Making maths count with Countdown star

Round & About

Junaid Mubeen from Oxfordshire is a mathematician turned educator, who is also a series winner of Countdown, and expert advisor to non-profit children’s free online game Teach Your Monster Number Skills. He shares some tips to make numbers add up to fun

For adults and children alike, maths can sometimes be daunting. Yet when explored the right way, the subject can be fun and accessible for everyone.

The key is to embed strong foundations from a young age. The skills and confidence that we acquire as children can have a lasting, positive impact on our relationship with mathematics. A good command of numbers depends far less on rote learning the times tables and far more on exploring their patterns and structure. Numbers are all around us, and so too are opportunities to interact with them in a playful way.

Here are some quick, easy and playful tips on how to develop children’s core number skills such as arithmetic, estimation and comparison, without any of the dread. They’ll have so much fun they won’t even realise they are learning!

At the shops: Shops are a playground for numbers. Compare the cost of different brands of the same item: which is cheaper? Grab a bag of apples and a bag of carrots – which one feels the heaviest?

“Shops are a playground for numbers.”

At dinner time: From the prep, to the cooking, eating and clearing away, numbers are entwined into all aspects of mealtimes. Ask your child how long they think it will take to cook dinner. Or how much cutlery is needed. Or who can look forward to the most items of food on their plate.

On a day trip: Whether on foot, wheels or public transport, a trip out is an opportunity to search for numbers. Are there more cars or lorries? What numbers can you spot on the licence plates? How many people, roughly, are travelling on the train?

At the park: A playground is an oasis of numbers! Count how many steps it takes to climb up to the top of the play structure. Now make the climb – how close was the prediction? Are they tired as a result of underestimating or raring to go for more?

Tidy up time: For the ultimate win-win, get kids involved in the household chores. How many pairs of socks can they match from the clean washing pile? How many items can they pick up off the floor? Can they arrange the collected items in size order? How long does it take to put them all away?

Free digital games: There are many learning apps – try the free online game Teach Your Monster Number Skills for 3+ year olds. Set in a maths theme park, with friendly monsters roaming around, it has multiple activities that bring each number to life through puzzles and activities. There are eight mini maths games, each with 10 levels. The game is so effective at boosting kids’ confidence with numbers and at making maths fun. My daughter loves it!

Visit Teach Your Monster Number Skills.