One of the things I have found hard about the boys being back at school is not having such a good overview of their learning and where they ‘are’, making me a minority parent in that I like homework! On the other hand, we have far less time together and I don’t want it to feel pressured and become all about homework (tempting as that may be with my controlling teacher hat on!)
Finding a balance then has been key and we have tried to ensure that the homework feels just as purposeful and engaging as other activities may be around the house. Here’s a snapshot of what we’ve been doing and how I have managed to incorporate school expectations with my family time.
L loves to help, with anything and so incorporating his targets into dinner preparation is easy. He may count out grapes or strawberries into pots for everybody, and as he does so I can ask him “how many in each group now?” “How many altogether?” This language is key as it is reinforcing the visual, helping him to understand that 4 lots of 3 is 12, 12 shared by 4 is 3 and so on. When it then comes to working from a work book we can refer back to this and link the language. Often just because it is called ‘times tables’ it can feel like it’s something more challenging when in fact at Y1 level these practical experiences are invaluable.
Cake making or anything that involves laying out in rows (arrays) like our easter eggs are another powerful visual to aid with learning times tables.
Pocket money is obviously a great opportunity for maths. I was astounded by my 6 year old counting in tens to work out how many pounds he had to spend. Not so much the tens but the fact that he was so quickly scooping a handful and saying how much he had without counting in steps. So for example, he had 8 ten pence pieces and immediately knew he had 80. By being aware of the class targets the adult role at home is easy, as in this situation I could ask him how many more to make 100, how many to make 200 and so on.
In KS2 the concepts often still need to be reinforced with concrete experiences so the above may still apply. I tend to drop in maths at any opportunity. There was 30% off of an item we wanted last week. Perfect. Our decision making around the purchase may have taken 5 minutes longer, but C applied his understanding of fractions, converting to decimals and then mentally subtracting, all in one go. We bought what we wanted (we had to after all that!) and I felt satisfied that concepts he had been working on in school could be applied to real life. Setting into context like this may seem obvious but it is such an important life skill to realise the importance of everyday maths. It really is about creating or capturing the opportunity and reinforcing the language and imagery.
So my tips as a teacher and parent would be:
- to find out from school exactly what areas are being worked on. You won’t be pestering as most teachers will be glad of the support at home. 5 minutes spent with a parent after school finding out how you can help at home will have huge benefits back in class.
- Find fun ways to reinforce the language. Many maths skills can seem to be solid but then a child can’t apply this to other areas. So, for example, once they begin to have an understanding of grouping, get them sharing and dividing, counting money, sorting action figures.
- If the school sends home a sheet don’t try to force the homework if one of you is simply not in the right mood. I guarantee it will not only take longer, but there is likely to be stress on both sides (resulting in zero learning!) and possibly even tears (from either adult or child!)
- Go online to find times table songs that you can handle listening to. There are loads, but there are also loads that will just irritate! We particularly enjoy Mr DeMaio and his covers of current songs.
- Make the most of the free games online too, one of may favourites is topmarks; http://www.topmarks.co.uk/maths-games/5-7-years/counting. You can filter by age and category. The games are simple enough to be able to focus on the maths, rather than be distracted by over detailed graphics or game rules, and they can be played independently. A great way to reinforce tricky areas or consolidate.
For an able mathematician more of the same can get boring. Take a look at https://nrich.maths.org/about There are lots of open ended problems and challenges that get children thinking more creatively. I have often used the frogs on lily pads activity. It works for various ages and is fun to follow up with a practical activity if needed. We gave it a Valentines twist for a tutor group back in FebruaryThere are lots more ways you can turn homework into activities at home, food is always handy…
If you are interested in more personalised ideas or advice to help with homework, please do get in touch. It’s what we love to do!