Five Things Parents Can Do to Help their Child’s Maths Confidence

Many children worry about maths, and often this anxiety is shared by a parent.

How can you help your child to feel more confident about maths?

1 Let your child see you using maths for daily tasks

Often, it’s the uncertainty of where maths fits into daily life that can be off-putting – for children and for adults.

Money is part of everyday life and children are often unaware that they are using maths skills when they spend money. And who doesn’t enjoy spending money?

Making your child aware that you have to budget (obviously not too much detail), pay for shopping, get change, pay bills, sell stuff on Ebay …  Maybe encourage them to budget with their birthday money, savings or pocket money. Perhaps get them to work out how much would they have in a year if they saved so much each month? What could they buy with that? Or if there’s something they would like to buy, how long would it take to save up for it? How much should they save each week or month?

Also, planning television and computer time together and working out how much time you have for other activities. TV guides are a great way to get children thinking about time and solving time problems, and most guides can be accessed online.

If you’re cooking – or thinking of doing a bit of DIY around the house or garden – let your child get involved. Most children love weighing and measuring stuff, and it’s all good for their understanding of maths.

2 Let your child plan an event

It doesn’t have to be a party – it can be anything that has a real purpose.

Some of the things mentioned in the first point above, such as helping with cooking – maybe planning a feast for a sleepover. What food will be needed and how much will it cost? Do you need to adapt the quantities of a recipe? That’s a great way to introduce Ratio and Proportion.

3 Use colours

I discovered recently that a lot of children see colours in their minds when they think of certain numbers. Let your child loose with coloured crayons/ pens/ felt tips and get them to do number puzzles or even just write out whichever multiplication tables they are learning. See what happens  – they might surprise you with what they can do with numbers when colours are involved.

Even activities such as putting coloured beads or Lego bricks into patterns can be a huge help for children who often see maths as something scary.

4 Give your child puzzles to solve

They don’t even have to be number puzzles. Anything, such as ‘What’s the biggest word you can make out of the word “mathematics”?

Choose three digits from between 0 and 9. How many different numbers can you make? What’s the biggest number? What’s the smallest? What about if you use four digits?

If you sign up to my newsletters here, you’ll receive links to puzzle sheets that introduce sudoku – start with smaller grids, using colours and shapes, before trying 9×9 grids using digits.

You’ll also get a free link to the videos that explain how to solve the puzzles. Great for helping adult beginners too!

5 Don’t let them see your fear!

If you’re unsure of maths, don’t let that become an excuse for your child. I hear so many parents complain, ‘She gets her inability to do maths from me’.

Children don’t necessarily inherit an inability, but they can sniff out fear; if they think maths is something to be afraid of, there’s an increased chance they will struggle with it.

Keep working on your own maths knowledge, even if it’s just for a few minutes a week. It all adds up, and you might even enjoy it!

Five things parents find weird about their children’s maths

It’s maths homework time again.


Time to look at some of the weird and wonderful stuff your child’s being taught at school that you’re sure you never needed to know:

1 Number Lines

Certainly in Key Stage 1, children seem to use number lines for everything – adding, taking away, multiplying and dividing. And it doesn’t help that there’s more than one kind of number line, and seemingly countless ways they can be used.

It’s worth getting familiar with number lines; they really help children understand what happens to numbers when they’re learning new types of calculation.

Division is just one of the many ways in which number lines are useful

2 Partitioning

You probably have vague memories of learning about Hundreds, Tens and Units, but you’re sure you didn’t have to break every number down into those place values before adding, or whatever calculation you’d been asked to do.

Why can’t your kids just be taught to put it all in a column, like you did? Much quicker.

Partitioning is really useful when children are getting used to bigger numbers, especially when learning how numbers behave when different kinds of calculation are applied. It’s particularly helpful with mental maths if you understand how each digit is affected by its place value, and it helps with other methods, such as the grid method for multiplication.

Speaking of which …

3 Grid Method (Gridding)

The grid method is particularly helpful for children learning to multiply numbers that are bigger than those they would learn off by heart.

Yes, it takes longer than the traditional long multiplication method, but it does help children (and adults) understand what’s happening within the more formal multiplication methods. A good stepping-stone from informal methods to the more formal method.

The Grid method is a great stepping stone from number lines to the more formal column method for multiplication

4 Chunking


Chunking is a term used in some calculations, such as division, whereby several pieces of information are ‘chunked’ together to make one easy-to-remember piece of information, thus speeding up the calculation process.

For example, when children are learning to use repeated subtraction to understand division:

85 ÷ 5      

How many lots of 5 do we need to take away from 85 until there are no 5s left?

Rather than taking away one lot of 5 at a time, they can start by taking away one big ‘chunk’ of 5s:

85 take away ten lots of 5 that’s   85 – 50     

which leaves 35              

So now you’re left with 35, which is 7 lots of 5       

How many lots of 5 in total did you need to take away?

10 lots of 5   add 7 lots of five   = 17 lots of 5       There are 17 lots of 5 in 85

So 85 ÷ 5 = 17

5 Multiplying and Dividing by 10, 100 and 1,000

‘Surely you just bung a zero on the end when you multiply by 10?’

That works until you have to multiply a decimal number by 10.

1.5 with a zero on the end gives you 1.50, which is the same as 1.5

And what about dividing by 10 when your number doesn’t have a zero on the end to knock off?

Knowing which way to move the digits depending on whether the number is being multiplied or divided, and knowing how many places to move those digits depending on whether the number is being multiplied or divided by 10, 100 or 1,000, really helps children understand how our base-ten number system works.

And it’s a huge help when they start learning decimals!

Learning what happens to the digits when we multiply or divide by 10, 100 and 1000 helps with much more complex calculations, such as when we use decimals.

Even though some of the methods your child uses to solve calculations may seem strange to you – even a waste of time – be assured that they are useful for understanding how numbers and calculations work.

There are many more explanations for calculation methods here:

Five things parents dread about their child’s maths homework

Five things parents dread about their children’s maths homework

A light-hearted look at the challenges of maths homework

It’s Sunday evening. You’re struggling to get school uniforms ironed, putting on a last-minute wash for the PE kits you just found festering in a discarded bag under your child’s bed, and reading a demand-for-cash letter from your child’s teacher about overdue trip money.

Then suddenly, your child gasps, drops the games console, and announces: ‘I have maths homework. Can you help me?

I remember the feeling well. Your heart beats more rapidly at the same time as it plummets toward your fluffy slippers; a cold shiver runs down your back; and your shaking hands drop that strongly-worded letter into your glass of Pinot.

Gulping, you ask your child what maths homework, and give a silent prayer that it’s not one of the following:

1 – Learning Times Tables

It’s bad enough with a crying child who can’t remember seven times eight, but when you’re not sure either …

‘Learning times tables’ went out of fashion for a while, and it’s possible you’re one of that generation of parents who didn’t have to go through the hell that is reciting your tables in front of the class. It was even worse when the teacher would just point at you and shout a random one (almost always seven times eight when the finger pointed at me).

Times tables joke

Teacher: Sally, stand up and recite your six-times-tables.

Sally: (stands up) Daa daa de-daaa. Daa daa de-daaa. Daa daa de-daaa. Daa-

Teacher: (Angrily) Sally, what are you doing?

Sally: My six times tables, miss. I remember the tune but I’ve forgotten the words!

2 – Fractions

What is it about fractions that they won’t behave like ‘normal’ numbers? How can you divide something by three fifths and end up with more than you had at the beginning? And why is adding fractions together such a long-winded pain in the butt? And what’s a ‘denominator’?

If you find any area of fractions a real nightmare, here are some videos that will help ease the pain!

Fractions joke

Statistics show that seven out of five people don’t understand fractions.

3 – Word Problems

Andy has 3,478 toffees. He keeps 25%, then shares half of what’s left between three of his mates, one of whom sells his share for 25p a toffee. How many teeth does Andy have left?

OK, that’s a bit silly – but that’s how a lot of those wordy maths questions look to children, and to many parents. Even if your arithmetic is strong, attempting to work out exactly what is going on in some of these questions often feels as if you’re taking an IQ logic test.

4 – Anything that requires the use of a ‘number line’

‘We didn’t have number lines in our day. Why can’t kids just learn the method I learned for addition/subtraction/multiplication/division? It was much quicker.’

Number lines are wonderful, versatile things that help children see what is happening to numbers at a basic level, and I wish they had been around when I was struggling with maths at primary school.

But for all that, there seems to be an expectation that parents will be familiar with the new-fangled device, and admitting to bafflement often earns pitying looks – even scorn – from your child.

5 – Algebra

To quote that amusing meme you’ve probably seen on social media: ‘And another day I didn’t need algebra!’

Why do kids even learn algebra? When are we ever going to have x amount of paint to cover y metres of fence panels? Surely we’d know how much we have of each before we start?

There are quite a few real-life occasions when algebra comes in useful, but I bet you’d struggle to think of one whilst your child is having a meltdown and you’re counting how many strands of hair you have left on your head.

Here’s a link to some Algebra videos with step-by-step explanations

Algebra joke

There are very good reasons (usually!) for the methods your child is taught at school, even if you’ve never used them. Life would just be easier, though, if we’d all been taught the same.

If you dread your child’s maths homework, be assured – you’re not alone!

Is your biggest maths-homework-dread included here? Or do you fear something else even more?