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Understanding Early Maths


The way Maths is taught in schools has changed a lot over the years. If you want to support your child's Maths learning at home, it is really important that you understand how Maths is now taught so that you can support in the right way.

There are two key ideas to keep in mind when you are working with your child. Firstly, children need practical experience with real objects to develop their understanding of number.

Secondly, they need to learn to explain their thinking as to why things work they way they do. This will make them much more secure in their understanding.

This is what Maths Investigations is all about!


Key Skills in Number

Children cover a lot of topics in their wider Maths Curriculum. But there are certain core areas where they need real security and understanding.

Firstly, they need to learn to count, both forwards and backwards, in different steps of different sizes, both with and without objects. Through counting, they will come to understand that numbers can be arranged, one after another, on a line (the number line). Initially they will learn just about whole numbers on the line. Later, they will explore where fractions and decimals fit, and their equivalences with each other and with percentages, and they will extend the line to include negative numbers.

Next, they need to understand that numbers can be partitioned - split into parts. For example, 14 is made up of a ten and four ones (units). Three hundred and fifty nine is made of 3 hundreds, 5 tens and nine units. As they explore this they will develop an understanding of place value - how different digits have different values depending on their position in the number.

Once they are secure with numbers themselves, they can start doing things with them. Learning the four operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division will take up much of a child's learning time in the early years. Here, the practical experience is particularly important, as is learning how the operations link together. Subtracting is the opposite of adding, dividing is the opposite of multiplying. It is critical, also, that children first develop a real confidence in carrying out mental calculations before learning standard written methods, the 'sums' that many of us will remember labouring over at school. As with the number line, they will first learn about whole numbers, beginning with the smallest, and then gradually be introduced to working with fractions, decimals and percentages.

Once they can carry out various calculations, they also need to learn how these can be applied to solving real life problems. This is an area where many children have particular difficulty and need a lot of practice.

Finally, children will benefit from work with you at home on learning to tell the time. Some children find this difficult because of the lack of clock faces in the environment - everything has gone digital!

Over the coming months, I will write about each of these areas in more detail and introduce both the online and printable Maths Investigations activities that you can use to support your child. Meanwhile here are some earlier articles about the printable materials that can be used to support children's skills in addition & subtraction and in learning multiplication tables


Top of Page

Parent Guide





Getting the 'App'

What you Need


The Online Activities

- Investigations & Quizzes

Deciding What To Do

- The Owls

- Tournaments, Triangles, Eggs

Colours & Stars

Points & Characters




Add & Subtract

Multiply & Divide






Tips for Helping with Maths at Home

Owls, Investigations, Quizzes & Tournaments: How to Help at Home

Guide to the Wise Owls

Success with Fractions

See All



Understanding Early Maths

Add & Subtract

Learn Your Tables


Maths Investigations - Challenging Children to Think about Maths