Parents value the importance of number skills and recognise how crucial it is that numeracy is strong by age eleven.  But how do good schools prepare their pupils to excel in Mathematics?  And how can parents provide mathematical enrichment at home?

We are proud to have Queen’s Gate school, share some tips on how to help your child in Math by Jim Denchfield, former Head of English and current Director of the Junior School.

As a former Head of English (and a parent myself), I am always delighted to hear about the importance of evening story time in our families’ homes.  Who doesn’t love snuggling amongst cushions and escaping to the Hundred-acre Wood or Hogwarts?  We have woven a marvellous myth around the experience of reading with our children which is as comforting as the stories themselves; consequently, the children’s association of reading with pleasure is immensely helpful to teachers.

But what about Maths?  Does the thought of sharing numbers with your child give you the same warm feeling?  Are our own school experiences positive ones? For many parents, keen to do all they can to ensure that their children’s mathematical skills progress, enrichment at home might involve a workbook, a desk and a sharp pencil. And silence. For surely, one needs a quiet place to concentrate on those tricky sums. If there is company, it might be that of a tutor rather than a parent.

If this is the case, then it is less likely that pupils will look forward to their maths lessons in the same way that they look forward to English. At Queen’s Gate, we seek to redefine Mathematics.  It is not a subject in which there are only right and wrong answers; instead, it is a creative experiment, where exciting, real-life tasks are offered, involving colourful, tactile resources; where different methods are adopted, mistakes are seen as part of the learning process and the noise of discussion and debate is encouraged. We work with Cambridge University’s NRICH project to plan our problem solving activities.

We also ask our parents to assist us in our aims.  There is an infinite number of fun number activities which can be enjoyed at home, in the car or out and about.  Baking cupcakes and measuring ingredients is an excellent mathematical challenge if children are encouraged to take the lead.   ‘Find the best deal for £10’ can be played up and down supermarket aisles.  On long journeys, ‘Who can spot the first blue car?’ can be turned into an introduction to probability.  No workbooks necessary, no iPads—just fun family time.  If parents give as much time to such activities as they do to reading, then, not only do pupils arrive to their lessons more eager to encounter numbers and maths problems, but their skills are significantly enhanced through practice.

One of the most exciting elements of studying literature is debate.  What does the writer hope to convey here?  Is there another way in which we can view this relationship?  How does the context determine our understanding?  Good Mathematics teachers ask the same questions about number patterns and problem solving.  Maths must be creative and relevant.  Above all, it must be stimulating.

This is a sponsored post by Queen’s Gate is a 4-18 independent girls’ school in South Kensington.