As school returns after the summer break, a University of Western Sydney academic is urging parents to help inspire the next generation of Australian mathematicians by taking advantage of apps and encouraging their children through the fun, hands-on math riddles that surround us everyday.
Dr Catherine Attard, Senior Lecturer at the UWS School of Education and President of the NSW Mathematics Association, is the creator of the board game Mabble, a numerical twist on Scrabble.
Dr Attard says there is a reliance on teachers to ensure their child succeeds in mathematics, but learning shouldn’t be limited to the classroom.
“Learning at home is particularly important during the primary school years, when children learn important mathematical concepts that are the foundation for more complex concepts down the track,” she says.
“Mathematics is all around us, and it’s easy to see the mathematics when you start looking- the key is to take the time to engage your children in the calculations and problem solving you do everyday.”
Dr Attard a good way to help children is by taking advantage of technology.
“This is where the ‘drill and practice’ types of activities are the best way, once children understand the mathematical concepts underpinning the app,” she says.
“For example, allowing a child to play a game that focuses on multiplication will help build fluency and support quick recall of multiplication facts.”
“Apps such as Ninja Factor Tree, Concentration, Amazing Time and Math Zombies allow children to practice a variety of skills learned in the classroom and are fun to play.”
As school returns after the summer break, Dr Attard suggests the following simple steps for parents to inspire a love of mathematics in their children.
- Talk about the mathematics in the day-to-day activities at home and out and about. For example, if you are shopping with children, ask them to calculate costs and discounts.
- If you are cooking, allow your child to help – this helps with measurement and number skills
- Use old-fashioned games like dominoes to help young children with basic number skills and make up new rules to practice more complex number operations
- Read the newspaper with your child and discuss some of the mathematics that is involved. For example, there could be tables or graphs that you could ‘interpret’ together.
- Plan your child’s routine together. For example, working out when to set the alarm to allow enough time for getting dressed, eating breakfast, and other routine activities.
Dr Attard says the most important way parents can support their children is to have a positive attitude.
“It has never been acceptable to admit that ‘I’m not good at reading’, yet it seems to be okay to say ‘I’m not good at maths’,” says Dr Attard.
“If parents are not confident with mathematics, the worst thing they can do is relay that lack of confidence to their child as it’s often contagious.”
“Fortunately, positive attitudes are also contagious and are a great starting point to helping your child be a confident and successful learner of mathematics.”
(Source: University of Western Sydney)