Do you need support when leading your child with maths?


Finally! It’s finished!

Well not quite, but almost, Anne and Pam are happy to share this with you now. While it’s not finished, there is enough content on there for you to start using it.

We have worked on our maths ladder with a Group of Home Educators from Bristol to ensure that it is fit for purpose.

If you like to use a little structure when leading your child with maths, then this is for you.

Head over to  and look at our public pages.  There you will find more screenshots of actual pages on our site, that will help you get a better idea of what is on there.

If you have any questions, please get in touch, we are here to help.

How can questions support autonomous learning?

Not maths, we know, but while ‘surfing’ we came across this that we thought would be really useful for Home Educators, so we decided to share it with you.

Working from your child’s own interest will guarantee he/she stays engaged.  The questions above will help your child to order his/her thinking, while still allowing him/her to stay in control.

These questions could start your child’s thinking for a project in any subject.

What can I do if my child doesn’t ‘get it’ after I have explained it?

A really useful strategy in this situation is ‘modelling’ it is particularly useful when you are introducing a new topic or when your child is unsure of how to solve a problem or complete a procedure.

As the name suggests it involves you acting as a role model for your child and working out a solution or finishing off a procedure.

While doing that you must speak a running commentary of what you are doing; why you are doing it; what you are thinking and what you expect to happen next, so your child can see the thought processes behind your actions.

This strategy helps your child to learn more effectively than just providing him/her with the answer. It provides him/her with a model to follow when he/she comes across a similar situation.

It also gives you a contex to remind your child of if he/she needs support in a similar situation.  Using statements like ‘Do you remember when …….’ or ‘Remember what we did last time we ……’ will help your child to recall the modelling you did.

How do I make sure I’m challenging my child?

As teachers, Anne and I were always aware of the importance of challenging children in every activity.  It isn’t easy to do this even with a group of children, let alone a whole class of maybe 30+ children.

As Home Educators working alongside your own children, you are at an advantage.  You know your children better than any teacher could ever hope to. This will help you to know how much challenge to give your child.  We know it still won’t be easy and talking to Home Educators about this shows us that this is a topic of concern for many of you.

This diagram is helpful in giving you a strategy for ensuring that you offer enough challenge to motivate your child but not so much that he/she could not achieve what you have asked and therefore become demoralised.

ZPDThe optimal challenge is within the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). This zone lies just beyond what your child currently has understanding of.

If we, as maths leaders, give our children work that is too hard they will become demoralised; stop having a go and lose self esteem.

That is why this diagram is so useful, once your child begins to believe they can’t do maths turning that around again is very difficult.

Everyone misjudges the amount of challenge a child can cope with from time to time.  If that happens the skill then is to back track quickly to the area of current understanding of your child in whatever topic he/she is studying and challenge again from there.  Small steps help.

Working alongside your child and asking questions about his/her thinking will help you to recognise whether the amount of challenge is enough.

This strategy can be used in any area of study your child is undertaking.

Only young children need to use objects when learning new maths. True or False?

I wouldn’t like to tell you how many times we have heard this during our work with children learning maths.  We have heard this from head teachers; other teachers; parents and often from the children themselves.

Often when children came in to work with Pam and I they were amazed to see a pile of maths equipment in the middle of the table. We found the older the children the more encouragement they needed to use it.

While instinctively we always knew that working with objects made learning easier, it was after studying to be Numbers Count teachers that we now have the theory to back up our practice.

This theory was written by Jerome Seymour Bruner, is a psychologist who has made significant contributions to human cognitive psychology and cognitive learning theory in educational psychology.

In his research on the development of children, Bruner suggests that, when presented with a new concept in mathematics, children learn best when the concept is introduced as follows:

Enactive Phase

Regardless of his/her age your child needs to actively use objects to explore any new concept .

For Example:

Addition – Have 2 groups of cars, biscuits or lego bricks, add one group to the other then count by moving the objects.

Fractions – Have a pizza; a cake or cut out shapes to cut up.

Fractions of a Number – To find a third of 12, give your child the correct number of objects (these can be anything as long as they can be physically moved.)

Use post-its to show the fraction, for example 3 post-its for thirds.

Now share (divide) the objects between the post-its.

That will give 3 objects on each post-it so one quarter of 12 is 3. From here you can push 3 post-its together to find three quarters.


In order to fully understand any new concept, your child will need lots of enactive practise before they are ready to move on.

This stage is both necessary and important for complete understanding.

Iconic Phase

Once your child is confidently using the objects and successfully answering the problems, he/she can move onto this phase.

Here, pictures, drawings or marks on the paper represent the objects.

For example, use drawn cars instead of real ones or dots instead of biscuits, etc.

These images can still be counted/crossed out/marked to assist with the calculation.


Symbolic Phase

Once your child is confidently using the drawn objects or marks to represent objects and successfully answering the problems, he/she can move onto this phase. Here, calculations are given exclusively with symbols and words.

For example, 5 – 3 or 1/4 of 12

In order for real understanding to occur, it is important that you support your child through these stages.

In our experience, children who have not been through these phases, when learning a new concept, struggle to understand, to a sufficient depth, to be able to build on the concept in the future.

So, as far as we are concerned the answer to the title question is FALSE! FALSE! FALSE!






We Did It!

Right, it seems like we have found out what to do with the screenshot from yesterday!  Thank you Mr Google!

So, even though it’s a day later than planned, here is a screenshot of one of our activity pages. This is an introduction to measure. Higher up our ladder there are activities that lead on from this introduction.  Further up we split the measures into the individual topics of; length, mass (weight), capacity and volume and time.  As you can see, at this Orange Level, the activities are very much play based.

measure orange

The learning comes with good questioning by the leader of the activity and allowing your child to think about his/her responses.  We believe if children enjoy maths activities then they will enjoy maths. When devising our activities we have tried, at all times, to make the activity enjoyable.