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By Tina J. Thomas on June 11 2018 11:19:13

Understanding decimals is vital for real-life, everyday maths. Phoebe Doyle offers some teacher tips to help your Key Stage 2 child understand what decimals are and how to use this knowledge in calculations.

If a child is really confused about decimals, converting decimal numnbers into money is a great way to make things clearer. For example: a child may be asked to say how much bigger 1.3 is than 0.9. If they convert these decimals into money (£1.30 and 90p) they may find that they can do this calculation very quickly in their head, getting the answer 40p which they convert back into the decimal, 0.4. Demonstrating that money maths depends on decimal understanding is also an easy way to prove that decimals are actually useful in real life!

Children will be learning at school how to round up decimals to the nearest whole number. A fun way to practise this at home is to use regular dominos and establish that each piece is a decimal number (so a domino one with 3 dots and 4 dots is 3.4). Encourage them to play with the dominos, but with the rule that they can only, for example, join 2 dominos that are within 1.5 of each other. This will really get them thinking about what each decimal point represents. A number line can also be useful when rounding decimals.

Children may find the easiest way to work this out is by using the column method, where all the numbers are placed in a column, one on top of the other. It is vital that they remember that the decimal points of each number must line up. Once they’ve worked out using pencil and paper, let them check on a calculator as using decimals accurately on a calculator is an important real life skill too.