of thing that becomes second nature once you focus and get used to finding a learning opportunity wherever you look.
Use the Weekly Shop
One activity that is brilliant for developing maths skills is the weekly shop. You can use it test out basic budgeting and improve skills such as adding and substracting decimals in a fun way. You could also introduce the vocabulary and concept of profit and loss, a favourite question on the 11+ maths test.
Spend time looking at the special offers in different shops and get children to calculate the cheapest deal or the one that provides the best value. Set mini challenges or competitions. For instance, if a box of 180 tea bags costs £3.50 and a box of 40 is £1.85, which is the best value for money when you consider the cost per individual tea bag? ‘Three for the price of two’ offers provide an authentic context for working out averages. Likewise, the Sales provide opportunities for putting percentages to work in the real world. Not only will your child’s maths improve; you may save yourself money at the same time!
Cooking Together is Mathematical
Another activity that contains some interesting maths is cooking. Getting children to understand different weights and measures is important and this is an interesting way to not only improve their culinary abilities but hone their maths skills. Weighing ingredients or measuring liquids helps children to not only get a sense of what different measures ‘feel’ like, it gives them experience of reading different scales too. The abstract notion of grams, kilograms, millilitres and litres will mean something concrete as children read labels and weigh ingredients. You can make it more difficult by providing a measuring cup that is smaller than needed which means your child has to think about what needs to be added. Or you could choose a recipe for two and make it for four or five instead to practise ratio and proportion in the real world. You can also opt for old style recipes to understand imperial to metric conversions.
Working Out Times
Travelling is another area where children can learn a lot of maths. If you’re in the car there are tricky questions about how much fuel you’ll use on a particular trip or how long it’s going to take if you travel at a certain speed over a certain distance. Then there’s working out times and how long you have left to get something done or what time should you leave to arrive on time. Learning to use bus and train timetables, especially those that use 24-hour time, to plan a journey is not only a valuable life skill, it’s very helpful with 11+ maths questions too.
Exploring 2 and 3D Shapes
This sounds complicated but is a lot easier than you may think. You could, for example, get your child to make a 2D plan of your 3D kitchen, complete with accurate measurements. Very useful for scale problems and getting a feel for what a metre ‘looks’ like when they need to choose appropriate units of measurement for measuring their exercise book, school field, or even a giraffe. You can also explore ways of representing a variety of 3D shapes around the home in 2D.
Learning things like this gives children an innate understanding of geometry and introduces them to concepts such as angles, diameters and circumferences. Spatial awareness is a key part of the non-verbal reasoning part of the 11+ test and this is the sort of challenge that can help develop this ability.
By manipulating objects in the real world, children will find it easier to internalise their properties so that they can visualise the net of a cube and other 3D shapes or be able to imagine turning a shape in a non-verbal reasoning question for example, and count its sides and angles whilst picturing symbols printed on its unseen sides.
By bringing maths to real world situations, children quickly begin to learn that it’s not just numbers on a page accompanied by a lot of head scratching. It means something far more profound. They begin to understand how maths relates to practically everything about them and that helps develop confidence in using more complex mathematical processes by relating the abstract maths in the 11+ test with their lived experiences in the real world.