Most children have math difficulties at some time in their life. Struggling with math doesn’t mean a child isn’t smart or rubbish at maths. Many of us aren’t blessed with a photographic memory, most of us just need more time to practice, and understand. Over the 25 years of working with children and with my own, I have had to find different methods to help children learn.
We are all different in the way we learn and absorb things. All children develop math skills at different rates. My older son Adam is brilliant at math and always has been. He has the ability to work things out in his head in seconds. My other two children are completely different, they need to work things out with paper or with tools that help them visualise in picture form rather than numbers.
Math anxiety is a common condition that people develop throughout their school life. Sometimes, even when kids understand math, they may feel anxious about doing math at all. Kids get so stressed out about math that it gets in the way of learning math. It can make it seem like they’re struggling with math, even if they aren’t. When anxiety takes over it’s hard to concentrate properly. Sometimes certain learning and thinking differences are a factor. This includes a common math learning difficulty called dyscalculia.
To be able to help your children with math you must first understand their abilities and get to know their preferred methods of learning. Help them from a young age find a way of learning and understanding that suits them. Often learning difficulties can be missed during school, especially when there is only one teacher to thirty plus children. There are so many fun and easy ways to help your child learn math from young. If you start to help your child from a young age you will pick up on any learning difficulties that could be missed at school and avoid math anxiety from developing.
The use of touch, sight, sound and movement can help kids understand what numbers and symbols look like and what they represent. Counting and sorting in the order form with certain small or big household objects is a great way to help with math operations. Solve the total number by adding more, find out how much is left after subtracting some. Kids can also group together different amounts of the items for multiplication and division. By moving these items around and seeing how the quantities change, children have a concrete way of understanding how math operations work.
My favourite educational toys and games are made by Learning Resources. Over my years of childcare experience, I have found the quality and educational benefits of their products great. The products have been carefully designed by someone who has actually spent time playing with children. The products are definitely the children’s favourite too, they are eye-catching and easy to play and understand whilst challenging at the same time.
Learning Resources kindly sent a few of their sets to put to the test with my preschool children. I have been using the sets over two months. We have been using the sets a couple of times a week and it’s been helping the children lots already.
The first set to review:
Smart Scoops Math Activity Set Ages 3+
The set includes:
Four coloured bowls: red, blue, yellow and green
Four plastic ice cream cones
20 scoops of ice cream (five each of four colours)
23 double-sided activity cards featuring numbers 1 – 10, patterns, colours and colour words and mathematical symbols (+, -, =, >, <)
Multilingual activity guide
Ice cream scooper
Ice cream themed container for easy storage
This attractive set combines imaginative play with maths development. The fun game encourages sorting, patterning, colour recognition, number recognition and basic addition. The cute set will also help to build fine motor skills as young learners scoop up the ice cream.
The games you can play with the set are:
Colour sorting, colour patterns, order up, counting cones, ice cream operations, number match, stack it high and scoop away.
I really like the math ideas you gain from playing this game. The game is targeted at children aged three but adaptations can be made to make it easier. I played it with my two-year-olds, they loved stacking up the ice cream and sorting the colours into the correct colour bowls. We set up an ice cream shop and took it in turns to be the buyer and seller. We used a toy till and play money. The older children also love playing the game, it has definitely helped them gain number knowledge within a couple of months of playing twice a week.
Next game to review:
Mini Muffin Match Up ages 3+
The set includes:
1 muffin pan
12 double-sided sorting circle inserts
60 mini muffin counters
The game is played in a variety of ways. Here is an example of one of the ways to play:
Place all the mini muffin counters into the muffin pan. Pick out three muffins that are the same colour. Then, find one more mini muffin that is a different colour. Set out the four muffins in a row and have children find the one that is different and tell you why it is different.
Mini muffin match up helps children learn to sort, match, colour recognition, number recognition and how to count. Squeezy tweezers add to the fun and reinforce fine-motor skills. There is so much versatility with this toy, free play and structured games are both options.
Mathlink Cubes Activity Set:
The set includes everything you need to support early maths skills development for children age 3+
The 15 colourful double-sided activity cards and 100 (ten colours) stackable Mathlink Cubes combine to develop a variety of basic numeracy skills:
Patterning and sequencing
Sorting and grouping
Early arithmetic: addition, subtraction and multiplication Size recognition
Visually appealing cards provide engaging, hands-on activities to keep young learners interested
Encourages positional language and direction
Ideal solo or group activity
I have been using these cubes a couple of times a week along with the activity cards with one child aged four and two children aged five. The methods of learning on the cards have helped me think of ways to make things easier when teaching the children math. The children enjoy using the cubes and love building with them. The set also includes multilingual packaging and activity guide (containing further activity ideas)
I was also sent MathLink Cubes Maths Fluency Set suitable for children age 6+ to test out with my son Zac.
The cubes are exactly the same as the others but the activity cards are different. This set covers key maths concepts for primary children. The 30 progressive activities support the National Curriculum and range in difficulty from simple place value to working out the volume of shapes. The set is Ideal for solo or group activity.
The set teaches skills about:
My son Zac who is eight has been using the set for a couple of months. He doesn’t like having to practice maths much at home anymore and usually moans at me when I ask him to come and practice with the cubes. However, it has helped him finally understand fractions and his teacher has also seen an improvement. We only practice once or twice a week as I think children do enough at school nowadays. The cubes have definitely helped Zac understand certain math methods that he couldn’t understand before.
There are so many ways to help your children learn from a young age. Learning Resources have got so many educational toys that can help make it fun. I work as a childcare provider and definitely recommend using Learning Resources to help equip your setting. I have had lots of products and I have never been disappointed. They are clear and easy to use and will cover all children’s areas of learning and development.