Maths for Parents, Carers and Grandparents...

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Joe McLachlan is the East Renfrewshire National Parent Forum lead, member of the National Profile-Raising Group for Mathematics and a father of three.

How do you feel about maths? Do you feel confident encouraging and supporting your child’s maths learning and homework? Do the questions they ask make you feel uncomfortable? If they do then you're not alone.

You see, maths has a bit of image problem, many of us have negative memories of maths at school when memorisation and working quietly through textbooks was the norm. Where our jotters contained our teacher’s ticks and crosses marking our correct and incorrect answers and being put on the spot to give ‘the right answer’. It’s probably because of this that some of us are happy to say that maths is ‘not for us’ or that ‘we are no good at maths’ and worryingly, we tend to say this about maths where we would not about reading or writing.

The great news for our children and young people is that learning about maths has come a long way since we were at school. Our children now use class-based maths activities, they chat about, discuss, challenge and compare the strategies other classmates used to get the answer. They learn that getting the wrong answer enables you to discuss and review your process and strategy, all without the stigma of feeling you have done something wrong.

Children enjoying an engineering workshop.

A typical maths lesson will have practical demonstrations in and out of the classroom that bring the subject to life. Teachers put maths into real-life contexts all with the aim of promoting a much deeper and lasting learning. And central to this is the message that maths is a vital skill for life that we all need to manage and thrive in our lives, from choosing the best deals in supermarkets, timetabling and planning for trips and holidays, to working out options and solutions to the problems and challenges that life throws at us. It’s a recognition that maths underpins the logical thinking, reasoning and strategies that we use to navigate our way through day-to-day issues and the big decisions in life. It's quite sad that some people still say that they can’t do maths when upon reflection, they use it every day and in many different ways, all without giving it a second thought. It’s just natural, and that is what schools are now teaching children, helping them understand how applicable maths is throughout life.

For us parents and carers, Maths Week Scotland is a wonderful way to experience the fun and relevance of the maths all around us and there'll be plans underway wherever you are in Scotland. Our primary and secondary schools, early years and childcare centres, universities, local communities and sciences centres have created a range of creative, fun and inspiring activities for children and families, designed to show the breadth and depth of maths and why it matters so much. There are Parent Councils that are creating maths trails, escape rooms and playground games for their local schools.

Why not ask your child’s school what they are doing, and if there are opportunities for parents and other family members and carers to be part of it? Don’t feel you need to have a degree in maths to go into the school and help, all of us can be part of Maths Week. You never know, by taking part you may even find something about maths that could help answer those homework questions that used to fill you with dread.

Our Castle Quest trail is running at Edinburgh Castle throughout Maths Week Scotland.

There are lots of family learning and parental engagement sessions already planned – showcasing children’s learning, enjoying maths trails, treasure hunts, challenges and encouraging positive attitudes to maths and learning at home and out-and-about. Parents will be in classrooms talking about how maths plays a part in their lives – either at work across almost every job, or at home through things like baking, DIY, budgeting and managing money.

There are plenty of events taking place across Scotland for you to explore maths as a family:

  • Aberdeen Science Centre is hosting a maths takeover weekend 26 – 27 September
  • In Midlothian you can head along to the Fun Science Gala Day to get creative with maths on 5 October
  • Or find the maths at Dundee Science Festival opening weekend 5 -6 October.
  • In Glasgow check out The Numbers Game for football and numeracy challenges in George Square on 5 October
  • There's all sorts going on in Edinburgh, why not take the kids to become Mathstronauts at Dynamic Earth, join in with the Encryption Science Saturday activities at the National Museum of Scotland or complete the Maths Week Castle Quest at Edinburgh Castle

Find more events near you on our Events page.

You can even integrate maths with your kids into your home. Whether it is planning an event or creating art and design you can bring Maths Week Scotland home with you. Taking part is for everyone, you might even find that you enjoy learning more about maths!

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