Maths Homework Guide For Helping Kids With Maths At Home
While the amount and difficulty of maths homework that your child will receive will vary from school to school, one thing is common to all parents: you will at some point be asked to help your child with maths homework.
This article is part of our series designed for parents supporting home learning and looking for home learning packs. It is suitable for those families doing regular or flexible home schooling or as part of additional support you may need during any lockdowns and time away from school due to Covid-19.
Depending on your age, how recently you were taught primary school maths, and your own attitude to learning maths you may face that moment with a level head or with a rising sense of panic.
Much of today’s maths may at first glance seem unfamiliar to you – the maths curriculum has changed quite a lot in the last 5-10 years never mind the last 20 – and primary school children today, in every year group are expected to do more and demonstrate greater understanding than in many previous years.
If you feel like you’re more in the ‘panic’ than relaxed camp, you’re not alone. We speak to parents like you every week to support them to support their child with primary maths.
Often parents are contacting us because their school or they want to sign up to our online maths tuition so we can handle all the lesson planning and support on your behalf.
But if primary school tutoring is not what you’re after, there’s still plenty of advice we can give you.
The research shows that input from carers and parents is the key factor in determining good outcomes at primary. However, we also understand that when you’re busy juggling the needs of your children, yourself, and completing the 1001 other daily tasks that come with being a parent, planning a maths lesson is the last thing you feel like doing.
So in this article we aim to give you the key information about what primary school maths now entails, some maths homework activities suitable for each year group, and lots of links to more worksheets, workbooks and more.
- Changes to the KS2 maths curriculum
- The move to maths mastery
- Maths in your child’s primary school
- How to help with Year 2 maths (6-7 year olds)
- How to help with Year 3 maths (7-8 year olds)
- How to help with Year 4 maths (8-9 year olds)
- How to help with Year 5 maths (9-10 year olds)
- How to help with Year 6 maths (10-11 year olds)
- Final thoughts on maths at home
Changes to the KS2 maths curriculum
YThe KS1 and KS2 National Curriculum sets out what children should have learn each year at primary school both in terms of knowledge and skills; how this information is taught, in what order and with what materials, is up to individual schools.
The National Curriculum went through a significant overhaul in 2014 across all subjects. You don’t need to refer to this in detail at any point as a parent but it might help to understand the following changes when helping with maths homework:
- The biggest difference was the introduction of more complex maths at an earlier age, as well as the addition of several strategies in primary school that used to be taught at secondary school.
- There’s a focus on mastery, problem-solving and mathematical vocabulary, and if that all sounds like your worst nightmare, you’re not alone.
- One of the biggest changes for parents is that after years of being taught to recite times tables and memorise strategies for long multiplication, a shift to problem-solving feels like a completely different subject.
- Children are now taught to understand the logic behind why 4 x 4=16, rather than just recalling it from memory. Whilst this is good for long-term learning, it can prove a little tricky to adapt to as a parent.
- The National Curriculum (2014) is available here
The move to maths mastery
The updates to the 2014 curriculum have placed an emphasis on mastery, fluency and problem-solving in maths.
In a nutshell, the onus is on a deep understanding of mathematical concepts, rather than learning strategies and facts by off by heart, and this is something to bear in mind as you look to help your child with maths throughout KS2.
Approaches like concrete-pictorial-abstract, open up the inner workings of mathematical concepts and allow us to really take a look at what we’re doing with numbers.
Studies have shown that by using concrete maths resources items in the first phase of learning, children are more able to understand pictorial representations (like pictograms or bar models) in the second phase of learning.
These two steps make the abstract phase of learning (when there are only numbers involved) seem like a completely natural progression.
Using these steps is a great way to help your child understand the way that maths applies to the real world, and it means that they will be well-equipped to deal with all sorts of mathematical conundrums.
Maths in your child’s primary school
Once you know about the existence of the national curriculum and where some of these more ‘modern’ maths concepts come from the key thing to know as a parent is how your own primary school is implementing the curriculum.
This will help you understand exactly what it is that your child needs to know for maths at each point of their primary school life.
The main elements you should get on top of are as follows (the first three should be available as per Ofsted’s guidelines on the school website:
- The maths curriculum or scheme of work your school is following
- Your school’s calculation policy
- Your school’s home learning policy
- Key curriculum terminology that may be new to you
1. Your school’s maths curriculum
Most schools now publish on their website the maths topics that children will be studying each year and each term. They may refer to this as their scheme or work or their curriculum. There are lots of different ways schools teach these topics but White Rose Maths is one of the most popular curricula and one you may hear about a lot!
This is an invaluable resource for you as a parent as it means you can make sure that you’re supporting them with the right homework help at the right time. If your child hasn’t completed their place value module this term it will make it harder for them to do multiplication x 100 or work with decimals as an example.
2. Your school’s calculation policy
Did you know that different schools teach maths through different strategies?
This might sound odd to you, but the good news is that you can find the way that your school teaches a particular strategy on their calculation policy.
This document details exactly how your school is teaching different mathematical topics, and it can act as a guide for you to use at home.
You should be able to locate it on your school’s website, but don’t be afraid to ask for it if you can’t find it. A quick email into the school should solve this problem.
Once you have a copy of the policy, take the time to read it. You might find that some of the strategies are completely different to what you know and were taught, but please don’t feel like you have to understand it all.
Make the effort to chat with your child’s teacher or even headteacher every now and then and you’ll get much more up-to-date information on what’s coming up each week!
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3. Your school’s home learning or homework policy
Before Covid-19 times home learning in a school context was generally just used to refer to the ‘added extras’; the stuff relevant to your school’s maths curriculum that you could do to support it. While in subjects like Geography and History it might suggest museums or websites to visit, in maths it was more likely to be focused on recall of number facts and times tables, and occasional homework sheets.
Now of course home learning incorporates so much more to it than just ‘homework’. However, your school will have a policy on what it expects or wants families to do for maths homework in addition to ordinary lessons and it’s worth taking a look at this before worrying that your child has too much or too little maths homework.
Read more: The homework debate in primary schools
4. Important terminology in KS2 maths
Even if you have a great working relationship with your child’s class teacher, some of the jargon used in schools can be almost indecipherable.
Here are just some of the more esoteric and unexpected key terms that teachers may use when talking about maths:
|Mastery||A deep understanding of mathematical concepts (and not just memorising strategies).|
|CPA approach||Linked to the mastery approach, the CPA approach is split into three phases of learning: Concrete (real-life examples), Pictorial (representations of real life), and Abstract (numbers and formal written strategies).|
|Variation||Understanding maths deeply by looking at different procedures and concepts.|
|Metacognition||Metacognition literally means ‘thinking about thinking’; in maths, it means you are aware of the choices you make when solving a problem.|
But don’t worry. We’ve created a free primary maths dictionary for kids and parents that includes all these terms and more. Head over there whenever you encounter a word whose meaning is unclear.
Now we have run through they key things you need to know about what your child is learning in maths at school, we can move onto how you can help them with their maths homework!
How to help with Year 2 maths (6-7 year olds)
Year 2 represents the first big milestone in most children’s education – the Key Stage 1 SATs. While Year 1 might have introduced many new ideas and a very different way of learning than Early Years, Year 2 is when your child will be tested on how well they’ve actually understood what they’ve learnt.
It’s quite natural for children to feel somewhat nervous about this year, and about maths in particular. With that in mind, here are some quick tips you can use to help your child feel prepared for the challenges ahead of them.
Maths tip 1: Check their understanding of the basics
Moving into Year 2, there are some basic maths concepts children should feel comfortable with. The key topics to check are:
- Does your child know the counting sequence up to 20?
- Can your child count a number of objects up to 20 accurately, touching or moving one object at a time?
- Can your child quickly recognise a number of objects between 1 and 10 in a ten-frame or on fingers without counting?
- Can your child count up, starting on any number between 1 and 20?
- Can your child count down, starting on any number between 1 and 20?
- Can your child recognise that numbers can be partitioned?
- Has your child begun to understand place value?
If your child is struggling with any of these, they’ll probably find parts of what they learn in Year 2 that much harder – it might even impact their SATs scores! Luckily, you can find ways to help them practise these in our dedicated Year 2 maths page.
Maths tip 2: Work on helping your child recognise number bonds
Number bonds are pairs of numbers that add up to certain totals e.g. 3 + 7 = 10. A good understanding of number bonds is important for nearly every part of maths your child will learn, so it’s crucial they feel comfortable with them.
The most important number bonds are those that add up to 10. Look at the example below:
Children should understand the relationship between 4, 6 and 10 and the different ways these three numbers can interact. So they should understand that 4 + 6 = 10 is the same as 6 + 4 = 10, and that 10 – 6 = 4 or 10 – 4 = 6 are the reverse.
Once your child is happy with numbers bonds up to 10, you will want to move on to number bonds up to 20. These are slightly more complex, and need a basic knowledge of place value as well.
For example, the calculation 9 + 5 can be reformulated as 10 + 4, but this is much easier to do if your child understands that 9 is close to 10 and 4 is close to 5.
Maths tip 3: Help them get started with division and multiplication
Your child may have learnt the very basics of multiplication in Year 1, but it is covered much more heavily in Year 2, and division is introduced for the first time.
Rather than trying to teach times tables (which will probably be too complex to start with), support your child’s learning by helping them see multiplication and division in more simple terms.
One of the simplest ways to look at multiplying is repeated addition. 5 x 2 can be seen as 2 lots of 5 (or 5 + 5). Equally, 2 x 5 can be seen as 5 lots of 2 (or 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 + 2.) Develop this understanding by showing this using objects:
Division can be explained in terms of grouping and sharing. Grouping involves seeing a calculation such as 10 ÷ 2 as, “How many groups of 2 can be made from 10?”
While sharing involves seeing 10 ÷ 2 as, “If I share 10 into 2 equal groups, how many are in each group?”
Read the full blog post for even more ways to help with Year 2 maths at home!
How to help with Year 3 maths (7-8 year olds)
It’s likely that your 7-year-old will encounter many concepts that are new to them during their first year of key stage 2 maths lessons, and this can be a daunting time for some young children.
New ideas, coupled with the higher expectations of accuracy in their answers can be a shock to the system for some Year 3 students, so here are a few quick tricks that will help your child get over any mathematical shaped obstacles swiftly and smoothly.
Maths tip 1: Cultivate accuracy as a habit in Year 3
An easy way to work on cultivating accuracy is by getting your child to measure anything and everything with a ruler or a tape measure. This is a good way for you to ensure that your child is giving accurate answers to questions, without the questions themselves being too difficult.
For example, a quick measuring activity that helps promote accuracy in answers could be as simple as this:
Mum: “So Sophie, can you tell me how many centimetres long my mobile phone is?”
Sophie (using a ruler/tape measure): “I think it’s about 7cm long.”
Mum: “You’re right it is roughly 7cm long, but can you tell me exactly how long it is?”
Sophie: “It is 7.4cm long.”
Mum: “It is! Well done.”
This may be a simple example, but it shows you just how easy it can be to implement real-life maths into your daily life in a useful way.
There are lots of ways you can make it fun, whether that be by measuring each other’s height, recording how much a plant grows each day or even seeing how long the pet dog’s tail is. The possibilities are endless here!
Cultivate a habit of accuracy early on, and this will be reflected across your child’s learning for the remainder of their school life (and not just in maths).
Maths tip 2: Practise times tables every day with your 7-year-old
The more you practise, the better. Sing it, shout it, whisper it, dance it. Whatever it takes!
Although it might not seem like the most entertaining maths in the world, a solid knowledge of your times tables removes barriers to more complex maths further down the line.
Times tables play a huge role in everyday life, with many of us taking them for granted. For example, if you are shopping and see that pineapples are £2.00 each and you know that you require 3 of them, you have no problem working out that this will come to a total of £6.00.
At 7 years old your child might not be able to work that out just yet, and that is why it is so important them to cement their times tables knowledge as early as possible. When enthusiasm is flagging we recommend these times tables games.
Maths tip 3: Challenging your Year 3 child with maths at home
Up until this point, your 7-year-old will be used to using one operation (adding, subtracting, dividing and multiplying) at a time.
Challenge them by mixing it up!
Ask your child to mentally add up the things you buy on a shopping trip. Every now and then, put something back to keep the subtraction practice going. One of the most important things to do at this stage is to try and incorporate maths into everyday life in fun and engaging ways, and this is just one of the ways you can do so!
Another favourite way is to incorporate some of these maths games into family life at home. There are loads to choose from, indoor, outdoor or even in the car!
How to help with Year 4 maths (8-9 year olds)
At this age, it’s useful to introduce a couple of new concepts that, whilst it is important to ensure are not too difficult, can be a little confusing at first.
At this point in primary school your child will be dealing with large numbers and more complex shapes. This might seem daunting, there’s plenty you can do to get over these hurdles at home.
Maths tip 1: Use written strategies to add and subtract large numbers
If you’re shopping online, enlist your 8 year old to help you. Tell them exactly what’s on your wish list (and don’t be afraid to push the boat out). Once your child has a list of items and prices, work together using written addition to find the total.
This is your chance to really splash the (metaphorical) cash, so if you’ve had your eye on that £1,000 sofa or the £2,300 TV, now is the time to add it to your shopping list! Just make sure hands stay well away from that “buy now button”….
Maths tip 2: Get your child familiar with 3D shape names
Shapes might not seem like an important part of the curriculum, but they do form a big part of how your child will use maths in their everyday lives going forward. Also, for any budding engineers out there, knowing the difference between a rhombus and a rectangle is a must!
An easy way to learn about 3d shapes is to print off a few nets like the one below and build some shapes together. Putting these nets together will take time, but they come with the added bonus of building resilience and patience which really is a win-win!
Maths tip 3: Challenging your Year 4 child with some fractions!
One way to really ramp up the difficulty level is by getting fractions involved. They may not be anyone’s favourite part of maths, but you should not underestimate their importance both in and out of the classroom.
Ordering fractions can be a challenge for even the strongest mathematicians at this age, so have a go at ordering tenths first before moving onto mixed fractions like quarters, halves and thirds.
You can make this more fun by creating a simple string washing line and pegging fraction cards to it. Adding a time limit to activities such as this can also help your child to engage with the task, so why not set them the challenge of ordering all of the tenth fractions in under a minute?
How to help with Year 5 maths (9-10 year olds)
This is the age when knowledge retention really begins to come to the fore, and if you spend just five minutes a day revisiting a few fundamental skills, you’ll find that your child can take on new ideas effortlessly. In particular, familiarising your child with negative numbers, reading the time and the times tables (up to the twelve times tables) will stand them in good stead in the future.
Maths tip 1: Use negative numbers in context with your Year 5 child
The easiest way to make sense of negative numbers is to watch them in action, and one of the only practical ways you can do this is with temperature.
One idea you can use is to pop an ice cube in a small amount of water and check the temperature together every twenty minutes. Record the results in a table, and as your child notes the temperature dropping lower and lower you can tick off another valuable maths skill.
Bringing in active maths such as this can be a great way to cement learning, and you should find that your child is much more engaged with the topic as a result too!
Maths tip 2: Get your 9-year-old to read the time, all the time!
Time may go quickly for us adults, but for kids who have grown up predominantly reading the time on phone screens and tablets, analogue clocks look like something from another planet.
You can avoid the confusion by hanging analogue clocks in your home from an early age and modelling reading the time out loud at every opportunity. Practice makes perfect when it comes to telling time, so be patient and keep at it.
Try to remember to ask your child what the time is every time you take a glance up at the clock, as not only will this be a good chance to help them learn how to tell the time, but it might just remind you to get the dinner out of the oven too!
Maths tip 3: Challenging your Year 5 child with maths at home
Weather permitting, take a walk down to your local bus stop or if the rain is proving too potent, browse train timetables online. (Bonus points if it’s a timetable that really applies to your commute or a regular journey!)
Challenge your 9-year-old to work out the difference in time between stops on the route.
Can they find the shortest stop?
The longest one?
How long does the whole route take?
Not only is reading timetables a curriculum requirement, but it’s also a skill that is extremely useful in later life. They will have no excuses for missing the bus to college if they have been taught how to read timetables properly!
How to help with Year 6 maths (10-11 year olds)
At this age, it’s worth having conversations around what your child finds difficult and easy in maths.
Everyone struggles with maths at some point, but if you can ask for help, you’re much more likely to succeed. With the introduction of several completely new topics, now is the time to work through any misunderstandings and avoid them building up into a bigger issue.
Maths tip 1: De-mystify the relationship between fractions, decimals and percentages
The relationship between fractions, decimals and percentages is one that puzzles many 10-year-olds (and in fact, a lot of adults too!).
When children first encounter fractions at school, there’s no mention of decimals or percentages, so it’s no surprise that it comes as a bit of a shock later on. The important thing to remember is that fractions, decimals and percentages are just three different ways of showing part of a whole.
One tried and tested technique that is used by teachers and parents across the land is to bring many children’s favourite food, the trust pizza, into the mix here. If you are splitting the pizza into four, why not ask the question of how much each person is getting as a fraction, percentage and a decimal?
By being able to visualise the mathematics taking place in front of them, children are better equipped to work out the answer, and of course, they get some pizza too! This is a fantastic way to help your child with maths at home.
Maths tip 2: Get the protractor out (whenever you can)
Protractors have a funny way of muddling most young mathematicians, and it certainly doesn’t help that there are two rows of numbers to contend with!
That being said, it is a crucial part of a mathematicians pencil case, so try to have one on hand and use it wherever possible to measure angles accurately. Your child will snap up a few extra marks on the exams with this, so it’s worth keeping an eye on.
This is a great way to make an otherwise dull trip to the DIY shop for your child exciting, as they help you to measure the all-important angles on everything from tins of paint through to planks of wood.
Maths tip 3: Challenging your Year 6 child with maths at home
At this age, the curriculum offers plenty of challenges for 10-year-olds.
Being able to recall equivalent fractions, decimals and percentages will stand your child in good stead, and if you are looking to challenge your child then these are the topics you should do it with.
Quick quizzes on converting decimals into their equivalent fractions are a good way to encourage learning on these topics, and you can easily incorporate them into everyday life. Examples could include:
- I’ve filled this glass of water up ½ to the top. How much room is left in it in decimals?
- We’ve walked 25% of the way to school. How far is that in a fraction?
- ⅕ of your dinner is made up of vegetables, how much is this in percentages?
There will be a lot of other examples that come up in your everyday life, but these ones are just there to inspire you!
If you’re searching for something to accompany the real life maths, take a look at our blog which tackles how you can tackle Year 6 maths in greater detail.
How to help with Year 6 maths – SATs! (10-11 year olds)
With exams looming it can feel like a mad dash to the finish line, but you have to remember one simple thing.
Just remember that there’s plenty that you can do in a short amount of time to boost your child’s confidence in maths.
Begin by taking a look at practice SATs papers or sample tests together as this is one of the best ways for both of you to find out which questions your child finds easy and which ones need a bit of work.
Bear in mind that it is normal for children to react differently to exam papers than to the work they see day-to-day, so try to build a positive experience around exams to relieve the pressure (the promise of a trip to the park after completing a sample test is a good way of doing this).
Maths tip 1: Practise taking KS2 tests the fun way
The best way to get your child on board with practice test papers is to take them together.
Don’t worry about getting the answers wrong – by showing your child that mistakes are the first step in plugging knowledge gaps and growing, you’re teaching them to be more resilient in the face of a challenge.
The best bit?
You can ask them to teach you how to correct your mistakes, which will help to consolidate their own learning in the process.
If you don’t have the time to sit and take the whole test, you can do one question a day together for a strong, steady build-up of skills. Slow and steady definitely wins the SATs race.
Maths tip 2: Never neglect the basics!
A common mistake is to focus on the plethora of new concepts, leaving basic skills like mental arithmetic to stagnate.
Strong foundations in basic maths make the harder stuff more accessible; if you’re getting nowhere with the tough questions, go back to the basics.
A good grasp of place value, times tables and mental arithmetic will help when you revisit those difficult questions later on.
Maths tip 3: Challenging your Year 6 child with maths at home
Once your 11-year-old has the basics down and feels confident with exam technique, you can stretch their learning by introducing very simple algebra.
Confident mathematicians will enjoy the novelty and challenge of working out what the letters mean in simple equations. Keep things simple to begin with and work your way up to more difficult equations in the future. Examples of some equations you could start with include:
Equations are never high on most children’s to-do lists, but they do become increasingly important as school life goes on, so beginning to secure this knowledge at an early age is only ever beneficial.
How to help with Year 7 maths (11-12 year olds)
With a new school, new friends, and new subjects all to deal with, kids can feel overwhelmed with the start of Year 7 before they even start! While it might be tempting to try and help with subjects like maths by finding ways to ‘get ahead’, the best support you can offer is to make maths seem less scary to your child.
Maths tip 1: Make maths a ‘normal’ part of life
As adults, we use maths in our day-to-day lives without really thinking about it. Sometimes it doesn’t even seem like maths to us, because we’ve become so used to it.
Your child won’t have that kind of context yet – to them maths is still just a bunch of facts that aren’t related to real life.
Luckily, the fact that we use maths all the time makes it very easy to give your child that context: get them involved in activities like shopping, cooking, working out holiday budgets; anywhere you realise you use maths, get your child involved!
Maths tip 2: Take time to ‘review’ the day with your child
Some of you might already automatically ask your child how their day was when they get home – and your child might reply with a one word answer, if they reply at all!
But if you take this just a little bit further, you can actually help your child strengthen the memories of what they learnt that day. Your child might start by talking about things that happened with friends, or ‘funny’ bits of lessons (which we call ‘episodic’ memories).
At this point, asking something like “What were you supposed to be learning about when X happened?” will help your child remember that topic – and as they talk about it, they’ll be making that memory stronger in their minds.
It’s important not to ignore the ‘off-topic’ stuff, or try and get around it – these stories are important to your child, and listening to them shows you’re really interested in what happened to them at school.
Maths tip 3: Help your child develop a Growth Mindset
A Growth Mindset is a way of looking at work. Instead of saying “I can’t do this” when they run into an especially hard problem, someone with a growth mindset will say “I can’t do this yet, but I can learn to.”
Your child may already be learning about Growth Mindset in school – it is very popular with teachers – but how you speak at home will also have an impact.
Many of us struggle with the kind of maths your child will be starting to learn in Year 7, and it’s a very natural reaction to say “I wasn’t very good at maths when I was your age.” You might mean that your child is much better at it than you are, but that’s not what they hear; you’ve managed to make it to adulthood apparently being “not very good” at maths – if that’s the case, why should they bother trying?
You can encourage your child to develop a growth mindset by using phrases like “You’re working very hard on that”, “I’m sure I learned this but I’ve forgotten, can we both look at it?” and “I’m sure you can get this if you keep going” instead.
Find out more about how to support your child as they start secondary school by reading our full blog post on Year 7 maths.
Final thoughts on maths at home
To summarise, if you find yourself wondering ‘how can I help my child with maths homework?’, the simple answer is to work in stages depending on the level your child is at.
1. Early stages of maths
If they are in the early stages of their mathematical journey in any single conept then you should help them by using concrete manipulatives to help them visualise the problem.
- Is your child struggling to work out what half of 12 is? 12 pieces of pasta on the kitchen table could help solve this.
- Do centimetres and metres prove problematic? Using a ruler to measure their favourite toys can help here.
The use of concrete resources is only limited by your imagination and there are hundreds of examples to be found all around the house which can help your child get better at maths.
2. Good foundations
Once your child has a firm grasp on the basics, it is time to move onto pictorial problems to help them continue to progress.
You certainly don’t have to be an artist to use pictures to help your child with maths. By creating simple scenarios on paper rather than with physical objects it begins to remove reliance on having something in front of them to help them solve the problem. This ensures that they are using their brain as they have nothing else to help them!
3. Developing broader understanding
The final stage is to move past both the concrete and pictorial stage and onto the abstract stage which consists of numbers and more formal written strategies.
These are the types of questions your child will come up against in their SATs papers, so by introducing them to them at home you will help to ensure that they are already one step ahead of the game.
Just as when a teacher is teaching a whole class, different techniques work for different children struggling with maths, so it is crucial that you take the time to find the thing that will give your child that aha moment!
Looking for more detail? Try these articles
- The best free maths websites and apps for primary
- Division for kids: How to help at home
- Fractions for kids: How to teach it at home
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