Simple Ways To Help Your Child With Maths.

My Child Can’t Do Maths

A solid maths foundation is vital for children to succeed. Without solid math skills, children will probably have a lot of trouble in school and afterwards.

I often get asked the question “how can I help my child with maths at home”?.  If your child is struggling with maths, there are many ways to help, but before you do that you need to know what the problem areas are.

Some of the traits that I see in children who are weak in maths are:

  • They don’t understand the language used in maths like “less”, “more than”, “half of”, “share”, “total” and “difference”.

  • They have difficulty retaining basic number facts.  They will take a long time to work out something in their head and often make careless mistakes.

  • They often use long-winded ways to work out something on paper.  For example, I saw a child work out the sum 100 – 42 by drawing 100 dots and crossing out 42 of them.  I saw another child work out the sum 250 ÷ 5 by writing out the 5 times table.

  • They cannot “translate” number word problems into maths calculations.  For example: if Sam, Tim and Emma each eat 4 sweets, how many is that altogether?  Children either don’t know that this is 3 x 4 or they may know that this but not know their 3 times tables.

Your child may not have such general difficulties; it could be a more specific problem like understanding fractions, or getting to grips with geometry.  The point is that you need to get to the root of the problem.  Fractions are related to division and multiplication.  Is it because your child hasn’t grasped the basics of these skills yet?  Difficulty with geometry could be just a simple matter of not learning the rules for working out angles in a triangle.  Whatever the cause, there are ways in which you can help your child fill in those gaps.

Help Them Learn Their Times Tables.

Times tables is the bricks and mortar of basic maths knowledge and it is crucial that your child has plenty of opportunities to learn them.  Don’t rely on school to the job for you, as many children will need a lot of exposure to learning times tables.

First get your child to write out the times tables, and then try to get them to learn “parrot-fashion”.  If it’s just not sticking then an easy way to help is to write them on your child’s fingertips or use stickers as shown in the pictures below.


Another place for great ideas is here.  I also get children to recite times tables going forwards and backwards, and sometimes I get them to recite from half way through the tables.  It just breaks up the monotony and introduces a new challenge.

Use a Multi-Sensory Approach.

It has been shown that children retain information better when they not only see it, but when they hear it and also when they can put it into practice.  Making maths practical and relevant to everyday life can get a child to use all of their senses and at the same time giving it a purpose.  Maths is all around us and we can use our surroundings to help our children with maths.

To teach measures:

  • teach your child to use a ruler or a tape measure with accuracy.  If you are into gadgets then why not invest in an electronic tape measure (often used by estate agents).

  • Point out quantities of things on food packets to show them the difference between grams and kilograms or litres and millilitres.

  • Look at angles on objects around the room, see how many right angles your child can spot.

  • Involve your child in cooking, getting them to read the scales when weighing out ingredients.

  • If you are baking cup cakes and the recipe only makes 12 but you want 24, use this as an opportunity to teach about ratios and equivalents.

  • Play with water using different sized containers, predict how many small cups can fill a large container and measure how much water the containers hold.

To teach place value and money:

  • Show your child a till receipt and look at the quantities in pounds and pennies.

  • Take your child shopping and equip them with a calculator.  As you shop they can work out the bill.

  • Get your child used to handling money, recognising coins and working out if they have/don’t have enough money.

  • To teach about tens and units, read our blog post here.

  • Play Monopoly.

Talk Maths Language

Use mathematical words like “total” and “difference” when talking to our child.  Other words to use are “rotate”, “divide”, “more than/less than” and “fewer than”.

Here are some more ideas:

  • Plant sunflower seeds and get your child involved in measuring how much water to give each day, measuring how tall the seedlings are growing and comparing the length of the seedlings.

  • Make sandwiches and get your child to decide how many pieces of cucumber to put into each sandwich, how much cheese to weigh, or how many slices of bread to take.

  • Get your child to help you with spring cleaning.  They can sort things into different groups for you, place objects in order of size, measure the amount of space they have made by clearing out the clutter and simply just counting all their possessions.

  • Invest in a dart board to get children working out the totals, for younger children you can buy a simpler version of a dart board which uses Velcro darts.

  • Use every opportunity to count things, whether it’s during a walk to the shops, or how many bounces on the ball or timing how long it takes to take a shower.

How To Help Your Child With Place Value and Counting

How To Help Your Child With Place Value and Counting

Knowing how to “count on” in maths is a fundamental skill. This skill is also used when children are working out the next number in a sequence and place value.  Counting is easier when the numbers are written on a number line so start with a number line if you are doing this for the first time with your child.  You can purchase number lines and 100 squares from most good school supplies shops.  Alternatively write out a number line for your child.  Just as important as seeing the numbers is hearing the numbers, so children need to say the numbers as they use them.  In particular this helps children when tackling bigger numbers and fractions. If your child is old enough then you can also get them to write out the number in words.

Counting in Ones

Age 4-5 – choose a number between 10 and 20.  Ask your child to count on from that number.  For example if your child chooses 12, then ask them to count on another 2 numbers.

12, 13,  What are then next 2 numbers?

16, 15, What are the next 2 numbers?

If your child cannot remember the next number, then allow them to use a number line or to write out the numbers.

Age 5-6 –choose a number between 20 and 99.  Repeat as above.  The difficult numbers to count on from are 29, 39, 49, 59, etc

28, 29, What are the next 2 numbers?

58, 59, what are the next 2 numbers?

31, 30, what are the next 2 numbers?

Age 7-8 – choose a number between 100 and 999.  Repeat as above.  The difficult numbers to count on from are 109, 119, etc and 199, 299, 399 etc.

108, 109 what are the next 2 numbers?

398, 399, what are the next 2 numbers?

998, 999, what are the next 2 numbers?

401, 400, what are the next 2 numbers?

Age 9-10 – choose a number between 1000 and 9000.

Age 10-11 – choose any number between 10,000 and 1,000,000

Counting in Multiples

Counting on in multiples of 2 for example can re-enforce times tables and odd and even numbers.  Ask your child to count forward and backward in 2’s from any random number (must be age and ability appropriate so refer to previous paragraph).

Try counting forward and backwards in multiples of 5, 10, 100 and 1000.

Counting in Fractions

Counting can help to address the gap in understanding fractions as numbers in their own right.

Activity 1

Use fractions as a natural part of your vocabulary.  For example you could ask your child to give you 2 halves of an apple.

Activity 2

Cut an apple (or similar) real or drawn into quarters.  Ask your child how many quarters are in the apple.  Count the pieces one quarter, two quarters, three quarters, four quarters and ask your child to write down the fractions. 1/4, 2/4, 3/4, 4/ 4 .  Cut a second apple and ask your child to keep counting the quarters 5/4, 6/4, 7/4, 8/4 and to continue to write the list of fractions.

  • Ask them what is another name for 4 quarters? (1)

  • what is another name for 8 quarters?(2)

  • what is another name for 6 quarters ?(1 2/4 or 1 1/2)

Encourage them to use the apples or drawings to find the answer.

Help your child to draw circles (two or three) on paper and mark them in thirds.

  • Ask them to count in thirds and to write the sequence.

  • Ask them what is another name for 3 thirds? (1)

  • what is another name for 6 thirds?(2)

  • what is another name for 5 thirds? (1 2/3)

Activity 3

First teach your child that:

2 halves = 2/2 = 1 whole

3 thirds = 3/3 = 1 whole

4 quarters = 4/4 = 1 whole

5 fifths = 5/5 = 1 whole

Then we move onto counting.

½, 2/2, 3/2, 4/2,

This says 1 half, 2 halves, 3 halves, four halves.


½, 1, 1½, 2,

Half, 1, one and a half, two.

Once your child can count backwards and forwards in halves then try other fractions.

Visualisation is essential so encourage the use of real things to chop up into fractions and drawings.

Tens and Units: An Easy Game to Teach Place Value

This game is great for teaching young children to count in 10’s and units. I have used this game in teaching and the children love it. I have kept it simple by sticking to 10’s and 1’s, but you can use larger coins if you want and adapt according to the ability of the child.

Suitable for age 5 and above. You will need:

  • 2 players – 2 children, or one adult, one child

  • At least 10, 10p coins, real or plastic

  • At least 10, 1p coins

  • Pencil and paper

  • A small bag or container to place the coins

How To Play

Put all the coins in the bag and take turns to take out a random number of coins. Count the coins and write down the amount. Replace the coins in the bag. Let the other player have a go and compare the amounts. The player with the most money wins the round. Continue for as many rounds as you like, but I recommend 10 at least.