What Maths should my child be able to do?

There are some great, easy, every-day tasks that you can do with your child at home to make a huge difference to their ability to perform in Maths lessons at school.  When it comes the measurement topics in Maths lessons here is a guide to what your child should know at each stage of their learning.

Year 1:  compare sizes without formal measurements (eg, measuring in paces or hands)

Year 2:  start to understand what standard length and weight measurements mean

Years 3-4:  Can use standard metric units of length, capacity and weight,

Years 5-6:  Accurately use all measuring implements (ie, read accurately off any scale)

Years 7+: convert between metric and metric units.  Convert between metric and imperial units.  Make sensible estimates.

10 Fun Measuring Activities – Doing Mathematics With Your Child

If you want to give your child a head-start and make sure they are well equipped to access their Maths lessons at school, here are 10 easy measuring activities you can do with them at home to improve their Maths skills.

  1. Use rulers and tape measures

Many children are not able to use a ruler or tape measure accurately.  Children tend to have problems lining the ruler up precisely with the start of the object to be measured and when they read off the measurement, they usually round to the nearest cm.  Any measuring you can do together will help.  Get them measuring toys, lego towers, size of hands and feet, how much a plant has grown or anything else you can think of.  If you have the opportunity get them involved with measuring up for a DIY task.  If you are buying new furniture that needs to fit somewhere, help them to do the measuring.  Reading rulers is an incredibly important skill and many children don’t manage to pick it up at school.  So your input is really important

  1. Understand height & weight

Most of us have a door frame or wall in the house where we have recorded our child’s height as they’ve grown.  Make sure you get them involved in reading off the height each time in metres and centimetres. Why not take that a step further and get them to work out how much they’ve grown since last time?

  1. Make friends with angles

Talk about standard amounts of turn – 90o, 180o, 360o.  Find ways of dropping these angles into conversation.  Play a game where you give each other directions -describe how many steps forward and how many degrees to turn (stick to 90, 180 and 360 if you don’t want to confuse them!)  Instead of ‘I spy’ have a competition to see who can spot the most right angles.

  1. Get messy in the kitchen

Does your child love to help in the kitchen? Whether it’s making cakes or curries, think about involving them in measuring quantities instead of just handing them pre-measured ingredients in a bowl.

Reading off analogue scales accurately is a tricky skill and features in GCSE exams.  Even using a digital scale gives them a great feel for grams, kilograms and the meaning of decimals. If you have old fashioned balance scales they are great too as teachers often use them as a visual representation to help children understand balancing equations (you don’t need to teach them the equation bit, just help them to know how the scales work!)  Whatever type of scale you have, this is a really valuable activity.

  1. Keep an eye on your household bills

Whether it’s the traditional outdoor meters, or the modern smart meters, get your child to help with taking meter readings.  Meter readings regularly appear as part of a GCSE problem solving question, and to most teenagers it is a foreign concept.  So familiarise them with electricity, gas and water meters at an early stage.

  1. Are we nearly there yet?

You can practice Maths on the move. If your child can see the dashboard, or your vehicle has a centre display console, ask them to tell you how fast you’re going, what the RPM of the engine is. Use the information on your Sat Nav to talk about time and distance left to travel in relation to speed.  Children have to understand the relationship between speed, distance and time in secondary school.  So if you have older children, try to get them to work out or estimate how long it will take you to go eg, 30 miles at your current speed, or how far you will have travelled in an hour.

  1. Is it hot in here?

Use your thermometer to work out what’s hot, and what’s not. It doesn’t matter if you use a meat thermometer to test the temperature of different things, a medical one from the first aid box, a thermometer on the garden wall, or an antique barometer. It’s a great introduction to negative numbers.  You can discuss positive and negative temperatures, oC and oF and what happens if the temperature goes up or down by, say, 10o.

  1. What’s time is it?

You probably have clocks all over the house – from the oven in the kitchen, to the central heating controls or your alarm clock. Are any of them analogue?

If they’re all digital think about changing the display on your phone or sports watch to analogue and practice telling the time.

If your child struggles with time, you will find they progress much more quickly if they have an analogue clock in their bedroom and wear a watch to school.

It’s important that children have access to both digital and analogue clocks in their every day life.  Once they’ve got the hang of telling the time, sneak some harder questions into their day – how long until……..?  How late are we?!

  1. Guess how big

Can your child show you how big a metre is? What about a cm?  As a Maths teacher I can guarantee that a lot of children will guess more than twice the size.  When trying this activity, many children have guessed a metre to be the length of the whole room!  Children need repeated practice at guessing these things for it to stick in their minds! Can they find anything that is exactly 1 litre or 1 kilogram? All of these will help them with estimation and with judging whether answers to their calculations are ‘reasonable’

  1. How much do I weigh?

Get your child to hop on the scales regularly to get them used to the meaning of kilograms, pounds and stone.  Make sure they know their approximate weight in kg, so that they can use it to estimate the weight of other things.

Finally, my absolute favourite game for learning measures uses a Guinness World Records book (most children get given one by a granny at some point!). Take turns to find a record with measurement involved and the other players have to guess what the measurement is.

For example, “How long in cm was the world’s longest ear hair?”  The person whose answer is the closest wins. This is a great game for getting a real understanding of what the measurements really look like.

If you can find the time to squeeze in just one activity a week, you will find your child will excel in any Maths lessons involving measurement!

If you would like more ideas for helping your child with Maths (preferably without them noticing), check out some of my other blogs like ‘How can I teach my child times-tables?’