Five ways to help your kids be better at maths

  • Family
  • Friday, 16 Feb 2024

If your kid struggles in maths, one way to help them do better is playing games involving mathematical calculations. — FLORIAN SCHUH/dpa

CHILDREN who do poorly in maths at school – and there are many – should at least be able to count on their parents. But commiserating with them by saying things like, “You’re not alone – everyone in the family struggled with maths,” will hardly motivate kids to do better.

“Instead, parents should use creative ways to help them improve their maths skills,” says Uta Reimann-Höhn, an educational therapist, author and YouTuber. She has five tips:

1. Make maths fun

For one thing, you can play games involving mathematical calculations. You can also take advantage of everyday situations that can be described in numbers. For example, have the child estimate the distance to Grandma’s house. “The kilometres can then be converted into metres and centimetres,” Reimann-Höhn says.

And you can practise arithmetic using units of measurement. “How much does your little brother weigh? And your Grandpa? What’s the difference in kilogrammes, grammes and milligrammes?”

2. Seize the moment

Rather than pressuring a maths laggard with head-on instruction, Reimann-Höhn recommends an indirect approach by seizing opportune moments.

“If you’re watching a play together and the child seems less interested in what’s happening on stage than in the light bulbs on the theatre ceiling, you can use the moment to practise sums,” she suggests. For example, how many bulbs are in a row? How many rows are there? How many bulbs altogether?

Or while driving to your summer holiday, “ask the child to look at the map and tell you how far away your destination is. And where you should make a rest stop or spend the night after every third of the distance.”

3. Choose the right time window

When it comes to teenagers, you should be careful not to “bother” them with maths. “It’s no use bringing it up if they’re busy with their computer,” says Reimann-Höhn. “Better to wait for a time that suits them.”

4. Enlist a third party

Reimann-Höhn discourages parents from tutoring their child themselves, which she says often ends in misunderstandings and can put added stress on a relationship that in this phase of the child’s development may well be strained already.

“It’s better to enlist an outsider or someone whom the child is close to, for instance an uncle,” she says.

In the course of her work, she adds, she’s seen that parents in one-child families are especially prone to take it personally if their offspring is weak in maths, and frequently even find it embarrassing. “This pressure doesn’t make matters any better,” she says.

5. Look to the future

If the child has particular career aspirations – be it airline pilot, train driver, surgeon or shop assistant – and you know someone in this field, you could ask them to tell your child all the ways they use numbers in their job. Having a reason to be good at maths, says Reimann-Höhn, can provide the motivation they need. – dpa

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