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Our favourite ideas for learning maths at home without “learning” maths at home.

Have you found that your kids are becoming more resistant to sitting down and ‘learning’ at home? We’ve been hearing this a lot, and we’re not surprised. For a week or so, doing school at home is a novelty, and kids seem to be happy to do it – but we are now reaching the point where they are realising that we are asking them to do the ‘lesson’ part of school without any of the fun, social bits what they get when they’re actually at school.

Unsurprisingly, kids begin to dig their heels in and try to find excuses not to learn.

It’s always handy, therefore, to have some fun activities in your pocket which will help your children to cement maths concepts without actually having to sit down and do a lesson!

Here are some of our favourites – we’ve tried to pick ones which will suit a range of ages.

1. Fill a jar with 100 things (ages 5-7ish)

100 is a tricky concept for young children. Understanding how many 100 is can be a hard concept to get your head around – and we love this idea for helping them to understand it better! Get a large jar, or a Tupperware tub, and challenge them to fill it with 100 of anything they like – but you must be able to put the lid on afterward.

This covers a few different mathematical areas. The most obvious is the concept of what 100 means. Children will work out quite quickly that 100 is quite a lot, so they will have to choose smaller things to put in the pot if they want the lid to close – soft toys probably won’t cut it.

Next is the accuracy of counting. If you watch carefully, you will see that most children will try and count in one’s, and it will take a long time. It is also very likely that they won’t count accurately. Now – it may be that you decide to enjoy the peace and quiet for a while as they keep trying to count accurately to 100 (and who could blame you!) but there may come a point where you suggest to them that if they grouped their objects into 5’s, or even 10’s, they would have an easier time counting them up.

You could also cover estimating with this activity, by doing it the other way around. Fill a jar with lots of objects and play the good old school-fair game of guess the number of objects in the jar!

You can talk about strategies – how did they come up with their estimate, how would you come up with yours? It will become obvious fairly quickly that you can’t just pull a number out of thin air, you will need to have a plan.

2. Make a pizza (all ages)

There is SO much you can cover when cooking and baking. For younger children, counting out teaspoons full is an early introduction to measuring, as well as great counting practise with a real-world application.

Once the pizza is made, you can introduce the idea of fractions to children in P1-3 by cutting it into equal pieces. You can also work on one to one correspondence by asking children to bring you numbers of objects (e.g. can I have 5 teaspoons?).

For older children (P2-4) you can do ‘proper’ measuring and weighing on scales and in measuring jugs (and get some literacy in by getting them to read the recipe!)

For children in P4 and above, you might like to get them to adjust recipes by doubling them for more people or halving them for less. They can practise division by working out how many slices of pizza they will need if everyone in the family wants 4 each, for example. You could even (if you were feeling particularly enthusiastic) work on conversions – metric to imperial or vice versa!

3. Use maths to make art! (all ages)

SO many ideas here, and we’ll put some out across our social media this week too, but for younger children, one of the first ways they are introduced to maths and art is by using symmetry to make a butterfly or a ladybird – paint one half, then fold the paper over down the middle of the insect, to create an identical print on the other side – a symmetrical butterfly!

For slightly older children (p2-4) you can look at tessellation, where you put shapes together to create patterns. Diamonds, triangles, and squares are good for this. You can look at Islamic art, which is full of tessellations, or even in architecture! Honestly, we could get a whole blog out of the learning that can come from tessellation – it is super for things like special awareness and learning to imagine 2D shapes in a 3D space. Also – it’s just really good fun!

Another great resource for kids of all ages are tangrams - ancient Chinese puzzles made up of seven geometric shapes that can be used to create lots and lots of pictures. We love giving children a set of tangrams and just letting their creative juices flow – it’s so great for them to see that maths can be creative – it’s not all about getting the right answer, it can just be about playing – with numbers as well as shapes.

Don't forget - if you are worried about your child's progress during this lockdown, or if you simply want to make sure you have some support in delivering their learning, My Primary Tutor can help. We are putting on more group sessions throughout the day, as well as increasing our capacity for 1:1 sessions. We can help you to re-enforce the learning school is sending out, or to challenge and push them if you feel that school's provision is not challenging enough!

To find out more about how we can support you and your child during this difficult time, send Karen a message at

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