4 Overlooked Maths Skills Your Child Needs to Know to Master Maths

In today’s blog, we’ll share the top math skills everybody should know in order to boost confidence with mathematics.

Math skills blog post

Math is all around us.

Yet, it seems to be one of the most dreaded subjects and most popular tutoring topics.

The goal of Bettering Youth tutors is to make Maths more accessible to children of all ages so that they can recognise the real-world connections and feel comfortable working with numbers.

We established our most popular club, The Real World Maths Club,  to help us get closer to realising our objective.

Its unique approach of teaching a math skill in an interactive online room and then connecting it to a real-life activity is what sets it apart in supporting students to build confidence above and beyond the classroom.

We follow the Concrete, Pictorial and Abstract CPA Approach. This allows us to bring curriculum skills beyond the classroom!

Through the club, and our math tutoring clients, we have gained insight into a few common areas that children struggle with.

Below you will find the math skills along with some tips and activities that have helped our maths tuition clients feel more confident and bridge the gap.

But before we can jump into the activities, let’s find out why the CPA method works.

The Concrete Pictorial and Abstract Approach to Maths

This approach, founded by Jerome Bruner in the 1960s, is a way of scaffolding learning (The Mathematics Educator, 2015). Instead of jumping straight into numbers (abstract learning), learning is stripped back to basics.

A child learning to add will first work with concrete, physical objects to count. Once they feel confident in this method, they will then work with pictorial representations. The ability to translate the skills from concrete to pictorial will help students create images in their mind and build problem solving skills.

Once a child is confident with pictorial work, they will move to abstract tasks: working with numbers.

By starting with maths manipulatives and more pictorial representations, children gain a deeper understanding of concepts. They become well equipped to manipulate and work through problems as opposed to resorting to rote learning.

teaching math skills with the CPA method
The CPA Method

Bettering Youth Maths specialists work to improve mastery of a topic. We find this approach in Maths to be the most effective!

During our one to one maths tutoring lessons or our Real World Maths club classes, you may find us teaching key skills in this fashion.

Mastering Math Skills: The Key to Confidence in Maths

As an educator since 2013, and a Maths tutor since 2017, I have noticed a few trends in what children struggle with.

The following skills require a firm foundation and competence in order for children to succeed. They are the foundations of all mathematical ideas.

Foundational math skills your child needs in order to Master Maths:

  • Number bonds
  • Multiplication Tables
  • Number functions
  • Growth Mindset

Regardless of what year your child is entering, being secure in the above math skills will allow your child to feel confident and courageous in Maths.

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Confidence in Number Bonds:

What are number bonds? Number bonds are pairs of numbers which add up to a certain number (BBC Bitesize).

When do we teach Number bonds? As early as Year 1, children are being actively taught how to make number pairs. This will continue to develop through to KS2; they should be increasingly confident in working with number bonds to 1000.

Why are they important? Number bonds are very helpful in supporting addition, subtraction and multiplication. They will also increase the speed in which your child does mental calculations.

The CPA Approach to Number bonds: working with household items, we can teach the part-part-whole method. From there, looking at the bubble representation of the part-part-whole method. Finishing off with the abstract approach of addition and subtraction.

Part-Part-Whole Number bonds method
Numbers Bonds using the Part-Part-Whole Method

Building Multiplication Mastery:

What are the times tables?

When do we teach Times Tables? From Year 1, children will be expected to learn their times tables.

Why are they important? Knowing the times tables makes mental arithmetic easier. It allows children to answer questions more efficiently. It also enables children to recognise number associations and patterns.

The CPA Approach to Multiplication Facts: Encourage your child to work out problems with manipulatives and their fingers. Once they feel more confident, they can work through pictorial representations to help create a secure understanding of the number relationships. The final step to multiplication mastery is to work through written problems. This can be your child writing the sums down, being quizzed in a mental maths test, or working with games like TT Rockstars.

Multiplication Facts your child needs to know to succeed in Maths
Times Tables your child needs to know

Understanding Number Functions:

What are Number Functions? Numbers can be categorised to help us understand their ability to work in arithmetic problems. Some categories include: Factors, Multiple, Prime Numbers, Odd and Even Numbers and Square numbers.

When do we teach Number Functions? In KS1 your child will be able to identify odd and even numbers. In Year 4 your child will learn about factor pairs. By the end of Year 5, your child should be able to identify factors and multiples of a number and determine if it is a prime number or not. They will also have to recognise and use square numbers.

Why are these number functions important? Using these number functions is important as it can help children to identify numerical relationships and patterns. This will improve mental arithmetic. Prime numbers are likewise important in helping students to simplify fractions.

The CPA approach to Number Functions: Use containers to split an amount of objects in order to determine odd or even. This can be extended to learn about prime numbers. Finding patterns in number 100 grids. And using times table charts to identify factors and multiplies.

Number definitions your child needs to know to be good at maths
Number definitions

The Importance of Developing Growth Mindset:

What is Growth Mindset? Growth mindset is the ability to approach problems with an open mind and the ability to be resourceful and courageous. It means that your child will have academic fortitude that allows them to be resilient when they don’t know the answer right away.

When do we teach Growth Mindset? Growth Mindset is a term that is growing in popularity in schools across the UK. It is however, not explicitly taught in all schools.

Why is building growth mindset important? Allowing students to approach problems with more flexible thinking and open mindedness ensures that creative problem solving can take place. This will translate into life beyond the classroom and support the development of independence and resilience.

How Bettering Youth Maths tutors teach growth mindset in sessions: Our Math tuition will always embed forms of emotional wellbeing coaching. Growth mindset is one such form of coaching that our specialist math tutors provide. We like to scaffold our sessions, similarly to the CPA method, to allow children the opportunity to build confidence. We likewise teach methods for self talk, asking for help, and activities to build mental stamina.

Growth vs fixed mindset

Discover our 4 tips to building Growth Mindset in this popular blog

What skills should my child know to succeed in Maths?

We hope that this post has helped you understand what abilities your child needs to develop in order to become a confident mathematician. You might also be interested in our guide to teaching fractions and our blog on how to build confidence in Maths.

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girl with math manipulatives
Has your child Mastered these 4 essential Math skills?
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Our Maths Specialists’ Vision

Making maths accessible to all by connecting it to real-world problems. Check out our 1-1 maths tutoring programmes and our Real World Maths club for more.

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Everything that we do at Bettering Youth is backed by evidence, which is why we wanted to share with
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