Count things with objects
Try counting familiar things together like the number of people in the room, kids’ ages, or goals in football matches, using concrete objects like counters, buttons or small stones, lining them up one by one. If nothing’s to hand use fingers.
Get some interlocking cubes
Interlocking cubes are great and can be bought for a few pounds, or your child’s nursery or school may be able to lend you some. Try carrying round a few to count things when you’re out and about. They are also good for kids to play with to keep them occupied.
Use cut-out pictures
Draw pictures on paper and cut them out to use as counters with your kids. Or print out our handy Singapore Model Cutout Pictures and use them at home with your kids, to count people, ages, goals, coins or fruit.
Do basic arithmetic with objects
You can talk about most basic arithmetic using concrete objects, adding objects to the line, taking them away. ‘Multiply’ literally means ‘many layers’ and you can show times tables by layering rows one on top of the other.
Use interactive blocks
If you have an iphone or Android mobile why not try BBC Skillswise’s interactive blocks: text SKILLSWISE to 81010 or if you are reading this on your mobile device preview the interactive times tables blocks. Please note texts to the BBC cost 12-15p, interactive not compatible with all phones.
Give kids pens and paper to draw things they count, lined up in a row. Encourage them to draw boxes around the pictures. The fact they have drawn the pictures gives them a sense of ownership and means they’ll probably be more confident in talking about them.
Don’t rush to use figures
Hold off from using number symbols until your child is really confident with concrete and pictorial representations and can make the link. So they will always have a ready way of picturing what the symbol means as a fall-back.
Start with figures 1 to 9
When you do start using symbols to label drawn boxes, stick to 1 to 9 at first to build confidence, so one figure relates to one quantity. The leap from the figure 9 to the figure 10 involves concepts of place value and zero which can take time to understand.
Brush up your own maths to help your kids
Most of us feel a bit rusty with maths, especially the new methods used in schools these days. Why not be a learning role model to your kids by joining a local maths class for adults? You can find out more about local courses/workshops from MathsExCEL programmes. Or brush up your maths skills online with maths websites for adults like BBC Skillswise.
Go slowly to build confidence
It takes time for children to get really confident with the basics. The Singapore curriculum actually covers less than the UK national curriculum in the first few years, instead taking more time to build confidence in the basics. But this pays off in spades later on.
TOP TIP: Be positive
Above all be positive. Enjoy playing with and counting objects together, celebrate effort and praise often. Real learning involves making lots of mistakes. Try to see mistakes as positive things that highlight deeper misunderstandings. Why did I think that? Kids have years of maths lessons ahead of them and every ounce of self-confidence helps them to succeed. Boosting children’s understanding with objects and pictures is key.