Mention maths to most adults, and the chances are they'll smile and say, "Not one of my strengths."

And the really alarming thing about that sort of defeatism, particularly if it's a parent speaking, is that it fosters the idea that maths is boring and difficult.

The logical consequence being that, for your child, it will become self-prophesying. Clever or what?

The problem is that some of us were brought up on rote learning and abstractions which bore little relation to day-to-day life, while others might have a good grasp of how concepts are applied, but lack the tools to follow them through.

But it doesn't have to be like that and it doesn't have to be boring.

That's the thinking behind the Early Learning Goal for mathematical development. As with the other Early Learning Goals, small children are encouraged to find out for themselves in structured play that encourages a 'can do'attitude.

Remember the counting games you played when you were little? Well, children still learn about number and quantity from songs like Five Little Speckled Frogs.

But maths goes beyond number. It includes an understanding of space, shape, measures and patterns. It is a real achievement, for example, when a small child makes the intellectual leap from naming a basic triangle to identifying a pitched roof as triangular.

So, do you need an open cheque book in order to foster in your child a love of maths? No, the best and cheapest method is to encourage your child to question and talk about what you both see:whether it's bigger or smaller, what shape it is, how many there are and so on.

By introducing them, in this way, to the role of maths in daily life, you will encourage a genuine understanding. The spin-off is that even a motorway journey is bearable, if you involve your child by asking him or her to watch for the junction number for your next exit.

And show me a child who doesn't relish a baking session. Not only do they get the satisfaction of making biscuits or cakes, but they count the eggs, measure the milk, look for the markers on the scales and weigh the flour.

Do you still see maths as removed from real life?