Parents should be children's first maths teachers

Parents and caregivers need to stop worrying about their maths skills and help young children with maths, just as they do with reading and spelling. The role of parents and caregivers is critical in helping children learn.
May 28, 2017

Parents and caregivers need to stop worrying about their maths skills and help young children with maths, just as they do with reading and spelling.

Assoc Prof Sivanes Phillipson of Monash University’s Faculty of Education said the role of parents and caregivers, with whom small children spend so much time before they start school is critical in helping children learn, understand and apply maths basics.

She is the lead researcher in the Australian Research Council Linkage Project [email protected], and co-author of Engaging Families as Children’s First Mathematics Educators, [Springer 2017 eBook 978-981-10-2553-2] which brings together project themes and findings. The Commonwealth Department of Education and Training and Catholic Education Melbourne are also [email protected] project partners.

“The findings were clear that a lot of learning occurs at home – especially with maths,” Phillipson said. “However, it’s clear parents don’t always feel as comfortable or confident in doing home-based activities with maths as they do with literacy skills – but they don’t need to be maths geniuses themselves.

“Asking children to help count and weigh cooking ingredients, identify shapes and numbers during walks and on signs, and use words to explain where things are positioned are the sorts of simple tasks that parents can try at home that both apply maths concepts and show children that maths skills are critical to everyday life.

“Furthermore, parents and caregivers who know what their children are learning at kindergarten, for example, really help by intentionally practicing those concepts at home.”

She said that in many school classrooms, generations of parents had helped by listening to children read, and that in doing so parents became aware of their own children’s reading levels and could provide ‘purposeful’ help at home. But there had been little recognition that parents could engage in classroom maths sessions in the same way.

“When we asked parents who should be teaching their children about key maths concepts and skills, the answer was that families and schools were both essential.”

A [email protected] website will be launched in late 2017 to provide information that can help families and educators be engaged in young children’s early maths learning at home. The website will offer resources including vignettes of family activities, video clips and examples of practices. MCERA