The Smith Family helps pre-schoolers

Whichever way you look at it, you can’t get away from maths. Australian charity The Smith Family has developed a new initiative to bring maths literacy to the front of the classroom.

Whether it’s handling money, cooking, or participating in the workforce, you need maths skills to get by. Numeracy is a foundation skill for life, and Australia’s future prosperity depends on us having strong STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) capabilities.

But in Australia’s most disadvantaged communities, one in four children are starting school without the basic maths skills they need.

Having identified a gap in Australia to support the development of maths skills in young children, one of Australia’s largest and most respected charities, The Smith Family developed the Let’s Count program.

“In Australia’s most disadvantaged communities, one in four children are starting school without the basic maths skills they need.”

VIDEO: Watch the Let’s Count program in action

Let’s Count program on the Today Show, Channel 9

Finding mathematics in the everyday

The program, trialled in 2011 and funded by BlackRock Investments, was designed by Professor Bob Perry of Charles Sturt University and Professor Ann Gervasoni of Monash University.

Let’s Count equips parents and early childhood educators with the skills, tools and confidence to develop the maths skills of the children in their care by helping them notice, explore, and discuss maths concepts in everyday life.

Anne Hampshire is The Smith Family’s head of research and advocacy: “Let’s Count is all about finding mathematics in the everyday. It’s not about sitting down with children and having an algebraic lesson. All of the everyday things that happen at home are opportunities to talk with children about mathematics.”

Ms Hampshire said the program helps children to see that mathematics can be useful, interesting and fun. “That’s really setting them up and we hope for good engagement with maths all through their school career.”

“One in four children are starting school without the basic maths skills they need. Sadly, those who start school behind in maths, usually don’t catch up.”

A four-year partnership with Origin’s philanthropic arm, the Origin Energy Foundation, enabled the Let’s Count program to grow – to date reaching nearly 13,000 children, almost 7,000 parents and 450 educators in disadvantaged communities nationally.

The Origin Energy Foundation also funded a three year evaluation to help The Smith Family better understand the program’s impact on children, early childhood educators and parents.

The study compared children before and after they participated in the Let’s Count program, as well as comparing these children with similar children who did not participate in Let’s Count. Those who participated significantly outperformed those who did not, on a range of basic and more complex maths tasks.

Government funding boost

Now, as part of a new boost for maths and science in schools, The Smith Family will receive $4 million in federal funding to expand Let’s Count to more Australian communities. The Victorian Government has announced a further $542,000 in funding for the program. Thousands more children stand to benefit.

Read more about our Foundation’s partnership with The Smith Family

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