Take a look around the average home, school or outside environment and you’ll quickly come to notice that numbers are everywhere. From the hours and minutes that are displayed on a clock face to the sequences of numbers on a car number plate, there are a multitude of opportunities for children to apply their mathematics skills to everyday contexts.
Children make their first connection to numbers as they count the number of seconds before they hunt for a friend in a game of hide and seek, or play hopscotch on numbered squares in the school playground. Counting, estimating, adding and subtracting are skills that the average child may use several times in any given day.
Take the process of filling a packed lunch box as an example. As children fill their boxes with sandwiches and healthy treats, they are estimating the number of items that will fit into the space and depth of the box. As they eat lunch later that day they may count out the number of raisins in their fruit box or decide that they will save half the amount of raisins to eat after school.
Showing children where and when to utilise their maths skills is something that can be incorporated into the normal family routine, such as the examples below:
A trip to the supermarket
Taking children to the local supermarket provides a wealth of opportunities for children to use their mathematical knowledge, as well as giving them the chance to learn new skills. Looking at price labels, calculating the percentage discounts of reduced items and handling money and calculating change at the checkout can all contribute to children’s mathematical learning.
Cooking at home
Working through simple recipes such as making shortbread biscuits can utilise a number of mathematical skills. Choose a recipe that produces a smaller amount than the number of people in your family, such as four biscuits for a family of 8. Ask children to re-write the recipe by doubling or halving amounts. Children can also weigh out ingredients to the appropriate amounts and look at the varying increments on a weighing scale.
Counting numbers on a journey
Children can go for a number hunt on car journeys, on their daily walk or even just around the house to make the connection that understanding numbers helps them to understand the world around them. Once children have recorded the numbers, you could ask them questions such as ‘how many pairs of shoes are there in the shoe rack?’ This will encourage children to utilise unique skills such as counting in twos.