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What games can help to boost my child's maths skills?

What games can help to boost my child's maths skills? (Liquid Library)

As a parent, you often wonder if there's more you can be doing to help your child with their school work, and this is particularly the case when children have learning difficulties.

Maths is a subject that many people approach with fear. A recent paper entitled 'Overcoming maths phobia' examined the views of 120 students from Kendriya Vidyalaya in the Indian city of Moradabad. Researchers found there was a general tendency for pupils to form a phobia of the subject.

Maintaining a positive attitude is essential

The study revealed that when a child had a positive attitude towards maths, they were more likely to perform better, which highlights how important it is to keep things fun when teaching children at home.

Keep it simple

When you are trying to boost your child's maths skills, it's often tempting to get them to try out complicated equations, but this could be a mistake. Not only might you put your little one off learning, you may get better results from setting up simple problem solving tests.

A recent study published in the journal Cognition found that practicing simple, instinctive numerical exercises can boost a child's ability to solve maths problems. The researchers discovered that showing someone two unequal piles of paper clips leads most people to point out the one that has more, intuitively, without them counting.

The study was a collaboration between University of Illinois psychology professor Daniel Hyde, Saeeda Khanum, of Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad, and Elizabeth Spelke, of Harvard University.

Professor Hyde said: "These results showed that brief practice with tasks requiring children to guess or intuit the number of objects actually improved their arithmetic test performance."

This is the sort of test that can easily be reproduced at home and could have some really positive results.

Frequency is vital  

In addition to keeping a positive mental attitude and doing simple maths tasks, it's important to practice every day.

This could be in the form of singing counting songs, such as 'One, two, three, four, five, once I caught a fish alive', or counting out change at a shop, for example.

Recognising numbers

When children are very little, it's important to get them recognising numbers as a first step on their journey to becoming a budding mathematician. This could involve pointing out numbers on doors, or the pages on a book.

Teaching children about addition and subtraction

When they get older, you can play a game where you write the numbers one to ten on sticky notes and get your little one to pick out a number, then ask them what comes before or after the one they've chosen.

Don't worry if you don't have a toy shop at home, you can still pretend to be a shopkeeper. You can get some props - apples and oranges for instance - and tell them they are only allowed five items in total.

Once they have advanced a bit further, you can introduce money into the game and the concept of paying for something and getting change back.

Number bonds

A number bond is simply a pair of numbers that add up to a given number. For example, if you wanted to find the number bonds that make up ten, you could have 5 + 5, 6 + 4 or 7 + 3.

This is where you can reintroduce the shop idea. You give them ten pennies and tell them everything costs one pence. See how many items they want to buy and ask them how much they have left.

Mathematical language

Words such as bigger, smaller, shorter, taller, more than, less than, beside, above, below, heavy and light are all examples of mathematical language that you can incorporate into everyday life.

For example, if you go for a walk, you could ask your child to point out the biggest tree, or get them to show you which fruit Is the heaviest when you visit the shops. The possibilities are endless.

Practice the Times Table

The secret of learning your Times Table is practice, practice, practice. Products such as the Learn Your Times Tables CD is ideal for putting on in the car and provides a great opportunity to get some learning in.