This week’s blog is a follow up to my article from last year Top 10 maths ideas: When it all gets too hard that I wrote at a similar time, when we were in a similar situation – working, and learning from home. Our schools and teachers have done an amazing job in preparing our kids for starting Term 3 from home. Learning from home also usually involves learning online using teacher-designed tasks, online worksheets, or interactive games. In the blog from last year I provided a number of online resources and go-to places to help support your children with mathematics during lockdown. This week’s blog however, provides some off-line activities you can do with your children as a break from the computer to help consolidate mathematics skills being developed through class lessons.
Creating anchor charts (posters)
Anchor charts are a graphic organising tool that teachers often use in the classroom. They are posters co-created with students usually during the first lesson or two of a new concept. Anchor charts are a visual way for students to ‘get a picture’ of a concept, strategy or method they are learning. I think creating posters with your child is one way to finding out what they might already know, and you, as the parent or carer, can then add-on to what the child is saying, writing or drawing. The chart then becomes a visual that your child can continue to add to or refer to when they are completing lessons.
I made an anchor chart with my daughter this week as I knew they were completing lessons on 24 hour time and this was an area that she had previously mentioned she didn’t always understand. Time, as a concept, is quite difficult for many students due to the complexity of the language, the use of different forms of time (digital and analog), and the fact that the time units are divided into say 60 minutes or 24 hours whereas most of their other number work links to 1s, 10s and 100s.
She did a great job at drawing the clock face and adding in the hour numbers – she knew writing in the 12 and 6 first was also helpful. It was where the minutes go that required some co-creating. We then continued to chat about all the things she knew about time and we used colour to make some of these distinctions clear.
Talking about maths at the table
It may seem like a simple idea, but talking about mathematics with your child/ren is very important both for their feelings and attitude towards maths as a subject and also for their growth in understanding. Professor Catherine Attard discusses this further in her blog Tips for parents: Helping your child succeed in mathematics.
“As a parent, be conscious of displaying positive attitudes towards mathematics, even when it’s challenging. Adopting what is referred to as a ‘growth mindset’ allows children (and parents) to acknowledge that mathematics is challenging, but not impossible.” (C Attard, 2018)
If you don’t have the time during the day to assist your child with learning from home while you are working, make time in the evening (at the dinner table) or over breakfast to chat with them about something they are doing in maths. You can start the conversation by asking What was something new you learnt today about maths? or asking Was maths hard or easy today? why or why not? (as a side note, letting children know that it’s ok to find things hard is important and that they just don’t know it YET!). You can also ask question like Can you teach me what you learnt today in maths? or Can you draw a picture of what you are doing in maths? or What maths did you do today – not during school-time? These types of questions encourage children to take ownership of their learning, to see themselves as mathematicians who can teach others, and to see the connections in their own lifeworld experiences.
I’ve written in previous blogs about card games such as clock patience and provided links to other card game resources that you can check out. If you have a pack of cards at home, then this is a great lesson-breaker for children when learning from home. Games such as memory, snap, go-fish, patience, rummy, Uno or pig help students build mathematical relationships, recall number facts, consolidate number bond knowledge, and improve basic addition and subtraction skills. Jo Harris shares how to play some of these classic games at Kidspot. We play a lot of card games at home, it’s a great break for me as well from work and allows me to spend quality time with my children, especially now that they are old enough to deal with not winning! We’ve recently upped-the-ante and have been teaching them Cribbage, it’s a great game for adding to 15 and 31, looking for pairs, and runs (e.g. 3, 4, 5). I found this nice video showing the math literacy in Cribbage.
I hope these three ideas seem do-able in your family situation during learning from home. There are always more ways to connect with your child through maths, but trying to help with the set school work (or homework) can sometimes be frustrating for both you and your child. As a teacher, this isn’t any easier! Most of the time my children don’t necessarily want me to help them ‘do the work’, so I need to find other, more creative ways of keeping mathematics front and centre in their life. Making maths fun and engaging, and making it seem like an everyday practice (which it is!) will assist your child in becoming numerate – and more importantly, will lead them to have a good relationship with mathematics!