News & Media

8 Top Tips To Improve Our Everyday Maths Skills

With GCSE study week looming Your Life has revealed the results of a survey that shows as a nation we lack confidence in our maths ability. A staggering 10 million people across the country avoid doing maths of any description due to lack of confidence. Additionally 60% of parents are unable to help their Maths homework. As a nation we are suffering from ‘Mathsiety’ but we needn’t suffer in silence and Your Life has published eight top tips to help anyone improve their maths ability.

1) Have a bash at maths puzzles:
It can be a coffee break suduko or a poolside puzzle book this summer. Start to challenge yourself with the newspaper brainteasers.  Make your journey and waiting times more productive by fitting in a few minutes play. There are also many maths apps and online resources. Doing this regularly will improve your maths skills and it’s addictive fun.

2) Play card games with the children:
Another rainy day? Play some simple family card games. Maths games can start as simple as adding the numbers of two randomly dealt cards and the highest number wins. This can then extend to subtraction, multiplication, division and even combinations of these with 3 cards. In typical holiday standard, by the time the good weather comes around again, you will all be brilliant at mental arithmetic.

3) Estimate your shopping bills:
Have you ever got to the till in a supermarket and being shocked at the bill?  Here is a way to improve your maths skills, save money and maybe even be more healthy! Get in the habit of estimating shopping bills before you go to the register. If you realise you have overspent, you can always return that extra bottle of red wine and the gourmet cheese board. The better you get at mental arithmetic the less surprises at the till. And maybe even a healthier lifestyle.

4) Times and distances:
You probably do this all the time without realising it. The bus takes 55 minutes to the centre and then it’s a 10 minute walk to that bar? How much time do I have to do my hair? If I drive at 60km per hour and the journey is usually two and a half hours, how far is Milton Keynes anyway? Challenge yourself by making the questions harder and until you are working them out on paper.

5) Spot the Maths:
A lot of Maths is about recognising patterns. Try to see the shapes or combination of shapes around you. Triangles, cones, cylinders and circles may bring back memories of fumbling with equations but you can begin to think about these concepts without an equation in sight.  Compare the space shapes fill up or the volume of different shaped containers. Why is it that a saucepan only a few cm wider can fit almost twice the amount of water for pasta? What is that relationship again? Try working out how boxes or containers will look if opened out. This is actually a whole field of complex mathematics you can attempt with nothing more than a cornflakes box.

6) Be positive:
Stop saying things like ‘I hated Maths in school’ or ‘I can’t do Maths’. This negativity will ruin your confidence and much of Maths is about persistence.  You need the resilience to keep trying and if you tell yourself you are no good you won’t make the effort. Start with some easy maths you understand. The starting level doesn’t matter, as you build skill, understanding and confidence, you move forward through more difficult levels. Don’t be afraid of the challenge.

7) Do a little every day
Don’t wait around with Maths, it’s not a spectator sport!  More than most other subjects, you have to be active, doing, solving, making connections, learning. It’s the only way to build skill and understanding. You just need to make a start and then create a fun daily routine.

8) Working together
When it comes to solving maths problems it helps to work together. Whether it’s a young mum group or Dads and daughters at the local community group, others can help clarify a troubling problem by approaching it differently, saving you time and frustration.

For other tips check out The National Numeracy Organisation’s National Numeracy Challenge  – their online tool which assesses people’s maths and shows them how to improve.