5 Tips For Encouraging Real Life Maths

From the Olympics to holiday planning, we all need to understand the maths surrounding us. Calculators and impressive new machines can help us, but they are no substitute for being able to work through real life maths questions ourselves.

Indeed, beyond the everyday, maths skills are becoming increasingly important in today’s job market. It is already the case that 2 million jobs require a maths qualification. With the growth of new industries, this is set to grow further in the future.

You can make sure your child is prepared for this new world by highlighting the maths involved throughout life. The home learning opportunities below will help steer you in the right direction.


Let’s start with one of the most obvious ways to demonstrate real life maths. With online shopping becoming ever more dominant, you may not do as much traditional shopping as you once did. However, the shopping experience can still help you bring real life maths to bear.

One of the easiest ways to incorporate real life maths is to involve your child in your decisions. For example:


Try asking your child to estimate how much the items in your basket are going to cost. Do they think the total will be within the budget set?

If you are feeling brave, you could provide a small budget for their own part of the shopping. This will help them get used to moderating their spending habits to live within their means. In order to successfully spend within budget, they will need to carry out mental calculations quickly.

This is particularly powerful as it will solidify knowledge of the four operations and improve memory retention. Any situation where your child has to practise a method in an environment different to the one in which they originally learned it will also help to grow their brain.

Shopping: real_life_maths

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Checking Your Change

This one is as old as money itself. It is one of the most important life skills – checking the money provided to you matches what you are owed.

Your weekly shop is an excellent place to start. Before actually checking the change at the end of the shop, you could practise with your child throughout the day with questions such as:


‘If our shop comes to £47.58 and I pay with a £50 note, how much change should we receive?’


Navigating Sales

Asking your child to calculate how much you would save by buying an item in the sale will certainly get their brain working. You might even inspire them to become the next generation of enthusiastic shoppers – queuing outside of stores from the early hours of the morning to take advantage of bargains.

Asking your child to work out the original price is particularly powerful in highlighting how much money you could save.

For example, asking your child to work out the original price of an item that now costs £18 after being reduced by 20% is a good place to start.

(They need to divide £18 by 80 and multiply this answer by 100 to get the original price). Of course, you may allow them to use a calculator to quicken the process in this instance!)

You could also explore why it is worth studying the price of items per kg rather than only the price on display. This will help them learn how to save money in the long term.

Sales: real_life_maths

Car Journeys

Are we there yet? That perennial question. We can also help you here.

Instead of responding to this question as usual, how about returning the question by asking them to calculate how long is left?

Questions regarding distance, speed and time are great, particularly if you can link them to your current journey.

For example, using the following information:

  • 10 miles left on your journey
  • Average travelling speed of 30mph

You could ask your child how long it is going to take for you to get to your destination.

Answer = 10 ÷ 30 = 0.33 hours (20 minutes)

You could extend this question by asking:

If we were travelling at 70mph, how much faster would we get there?


Real Life Maths In Your Local Park

Your local park is a treasure trove of real life maths. From the climbing frame to the trees, so many of the key features of a park lend themselves to practising maths.

Can your child work out all the angles present on the climbing frame? What angles are the most prominent?

There is also a lot you can do with the area and perimeter of a park. Is it possible to estimate the perimeter? Is it possible to estimate the area?

If this is too large an undertaking, you could ask your child to estimate the perimeter and area of a more manageable section such as the play area.

Discuss what measurements would be best to use in this scenario. If you use millimetres, you may be there for a long time!

If you’re struggling to come up with activity ideas, we have plenty of home learning resources you can download and use!

Video Games

Excessive screen time can certainly be a negative. The wrong type and frequency of screen time can leave children feeling like zombies when in school.

However, the appropriate type and quantity of screen time can be beneficial to children’s development. Through such play, real life maths comes to the fore.

Games that focus on strategy are particularly effective. These games often simulate, in some small part, being responsible for the long-term health of a financial budget. Whether you are the mayor of a fledgling city or responsible for the operation of an airport, maths skills will be essential for success.


House DIY

Building that new piece of furniture is an additional activity that will bring real life maths to the forefront of your child’s mind.

When building, there are plenty of opportunities to incorporate maths. Measuring the space you will need when all sections are laid out is a good exercise to begin with. This will not only help to avoid any cramped spaces, but also encourage your child to visualise a variety of shapes!

Once the furniture is spread out, you could ask your child to double check the number of pieces you have with the number stated in the instructions. There is nothing worse than realising a missing piece at the very end of the process…

DIY: real_life_maths


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Ellie Williams
Ellie Williams
Third Space Learning
Content Team
With a love for all things KS2 maths, Ellie is a part of the content team that helps all of the Third Space Learning blogs and resources reach teachers!
FREE Topical Maths Festive Pack

FREE Topical Maths Festive Pack

This resource includes 61 daily Christmas investigations to boost your pupils' reasoning and problem solving skills over the festive season.

Download Free Now!

FREE Topical Maths Festive Pack

Downloadable resource

This resource includes 61 daily Christmas investigations to boost your pupils' reasoning and problem solving skills over the festive season.

Download Free Now!