Tag Archives: visualising

Managing homework (maths)

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!)

Number arrays allow a young learner to see that 3 lots of 2 is the same as 2 lots of 3

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.

A chocolate workshop at christmas – not an obvious homework activity but it naturally allowed for counting, multiplying, working out how many more…
Sometimes it’s not about the activity itself, but how you question and prompt the thinking as they work / play.

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.

Laying out pocket money like this enables a child to see the relationship between the coin values

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…

visualising equivalent fractions 3/3 is the same as 12/12,         1/3 =4/12 and so on
relating numbers to fractions to understand division










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!

Too young to be financially aware?

This evening L told a friend that he could buy himself a nerf gun modular, because he has “a hundred and something pounds in the bank”, but, he added, he won’t because he’s saving that for a car.  This was news to me as he had previously told me it was to go towards our house.  Never mind!  We chuckled at this but it did get me wondering, should he have a better idea of how much he has? Is he too young to be financially aware?  Would it be better to have money in piggy banks again so that the boys can see and count how much they have?  This of course would be a bad idea as he does have well over £100 and keeping that in the house would be far too tempting for me.

So how do we make our children financially aware?  I’m sure I’m not alone in remembering the savings accounts books we used to have; if we were lucky enough to have a few pound notes tucked into birthday cards (yes I am that old!) we could pay them into the building society and watch our savings grow.  Today, I have savings pots for the boys and they rely on me to tell them what they have.  Perhaps it’s now time they had their own accounts and can begin to learn that money in the bank earns more money, if you leave it alone.  To begin to understand about interest and lending is a valuable life lesson.  At 8 years old, the maths isn’t too difficult for C to begin to work out the interest on a savings account, so helping to research the best place to put his money would be a good start.

Now that he has picked an account I will sit down with C to help him plan.  Nadine Monks, from Evolution Forces Families discusses the importance of this for adults.  I see it as a useful process to go through from an early age.  She suggests that  you ask yourself:

‘What do you want to achieve?

Set a clear goal for yourself. What is it you want to achieve? Do you just want a regular income or are you looking for a lump sum further down the road. This will tell you how much you need to invest and in what time frame.’

This applies to children I think, too.  C constantly asks me if he can buy things from his ever depleting pot of money, so to develop a short term savings goal will really set him up well for the future.  L, with his stash, never particularly wants to buy anything!

To overcome this last issue, of not knowing how much he has, I have registered C for a Go Henry card.  If you’ve not heard of this, do check it out!  We first heard about Go Henry last year when he was still too young (you have to be 8) and so we are both pretty excited waiting for his card to arrive.  It works like a contactless bank card.  I can pay his pocket money directly onto it and we can both use the app to monitor spending and saving.  He gets to use it independently in shops and cafes which he will love, and  I love the fact that when he is older I can see how he’s using his money and help him look at his spending patterns (not that he’ll listen I’m sure, but it’s a nice idea in my head).

(note – I am not affiliated in anyway with GoHenry, and am not being compensated for mentioning them here)

Some time ago in school I was teaching a small group of Y6 children who needed lots of practical hands on learning to transfer back to the classroom.  We set up a role play bank to teach negative numbers and I supplied them with lots of bank statements to work out how much debt the customers were in.  They loved it and really got the hang of calculating in this way.  I do remember that they were rather shocked that it was even possible to buy something if you didn’t have enough money.  Let’s hope they remember that lesson and  don’t ever apply for an overdraft!  I have done something similar with C; we used Power Rangers and lent them money, only to take more back from them.  Interestingly he can get his head around this concept and is more surprised by the fact that the bank will give him money on top of his savings!

For very early money maths understanding coin values can be hard.  It can be such a frustration when a child can add quite easily until you put it into the context of money and then they get confused.  Lots of playing with money is essential.  When I first started giving the boys pocket money I laid it out in lines so they could see the equal coins.  So for the first few weeks it was only 20p.  Nice and clear to see, and cheap too!

one way to lay out the pocket money each week

Gradually increasing the amount reinforces this clear visual, and visualisation as we know can really help to move from the concrete hands on learning to the more abstract, on paper.    I’m currently tutoring a few children for whom this concrete part has been skimmed over.  It means that now, towards the end of Primary, problems are occurring with the more complex maths simply because the practical bits weren’t solid enough before they were moved on.  It’s a common picture, not just with money but in all areas of number.

So the message here then is if we want our children to be financially ‘savvy’, start them young!  Play with money, play shops, give them their own pennies to spend in the gift shop and let them work out the change.  As they get old enough to understand what they have, let them make choices about what to buy.  When We went to the Harry Potter tour, C chose to buy a wand and a broom, having already bought photos,  knowing that this wiped out all his savings but he was happy with that and it gave him the opportunity to have good long think about how much he wanted to buy both.  Hopefully, I’ll be setting him up with good money habits for life.  Maybe I will improve along the way too!