There are few things more fascinating than the human brain and one of the ways this is so well demonstrated is how understanding mathematics in our world starts young, in fact as young as infancy!

From the time we are babies we are able to identify with things related to maths whether those are shapes, sizes, or volume. From there, throughout our school careers, from nursery school to matric, we children are constantly on a journey to discover what is maths and indeed, have their math questions answered!

For advanced maths learners who are being taught calculus, trigonometry, and algebra, it is so critical that the foundations of arithmetic, multiplication, geometry shapes, and of course, math terminology is mastered in the foundational primary school years.

These basics are so important to advance in maths and in fact, set us up to be able to effectively use all the advantages of mathematics in daily life on offer.

Of course, like anything in life, there are obstacles along the way and at times students will feel like their math questions are impossible to understand. This is when it is critical that parents intervene with solutions and help before the child gives up in defeat, exclaiming, “what is maths anyway!”

Placing an emphasis on all things related to maths from Grade 0 provides children with strong logic and reasoning skills which not only will they need for all other school subjects but also for coping with all the everyday mathematics in our world that we face on a daily basis.

In this article, we will look at how parents can find opportunities to play games about things related to maths, do fun exercises with their children during the holidays, and find maths tutors to make sure that their kids are up to date when it comes to what is maths for their age group and do not fall behind.

What is Maths for Nursery School?

Even though studies have shown that as infants, children can encounter things related to maths, the more formal introduction to mathematics in our world and how it works, starts at nursery school.

Here, maths is divided into five disciplines that provide important building blocks that will structure thinking and help them to answer math questions throughout school and be able to make use of the advantages of mathematics in daily life!

Because you can only make use of the advantages of maths if you actually understand how maths works, right?

The aim of the nursery school teacher is to prepare the child for primary school maths by ensuring that numbers are learned as well as how to use numbers. They will also explore shapes, sizes, and sequences.

colourful children's aprons on hooks in classroom
The Maths learned in a child's early years will provide the foundation for mathematical thinking. - Source: Unsplash

While some small children arrive at nursery school even knowing how to count, the nursery school teacher’s role is to make sure that teaching is age-appropriate. Some of the things related to maths that are part of a kindergarten curriculum will include:

  • Using educational games for play
  • Solving problems
  • Encouraging children to be able to answer more complex questions

Some of the more specific math questions that small children should be able to solve before primary school includes:

  • Using numbers: they should be able to compare collections of objects by the quantity and also know the correct order of numbers.
  • Exploring shape, pattern, and size: when geometry is introduced, children at this age will be able to manipulate, compare, and describe shapes.

These are all skills that in later life become advantages of mathematics in daily life.

What Is Maths for Primary School Children?

A large percentage of primary school children start high school having not fully mastered maths and with gaps in their knowledge. This leaves a significant gap for academic support in terms of private maths tuition.

By the completion of primary school, learners should be able to use numbers and quantities correctly, use reason for problem-solving, calculate and answer Grade 7 exam math questions.

The Primary School Maths Syllabus in South Africa is broken up into:

  • Numbers, Operations, and Relationships
  • Patterns, Functions, and Algebra
  • Space and Shape (geometry)
  • Measurement
  • Data Handling

When a child is able to grasp all of the above at primary school, they should be able to progress steadily into Grade 8 and the math questions presented. Not only this but by now they should also be able to apply maths uses in real life.

colourful numbers
The basics of Maths are essential in helping children advance at school. - Source: Pixabay

Unfortunately in South Africa, the maths literacy statistics for primary school leavers are grim. In a national survey completed in 2015, it showed that 61% of Grade 5 children were unable to do arithmetic, multiply or solve story sums.

Sadly, for these children, mathematics in our world leaves no one out and without the skills that we are meant to learn at school, they will never be able to make use of the advantages of mathematics in daily life.

In order to remedy these difficulties, it is essential for both parents and teachers to intervene as soon as possible with supplementary tuition, here are a few suggestions:

  • Tailored after-school support by the child’s maths teacher.
  • Supplementary study guides like those offered by The Answer Series for Grades 8-12
  • Finding a private maths tutor near you
  • Find a school holiday maths club

When it comes to maths, almost every learner needs some kind of tailored support at one time or another during their school career. This is how they can continue successfully at the pace of the school syllabus even though they may hit the odd stumbling block along the way.

It’s important to remember that progressing in maths knowledge depends on accumulative understanding. In other words, it is almost impossible to understand math questions of a new topic without having mastered the topics that came before it.

There is absolutely no doubt that in making sure that children keep in step with the maths programmes that are offered to them, they are being set up to understand all things related to maths later in life. And when we consider how far-reaching mathematics in our world is – from personal finance to sport and everything in between, this is an investment in a child’s future that cannot be overlooked.

The Essential Skill of Arithmetic

Throughout our lives, we are using logic and reasoning skills that are just some of the advantages of mathematics in daily life. When children realise the link between what they have learned in the classroom and how mathematics in our world is everywhere, suddenly it is a subject that can take on a whole new meaning.

When it comes to using arithmetic to answer math questions or problems, children learn numbers and how to manipulate them. As they practice, this becomes easier and arithmetic can almost become a motor skill. Once again, when teachers are able to apply arithmetic methods by way of visual association, for instance, the child can learn from a very young age that things related to maths include almost every object they can see!

What is Maths Without Practising Tools?

little boy playing with toys in living room
Try alternative approaches, such as counting during an activity your child already enjoys. - Source: Pixabay

When a child is struggling with maths, remember that it is not a sign of intelligence, but more likely a mental block, emotional issue, or the style in which they are being taught maths.

Sometimes all that is needed is an alternative approach so that the child can begin to answer math questions from a different angle. One way of doing this is by introducing an element of fun.

Of course, exercise books are important, but for a child who has to take extra mural maths, these could have a negative connotation and have little benefit.

Educational Apps

Educational Apps on tablets and phones are an excellent way to distract a child from the notion that they are actually studying or doing things related to maths. For instance, there are great apps for learning times tables that track the child’s progress in a gamified way that comes with real challenges, levels, and a story. Of course, all of this motivates them to beat their own ‘score’ – so to speak!


It is not difficult to find online educational cartoons that can answer what is maths for a seven-year-old!

Board Games

Educational board games are a wonderful way to practise things related to maths as a family, that your child may be struggling with, without highlighting it as a problem for them.


Baking is an excellent way to bring story sums to life! Just consider these non-threatening math questions:

  • If you have a mug of 100g of flour and you need 250g of flour for your recipe, how many mugs of flour should you use?
  • If you put the cake inside the oven at 15:50 for 20 minutes, when will it be ready?

Supporting a child in this simple, informal way can go a long way to helping them grasp concepts that could seem intimidating in a formal classroom situation.

At the end of the day, the advantages of mathematics in daily life are ongoing - long after school - so any extra time and effort that parents can afford will be well worth the investment in the long run.

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Niki is a content writer from Cape Town, South Africa, who is passionate about words, strategic communication and using words to help create and maintain brand personas. Niki has a PR and marketing background, but her happiest place is when she is bringing a story to life on a page.