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“I think and think for months and years.
Ninety-nine times,
the conclusion is false.
The hundredth time I am right.”


Concrete Materials

In the early stages of learning maths concepts and ideas, children need lots of hands on, practical activities to help them learn.

This can involve bits and pieces you find around your home. These bits and pieces used for practical activities are called ‘concrete materials’. Children need time to play with materials and investigate how numbers and shapes work.


Around the age of four to five your child will love to count numbers to ten or twenty. Sometimes the numbers will be in the correct order and other times they will jump a number or put it out of sequence. Using bottle tops, paddle pop sticks, rocks, bolts, washers, knives and forks, potatoes, socks – as you can see the list is endless – get your child to count and pick up one item and put it down in a line. Ask your child to recount the objects, pointing to each one and saying the number.

Sand Play and Water Play

Encourage your child to play in the sandpit and problem solve. They can make farms, roads, designs or water features. While they are playing, give them little problems to add: e.g. Can you make three castles behind the pond? They have to create the castle, count to three and find the position of the castles. Ask them to show you the longest road, the shortest road, the yellow car…… to put all the dogs in a triangular paddock. Get them to ask you to add something to the play scene. In the bath they can investigate capacity with plastic measuring cups and containers. This builds their understanding of litres and millilitres.


Draw the numbers on felt and cut them out or buy magnetic numbers and sequence them on the fridge. Ask them to make up your phone number, street number and mobile number with magnetic numbers.

Playing Cards

Playing cards is fun and your child is learning lots of maths skills. Patience sequences numbers and colours. Pontoon teaches children to add to 21. Uno helps with matching numbers and adding and subtracting. Memory helps with memory of position and learning the numbers. Fish and snap reinforce your child’s knowledge of numbers.


Dominoes are a number matching game which is easy and fun for all family members.

Board games

These include snakes and ladders, which can be played with one or two dice, and monopoly, which helps children to learn about money. Any games that involve a time frame with a game timer teach your child the understanding of time measurement. Board games are fun for all the family. If your child is the scorer for games this will help them with addition and subtraction skills. They may need to use the calculator if numbers reach into the hundreds.

Computers and internet resources

There are hundreds of computer games that deal with maths skills, from adding and subtracting to times tables to shapes and measurement. Some skill programs are very expensive, up to $5,000. There are lots of games which can be purchased from educational stores, such as Edsco that are inexpensive and fun. The internet has lots of activities you can download and play with your children.


Understanding how things fit together and are sequenced is so important in maths. Jigsaws are great for your children to work on together and develop skills. Start with simple wood block patterns and move onto more complex 10 to 20-piece jigsaws. Leave the 500-piece works till high school.


Measurement is an important part of learning about maths. The great thing is that measurement is part of your family’s daily routine.

You measure:

  • length: mm, cm, m, km (sizes of rooms, distances in the car, heights of your children, length of family pets) rulers, tape measures, speedometer on car
  • volume: litres and ml (milk, juice, water) measuring cups, jugs, labels on drinks
  • area: square metres (carpet in your house) tape measure, cm squares
  • time: minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years (all the mum’s taxi times) digital and analogue and calendars
  • mass: g, kg (food and cooking recipes, body weights) scales, food labels
  • money: cents, $, dollars (all shopping sprees and pocket money) coins, notes

Think about and talk about

  • comparing measurements (shortest/ longest, least/most biggest/smallest)
  • sequencing measurements (first to last, biggest to smallest)
  • converting measurements (g/kg, m/km, ml/l, minutes/hours)


Estimate how many items are in a pile. Count the items. Ask your child “Was that a good guess/estimate?” Estimating is a very important skill and needs to be practised all the time in all areas of maths. Estimate the shopping bill; the number of litres of juice needed for a party, how long a journey in the car will take… the list is endless.

Problem Solving

The most important thing to remember is that there is more than one way to work through a maths problem. Your child may say that “The teacher doesn’t do it that way!” This can make you feel very old and feeling like you just cannot help your child with maths. Most teachers are more than happy to walk you through the operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. I often say tell parents to leave that to school and concentrate on measurement and problem solving.

Problem solving is one of our world’s most common daily activities. We have to juggle our finances, our time and our commitments, and then throw in some common sense for good measure. We have to take risks, ask for help and be persistent and confident that we can get through a problem.

Mental maths is working out simple to more complex problems in your head. Some children who appear to have maths problems can do this very easily, but if you ask them to explain and write down how they got the answer, they will be unable to show you on paper.

Children with auditory processing problems have lots of trouble with mental maths, as they cannot control the language in their head without a lot of work and thinking. These kids need the problems written down. Give your child simple addition: e.g. 2+3, and ask them to give you the answer without writing anything down.

“What we have to learn to do,
we learn by doing.”

Greek Philosopher

 Get more practical ideas by purchasing this ebook.

Maths: Practical Ideas for Parents Special $1

Practical maths ideas and strategies on how you can build your child’s confidence and understanding of maths in the home. It is simple. Quick effective ways you can incorporate into your everyday activities with your child to invite them to problem solve and think mathematically. This even covers the questions you could ask to help your child to work through maths questions and how to build confidence while you do this. Find out how to encourage your child to estimate. This and lots more.

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