Rolleston Christian School

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Mathematics in the Junior Hub

I love maths! I’m sad to hear the numeracy project coming under fire from the media this week. But if it helps our curriculum advisors to work out where we can improve as teachers, then so be it.

I didn’t always love maths when I was a school pupil. But as a teacher I have grown to love teaching maths. Perhaps that’s it… I love teaching maths. The numeracy project training I did 10 years ago gave me the confidence to teach it well. I even learned about my own maths ability.   I also realised that I had many mathematical misconceptions which were a product – I guess –  of my own maths education.

Mathematics is important in everyday life, allowing us to make sense of the world around us and to manage our lives. Using mathematics equips us with the skills we need to interpret and use information, to model real-life situations, to simplify and solve problems, to assess risk, and to make informed decisions. Learning mathematics develops logical thinking, problem solving skills, and the ability to think in general terms.

I feel I can talk with some authority on ‘how to teach maths to struggling learners’. For two years I was part on the MOE’s research into teaching maths. In addition to running the Accelerated Learning in Maths (ALIM) programme and being the Maths Support Teacher (MST) at my previous school, I took a post-graduate paper in mathematics teaching. I have had considerable professional development from the wonderful Canterbury maths advisors at UC-Plus. Lucky me!

I hope our advisors in maths can use this latest dilemma and turn it into a positive outcome for our NZ children and teachers.

Meanwhile in the Junior hub at RCS you can expect to see your child reaping the rewards of mathematics education in the following ways…

  • Maths is explicitly taught 4 days a week for 50 minutes. (Maths comes up at other times of the day in other subjects … you just can’t get away from it!)
  • While children often work in groups according to their current levels of achievement, we also use mixed-achievement  grouping as this allows children to learn from each other in collaborative situations.  
  • We use ‘concrete’ materials (maths equipment, drawings, counters, blocks, abacus, number lines etc) to observe, model, and internalise abstract concepts.  There is solid research to prove using concrete materials to teach maths concepts can and should be used right up to university level.
  • Authentic learning experiences are used to teach new concepts as much as possible e.g. making a pizza, measuring in baking, using real life scenarios to solve problems.
  • Children at our level are taught number sense which includes algebra (numeracy) 80% of the time and for the other 20% are taught the other strands of the mathematics curriculum which are: statistics, measurement and geometry.

How can you help at home:

Be positive about maths! Never say “I wasn’t any good at maths”! or “I didn’t like maths”! (keep this to yourself). “Not everyone loves maths. But everyone uses maths in their everyday life, so it is important for your child’s future that they are successful in mathematics. One of the easiest ways to help ensure that this happens is to be supportive of their experiences in maths.

Ask your child what they’ve been learning in maths. Listen to them. The Numeracy Project aims to encourage children to think about different ways of solving problems, and to be able to explain them to others. If your child is explaining how they answered a question – LISTEN. They may not answer it the same way that you would, but that does not mean they are wrong. Expect your child to use different strategies to solve problems. Encourage them to explain their thinking. Sometimes you might need to use materials, such as counters, or pen and paper for them to demonstrate what they mean. Be prepared to try different strategies yourself!” (NZMaths online)

Give them opportunities to do maths.

Bake with your children and discuss the maths in the baking. e.g. How many cups? What if I want to double the recipe? How many cups then?

If your child is learning to count – count things. You could count the number of steps in a staircase, the number of toys on the floor, the number of cars driving by. Don’t forget to count backwards! Do it with them at first, then hesitate long enough for them to do it too. Ask: What comes after 6? What comes before 10? Add up the knives and forks on the table.

Count in twos, fives, tens forwards and backwards! Make problems to solve out of every day situations. eg.There are 10 people invited to your party but two people can’t make it. How many balloons with we need now?

Use the supermarket for inspiration: Get me 10 apples, there are 6 slices of cheese in this packet if we get two how many will we have? How many weeks will that last if we use two slices a day? Read the prices.  As they advance in maths add up the prices of two items and more. Ask: What can we get with $5, $10 etc.

“Ask your child what they are doing in maths at school and try to use it in everyday life. If they are learning about fractions, ask them about fractions “What fraction of people in our family are children?” “What fraction of the milk is left?”. This will not only give them practice, but also show them that maths relates to the ‘real’ world”. (NZmaths site)



Some great contexts for maths are:

  • Money – counting and calculating. Pocket money, banking, shopping…
  • Measuring things – lengths, areas, volumes, cooking ingredients…
  • Travelling – reading numbers on signs for young children, calculating distances and speeds for older children.
  • Games – Monopoly, Bingo, board games, cards…




  • Time/timetables.

Above all have fun with maths, make it a positive learning time for you and your family:)




Authentic learning context