Articles for parents

Using maths skills in everyday life

Jan 2024

Numbers are all around us and we use our maths skills daily, often without even realising it! Just think about the last time that you told the time, or when you counted your change - that was an everyday application of maths.

There are many ways we can encourage children to begin to make a real-life connection with numbers. For example, as they count the number of seconds before they hunt for their friends in a game of hide and seek, or as they play hopscotch on numbered squares in the school playground. Counting, estimating, adding and subtracting are skills that the average child will find themselves using several times a day.

Take the process of filling a packed lunch box, as an example. As children fill their boxes with sandwiches and healthy treats, they are estimating the number of items that will fit into the space and depth of the box. As they eat lunch later that day they may count out the number of raisins in their fruit box, or count fractions as they trade food with their friends. How much of a banana can you get for a Penguin?

In the supermarket, on the walk to school or while cooking dinner, we have many opportunities to demonstrate to children how important good mathematical skills are in daily life. They can also be chances for them to show what they already know, and how they can work things out by themselves, giving their mental maths a little practice too! This is really how the Kumon Maths Programme works. By gently encouraging children to tell us, "what comes next?" or "what would be twice that amount?", Kumon gently builds children's confidence based on what they've learned previously.

Here are some examples of how you can introduce practical maths skills into your family routine:

A trip to the supermarket
Taking children to the local supermarket provides a wealth of opportunities for children to use their mathematical knowledge, as well as giving them the chance to learn new skills. Looking at price labels, special offers and calculating the percentage discounts of reduced items together can be part of your routine, whatever the age of your child.  Show them how you use multiplication to work out the best value when looking at multi-buy offers, and involve younger children in using scales and weighing their favourite fruits and vegetables. While handling money and calculating change at the checkout is less common these days, children still need to understand money and budgets so a budget challenge could be a useful way to get them involved in estimating the value of the final shopping basket at the checkout.

Cooking at home
Working through even simple recipes, such as baking a cake, is a chance to use a number of mathematical skills. Choose a recipe that produces a larger amount than the number of people in your family, such as twenty-four biscuits for a family of four. Ask children to re-write the recipe by doubling or halving amounts. Children can also weigh out ingredients to the appropriate amounts and look at the varying increments on a weighing scale.

Counting numbers on a journey
Children can go for a number-hunt on car journeys or on their daily walk. This can help them to understand the use of numbers in the world around them, and can start to develop mental dexterity too: being able to count and keep a tally of silver cars and red cars at the same time, or using a pedometer to record steps on your regular walk to school, is a useful but potentially mentally challenging game to play. You could ask younger children questions such as, 'how many pairs of shoes are there in the shoe rack?' This will encourage children to use their maths skills and apply them to the world around them!