With more than 30 years’ experience in teaching mathematics in the primary school, Lyn Breytenbach shares some useful insights and tips for parents.

ATTITUDE – One of the greatest gifts a parent can give their child is a positive attitude towards maths. Maths should become a part of our daily lives. Sadly the subject is often seen in a negative light and the child gives up before even attempting a new concept.

BE REALISTIC – Maths should be taught from a realistic and problem-centred approach and not from ‘recipes’ or ‘rules’. Eg. Writing addition and subtraction numbers underneath each other is not a natural way for a young child to solve a problem. Encourage discussion while problem solving – the thinking process is more important than the answer.

BONDS – As children begin to count it is important that they do so with one-to-one correspondence (count actual objects) and not just recite numbers. Bonds (addition and subtraction) can be taught this way. Practise counting, forwards and backwards in intervals of 2, 3, 4, 5, 10, 11 etc. making a different starting point each time. Counting in multiples of ten and then learning to round off to the nearest multiple of 10 and later 100; 1000 etc. will help to estimate the outcome of a problem.

TABLES – It is very important for children to know their Tables. Once the concepts of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division are understood, tables and bonds should become second nature and not require thinking… therefore practise and more practise is essential!

ESTIMATION – is one of the most important mathematical skills to teach a child of any age. The first step in attempting to solve a problem is to understand it and then to predict the solution. Eg: 32 + 15 is likely to be solved as 32 + 10 + 5 to find 47 – having firstly looked at the problem and estimated an answer of 50. In a problem solving situation, ask your child to imagine the problem – possibly even illustrate it.


  • Spend time on discussion, illustration or acting- out and then estimating the solution. Once the problem has become real, at least 2 things happen: the child sees a purpose in the subject; the solution can be more realistically predicted.
  • Include Maths in your discussions every day– in the kitchen, the car, the garden, at the shop, telling time. Answers do not have to be absolute but rather realistic estimates following conversation about the process to reach the conclusion.
  • Play number games with your child with dice, cards or “I Spy” using shapes, data, symmetry etc
  • Discuss solutions; practise halving, doubling, symmetry, perimeter, area, shapes, money, time, angles and patterns.
  • Be patient – allow your child to use his/her own thought processes. Do not jump in with the answer! Treat errors and misconceptions as opportunities to develop reasoning skills and new methods.


ENJOY the journey with your child.    


Lyn Breytenbach (Principal of Clarence Primary School)

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