Five top tips for helping a preschooler prepare for maths at school from Number Train
In her guest blog, Annette from Number Train shares her five top tips for helping your child to prepare for maths at school.
Now in the Summer term, many parents who have children starting school in September will have mixed emotions about the next chapter in their child’s life. It’s completely normal to feel a bit anxious about this and I have been there myself as a mother of two very different boys! Although I have been teaching for almost 20 years, I still find it hard to comprehend how two brothers could differ so much… it certainly makes lockdown more interesting!
Now, in my role as the ‘driver’ (teacher) of the Number Train, I see over 150 preschool children each week and they all bring something different to our sessions with their likes, dislikes, strengths and areas to develop. If anyone was to shadow me for a week, they would soon see this. Each child is unique and that’s what makes any teacher’s job so special. Therefore, what is important to remember first and foremost is that every child is different, they learn in different ways and at different speeds so it is important to be patient and help them to develop and practice in their own time and way.
Number Train classes are designed for preschoolers and parents/ carers to attend together before their child starts school – they are an opportunity for the adults to see and help their children in an ‘informal mini classroom’ setting and they go away with lots of ideas to help them at home.
Below are the five top tips for helping your child to prepare for maths at school which I try and model in class:
Talk about numbers, shapes, size, time, money, measuring in everyday life, both in and out of the house – it really is everywhere! For example:
Looking at numbers on houses, buses, cars
Using scales in baking
Playing with coins
Playing games with a dice
Matching numbers to a group of objects
Comparing and ordering the size of teddies
At dinner time – discuss ‘taking away’ when you eat some of your carrots – how many are left?
In play e.g. how many cars do you have altogether if I add two more?
Try and make maths ‘active’ so the children are ‘doing’ maths and not just hearing it. Counting rhymes are a great way to learn about numbers – try using fingers to show the numbers and/or using objects/pictures too to make the song more active. This multi-layered approach helps children to visualise and contextualise maths so they can go on to solve number problems later on. This quote from Benjamin Franklin underpins the importance of ‘doing maths’ first… “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn”
Make maths as fun as possible by sticking to informal activities using things they are interested in and using a range of materials. This will help to engage them as much as possible (e.g. playdough, paint, duplo, the outdoors and their own toys) Try and focus on the understanding of maths rather than writing their numbers and completing worksheets. By doing so you are building strong concrete foundations for the children to then build on when they start school – when they are role playing maths they are learning lots too. It doesn’t have to be recorded yet!
Practise counting forwards to 10 and backwards to 0 using objects and/or a number line so they can see that each number has a value and what each number looks like (e.g. make a number train of numbered carriages and as they count out loud, ask them to point to the numbers too.) This means they are not just ‘rote counting’ (i.e saying the numbers aloud) but are practising counting one to one accurately as well as seeing what the numbers look like and how they each have a value.
With all activities, give lots of positive praise for their efforts – it’s recognition for the smallest steps of success which will keep them going.Finally, try and hide any fear or dislike of maths that you may have as children pick up on this quickly. Remember, anyone can do maths as long as they have a growth mindset! “Behind every child who believes in themselves is a parent who believed in them first.”
Maths continues to be a subject which people either love or hate and it relies on strong foundations to build upon. I created Number Train in 2017 to try and make maths fun for the young children starting on their school journey. It is my aim to ensure as many children as possible ‘start school with a positive attitude to maths and strong foundations to build upon’. Therefore, each week during lockdown I am uploading FREE videos to my Facebook page and You Tube Channel. They can be accessed by all so please do have a look in your own time.