Back To School Maths Ideas For Parents: How To Make Sure Your Child Is Ready For Maths In The New School Year

The summer holidays. Every parent knows that they are the perfect time for some rest, relaxation, and…some primary school maths? 

Whilst learning and school work is probably the furthest thing from both your mind (and certainly from your child’s mind) this summer, it is important that you spend some time over the holidays trying to keep the skills they put so much effort into gaining over the past year firmly at the forefront of their thoughts. 

By doing this, you will be helping to ensure that your child will be ready to tackle all of the fun learning challenges that  await them in their next year of school next year. 

This blog is part of our series of blogs designed for parents supporting home learning and looking for home learning resources during the Covid-19 epidemic.

The summer slide is a real problem!

If you talk to any primary teacher, they will lament about the ‘summer slide’. 

Put simply, the summer slide is the phenomenon of children often appearing to start the new academic year with less skills and knowledge then they ended the previous year with!

This is, to some degree, unsurprising- there is a lot of new knowledge and skills taught in each year of primary, and some of these, especially in maths, rely on regular practise and use in order to cement them into your child’s mind. 

The summer slide is an issue that can affect children in all primary school subjects, but it is often worse in maths as they are so many new and potentially confusing topics introduced to children each and every year throughout primary school. 

FREE Back To School Maths Quiz

FREE Back To School Maths Quiz

A set of formative assessments to diagnose learning gaps and inform planning for the year, for your year 3, 4, 5, and 6 pupils.

Fear not, back to school maths practice doesn’t have to be hard

So, what can you do over the summer to help keep your child’s maths skills and knowledge locked in, and to ensure they are ready to tackle their new learning in September?  

Fortunately, the answer is simple and it is practice, practice, practice! 

Practice doesn’t mean that your child needs to work through problems 24/7 over the summer, just that you should encourage them to keep their learning ticking over to ensure that the summer slide isn’t an issue come September.

Working with our maths consultant we’ve taken a closer look at some quick and simple ways you can help prevent the maths summer slide this year.

Focus on the key skills your child will need for the upcoming year

Obviously you can’t practise all of the previous years maths skills over the summer holidays, but you certainly can focus on the most relevant for your child.

It’s important to focus on the foundational maths skills, which essentially boils down to mental maths!  

Skills to practise and focus on by year group

The things that each child will have learnt will vary based upon the year group they are in, so here is a brief run through of the things you should focus on for your child depending on which year group they are in.

Children entering Year 1

  • Number bonds to 10 (i.e. 6 +4 = 10, 5+5=10,10 – 7 =3) 
  • Number bonds within 10 (i.e. 3+4=7, 7-3=4)

Children entering Year 2

  • Number bonds to 10 and 20 (i.e. 13 +7 = 20, 20-5 = 15)
  • Number bonds within 10 and 20
  • Counting in 5’s and 10’s from 0 

Children entering Year 3

  • Mental addition and subtraction (up to 20)
  • Doubling and halving
  • The 2, 5 and 10 times tables and related division facts

Children entering Year 4

  • Mental addition and subtraction (up to 50)
  • Doubling and halving
  • The 2,3,4,5,8,10 times tables and related division facts

Children entering Year 5

  • The 2-12 times tables and related division facts
  • Doubling and halving all numbers to 100
  • Multiplying numbers by 10 and 100 

Children entering Year 6

  • The 2-12 times table and related division facts
  • Multiplying multiples of 10 by 2-12 (i.e. 30 x 3=90 using 3 x 3 =9)
  • Multiplying and dividing numbers by 10, 100 and 1,000

If you want to save this information for later, you can download the image below:

Back to school maths help for parents

Keep talking about maths all summer long

The most important thing you can do is to prepare your child for maths next year is simple.

You should keep talking about maths whenever you get the chance! 

But don’t worry – we don’t mean having in-depth conversation about Pythagoras’s theorem or the 30th digit of pi!  

Rather, we mean that you should just notice, discuss and encourage your child to take part in the maths that happens in your day-to-day life.   

Here are some common places that you could use to bring maths into the fold:

In the supermarket

The supermarket isn’t just filled to the brim with delicious food, it also plays host to a number of maths opportunities. You could:

  • Compare prices (which is cheaper?)
  • Look at and compare weights (how much more do get in this packet than the other?) 
  • Or for children in Key Stage 2, you could even challenge them to estimate the total cost of your shop (by rounding the prices and adding them mentally as you go around!)

When you are cooking

Can you think of any other opportunities in your everyday life when there are so many measurements timings used? You could:

  • Work out conversions (if it says I need 1kg of flour, how many grammes is that?)
  • Work out timings (it says I need to cook the turkey for 30 minutes for every KG so how long do we need to cook for?)
  • Work out scale using recipes (this recipe makes enough for 4 people, so how much do we need to make enough for 10 people?)

When planning your day

As a parent you will know that planning a day with your child can involve a lot of maths, so why not get them involved? You could:

  • Discuss the order of the daily events, what will you do first, second and third?
  • Figure out how long each event will take
  • Calculate which time you’ll start and finish for the day

When watching videos online

Children love watching videos on their tablets or computers, so why not take advantage of this and get some maths learning in there! These activities are mainly focused on older children, but you could:

  • Discuss the number of views each video has and ask them to say the number out loud
  • Round views to the nearest 10/11/1000 etc
  • Figure out how many more views the video needs to get to 100,000 or 1,000,000 or 10,000,000


A good place to start could be this video from the team here at Third Space Learning!

Test their maths understanding 

You could even challenge your child to spot all the maths they use during the day- perhaps rewarding them if they can spot 10 different times they have used their maths skills?

Car journey maths: Make “Are we there yet?” a thing of the past

Long car journeys are a staple of the summer holidays, so why not use them as an opportunity to practice some maths skills? 

Here are some suggestions of some games and challenges to play!

Number plate multiplication 

This simple game can be adapted depending on your child’s age. 

For children in Year 3 and above

Who can be the first to multiply the two numbers from the number plate of the car in front?  

Who can be the first to multiply them together and then double the number? 

For children Year 1 or 2

Who can be the first to add the two numbers on the number plate of the car in front?  How many away from 20 is that? Can you double first number of the number plate?

Millage sign addition (for Year 3+)

Can you add the mileage of the top 2 (or 3 or 4 for older children) destinations on the millage signs?  

Car journey mileage game

Who can add them together first?

Are we nearly there yet?  (For Year 3+)

Let children know the total number of miles to your destination.  During the journey tell them how many miles you have travelled so far- can they work out how many miles you have left to travel? 

Journey times (For Year 4+)– 

Let your child know the current time, and then the approximate time left till your destination- can they work out the time that you should arrive?

Car colour addition (for any age- just adapt the numbers)

Pick two or more car colours/vehicle types, assigning each one a value (i.e. for a Year 2 child you may say a red car was worth 2 points, a lorry worth 5 points, and a yellow car worth 10).  

Car journey maths game

Each time they spot one of those colour cars they should call it out, and if they are the first to spot it, they get to add the value of that car colour to their total. 

Who can be the first to score 50 or 100?

Looking for more ideas for fun maths games and activities with your child? There are 25 one click away!

Maths, paper, scissors

You can easily adapt the classic game of ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors’? to add  a maths twist. 

The way the game works is similar for all age groups- so we’ve put an outline of the game below, and then some suggestions of  what versions to play for each age group.

  1. Stand and face your partner. 
  2. Make one fist (or 2 for 2 handed versions) and say together with your partner ‘maths, paper, scissors’ whilst moving your fists up and down (in a similar way to when playing rock, paper, scissors).
  3. On scissors, each of you puts out between 1 and 5 (or 1 and 10 if playing a two handed version) fingers. 
  4.  You then need to race to multiply, add, or do some other maths to the number of fingers you have put out and the number of fingers your partner put out depending on the suggestions below.
  5. Call out the answer. 
  6. The player to call the correct answer first, wins a point. 
  7. Record who wins each ‘battle’ in a simple table; the first player to 20 points wins!

Here are some suggestions of versions of the game you could play for each year group:-

For children entering Year 1

Play a single handed version, adding the number of fingers on both players hands together. 

For children entering Year 2

Play a double handed version, adding the number of fingers from both players together.  Or play a single handed version, and add the number of fingers together and multiply this total by 2. 

For children entering Year 3 

Play a double handed version, adding the number of fingers from both players together and then calling out the difference between this total and 20.  Or play a single handed version, and add the number of fingers together and multiply this total by 2, 5 or 10.

For children entering Year 4

Play a single handed version multiplying the number of fingers each player has put out together.

For children entering Year 5

Play a double handed version, multiplying the number of fingers each player has put out together.

For children entering Year 6

Play a double handed version, multiplying the number of fingers each player has put out together and then doubling this number, or multiplying/dividing it by 10 or 100.

Using technology to teach – Tablet maths games

We all know how much children love ‘screen time’ so why not make it productive by downloading some fun maths based games for your children?  

There are loads of maths based games, both free and paid for, on the google play and apple app stores- but here are our top four suggestions of free apps which are available on both android and apple devices.   

Please note, some of the free games do have in-app purchases so please ensure these are restricted on your devices.  It’s also obviously important that you review the game before downloading to make sure you are happy that it is suitable for your child.

Toon Math – (free)

This app is perfect for children in Key Stage 2- this is a fun maths take on the classic ‘running’ style games. 

Prodigy – for all age groups (free)

This is an American game but is suitable for the UK curriculum too. 

It covers all areas of maths in a fun way. You need to select the appropriate age for your child, which is selected from American grades.  

The American grade your child is in is the one BELOW their year group- so a year 4 child should select grade 3.

Maths Bakery – for all age groups

This is a well crafted set of mini-games all sharing a bakery theme.

Medieval Math Battle – for all age groups

This is a cartoon ‘battle’ based game. The addition segment is totally free, with other operations costing 69p each.

Remember, back to school maths doesn’t have to be daunting!

Whilst rather unsurprisingly we are all for maths learning here at Third Space Learning, we also know that it should not be the basis for a summer break for your child. 

Doing some back to school maths to help your child prepare for the upcoming school year should be a gentle and gradual process, but it is an important one nonetheless.

Hopefully the tips above help you avoid the summer slide, and also help you add some maths fun into the holidays!

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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 Back To School Maths Quiz

FREE Back To School Maths Quiz

A set of formative assessments to diagnose learning gaps and inform planning for the year, for your year 3, 4, 5, and 6 pupils.

Download Free Now!

FREE Back To School Maths Quiz

Downloadable resource

A set of formative assessments to diagnose learning gaps and inform planning for the year, for your year 3, 4, 5, and 6 pupils.

Download Free Now!