Articles for parents

Showing your children the application of maths into everyday life

Sep 2021

Take a concerted look around the average home, school or out on the street 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 is a multitude of opportunities for children to apply their mathematical skills to everyday situations, whatever their age.

Children can begin to make their first real-life connections 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 perhaps you'll suggest that they save half the amount of sweets for after school tomorrow.

In the supermarket, on the walk to school or while cooking dinner; they're all opportunities to demonstrate to children how maths and the need to use mathematical skills is all around us. Perhaps, with a little nudging, it's also a chance for them to show you what they already know and that they can work things out by themselves, giving their mental maths a little practice too! This is really just how the Kumon Maths Programme works; by gently encouraging the child to tell us, "what comes next?" or "what would be twice that amount? ", Kumon gently builds the child's confidence based on what they've learned previously.

Here are some examples of where you can have a dialogue that introduces practical maths into your family routine:

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, special offers and calculating the percentage discounts of reduced items together can be part of your routine, whatever the age of your child.  Show them how you use multiplication to work out the best value when looking at multi-buy offers and involve younger children in using scales and weighing one of their favourite fruit or vegetables. While handling money and calculating change at the checkout is probably a skill we learned to do with our own family, there are fewer opportunities for hands-on experience for children today, as card payments are now our primary payment method. Children still need to understand money and budgets, so a budget challenge could be a useful way of having them involved in estimating the value of the final shopping basket at the checkout. 

Cooking at home
Working through simple recipes such as putting together a recipe or baking biscuits can utilise a number of mathematical skills. Choose a recipe that produces a larger amount than the number of people in your family, such as twenty-four biscuits for a family of four. 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 understand the use of numbers in the world around them and can start to develop mental dexterity too; Being able to count and keep a tally of silver cars and red cars at the same time, or using a pedometer to record steps on your regular walk to school, are useful but potentially mentally challenging games to play. You could ask younger children questions such as, 'how many pairs of shoes are there in the shoe rack?' This will encourage children to utilise unique and complex skills such as counting in twos.