Helping young children with Maths

Rhona Dick
This article first appeared in MAPE Focus on Maths Autumn 1999


There are two important ways you can help your young children with Maths.

Conversation, stories, rhymes and games.

When you read a story which involves numbers make a point of discussing the maths involved.
Talk about the numbers in Nursery Rhymes and songs.
Rhymes and counting are very valuable means of helping young children form concepts, particularly about number.

Talk maths whenever the opportunity arises. Involve the children in the maths you have to do as part and parcel of your daily routine.
Imaginative play, role play, sand and water play give plenty of scope for mathematical experiences.
However you feel you can help your child the most important thing is to encourage your children to observe, talk and question.

Developing children's mathematical vocabulary

In many activities there is the opportunity to extend mathematical vocabulary. Much of the vocabulary is common to all activities. Here is a basic, but by no means exhaustive, list of some of the words that you could encourage your children to use:





count Day Size Cube
how many? altogether Week Compare Pyramid
one, two, three,... Morning Bigger/smaller Sphere
first, second, third... Afternoon Longer/shorter/taller Cone
more than/less than Evening Thinner/fatter Circle
the same as Night wider Triangle
difference Monday   Square
odd/even Tuesday


how many times? Wednesday Weigh Star
guess Thursday Balance Solid/hollow
estimate Friday Heavy/light Face
nearly Saturday Heavier/lighter Edge
too many Sunday Full/empty Side
too few Hour   Corner
enough O'clock


not enough Later Backwards/forwards Curved
next earlier Above/below Round
between   Over/under Straight

Solving problems

after What happens? Beside  
  How much? In front of/behind  
  How many? Left/right  
  What could we try next? Up/down  
  How did you work it out?    
  Why do you think?   MAPE 1999

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