At Growing Young Minds we believe in making links with the real world. During each lesson we try and link the skills to real life situations and use. Often without this ‘real life’ link children wonder why they are learning something. Furthermore, they do not see any real use for the skills we are developing. Personally, I have found over the years that if children do not understand why the skill is relevant or important then they are less likely to connect with the learning. They are also less likely to remember it. Although here at G.Y.M we try and make connections I sense that this is not the case in every learning establishment or in every home. The connection between what we learn as children and how to apply it as an adult should be taught in school; however, it is equally important that parents demonstrate and share these skills with their children.
Asking the children
Have you ever asked your children questions like ‘how much they think the house is worth’ or ‘how much it costs to go on holiday/buy a car’? It is an interesting experiment. Recently, whilst teaching larger numbers and percentages to Year 6 I asked what they thought a nurse’s annual salary was; their response was a few hundred pounds. So we looked up a few salaries together and discussed the costs of rent/mortgages etc. They were visibly shocked and clearly had not made any connections between money and living costs. I challenge you to have these conversations with your children? Not sure how to make these real life connections, follow our ideas in this blog.
Where can we make connections between what we learn in school and in real life?
According to the National Curriculum children in Year 6 should be able to ‘read, write, order and compare numbers up to 10,000,000 and determine the value of each digit’.
The most obvious is arming our children with facts that will help them in adulthood. Areas such as money, salaries, tax and cost of living expenses helps children understand finances in the ‘real world’. Martin Lewis is an advocate for Financial Education to be taught in schools. He has given advice on a textbook for schools to use to help deliver financial understanding. You can download the textbook from his website. According to the curriculum 15 and 16 year olds should be receiving a financial education. However I do not believe they are ever too young to start thinking about being smart with money and developing an understanding about it.
Another area we can help children develop their maths in real life is when shopping especially in the sale. With Black Friday just around the corner now is a great time to relate percentages into a real life context. Whilst younger children could simply add the costs of the items that they would like to buy and discover the total. Older children, in Years 4 and 5, could have set a budget they are allowed to spend. You could ask what they would buy and how much change they would have? Challenging them by asking questions such as now it is in a 10% sale, how much will you save? To extend older children you could tell them the sale price and ask them to workout the starting price. You could also ask them to compare prices from more than one shop to see where best to buy the item. These key skills are good financial habits for the future.
Other areas of Maths which often need a real life situation is Measures, Ratio and Proportion. When baking your mince pies this Christmas why not ask your children to help. Ask them to read the recipe and measure out the ingredients. This will help them to understand how much items weigh. Older children could be asked to change the quantity of the recipe. If the recipe is for 6 pies but you want to make 12 or 18 then teach them how to double or find a proportion of the recipe that would make the correct amount.
I have spent a long time looking at how we can use maths in a real life context but what about our English skills? We use reading and writing everyday of our lives. This can be when sending text messages and emails or if you are reading signs, a newspaper or documents at work. At school children will have English lessons everyday, but your child would not necessarily realise how important these lessons are. When discussing their day ask them what they learnt in English. Then share what you have done and how you used your English skills. I sense they will be amazed at the amount of writing or reading you have also had to do.
Another skill in English that needs you to make real life connections is formal language. Children are never sure when to use more formal language and often do not see its value. However, we all need to have this when writing to our banks or clients or making a complaint. I remember as a child writing thank you letters at Christmas or pen pal letters to friends, children now just text short messages or send a photo. Although we need to move with the times and use these short message skills, we will not stop writing reports or sending a formal email/letter. Therefore these skills still need to be encouraged.
Discussing and showing children occasions when we use different types of English and Maths skills in our own adult lives helps them to understand that skills developed in the classroom are used further into adulthood. Help your child today by making the connections. Allow them to see that learning at school is not just stopping their play but developing skills vital to their future.