Math permeates almost every aspect of our lives. We use math skills when we measure a crib for the nursery or determine the best buy in the grocery store.
You can enhance your child’s math skills by helping her see the practical value of it all. For example, you might help her set up a lemonade stand. She will not only find it fun, but she’ll learn about money and math skills as she sets prices, gives change to customers, and calculates her windfall.
Here are some other fun and instructional activities that you might want to try out:
- Ask her to count the number of vans on the highway.
- Determine how many days there are until his birthday.
- Allow her to pay for an item at a convenience store and count (and keep) the change.
- Mark his height on the wall and measure how tall he is.
- Have your kids bake with you and ask them to figure out the ingredient amounts for a recipe that you’re doubling.
- Introduce her to the odometer and ask her to determine the length of a car trip and figure out how many miles your car is getting to the gallon.
- Discuss batting averages or any other kind of sport statistic.
Remember to keep these activities tension-free. The purpose is not only to hone math skills but to develop a positive association with math. There are also a multitude of board and card games that children can play that foster math skills. In addition, there are many good math websites designed for children. (Check out coolmath.com for one.)
Avoid tension and frustration with the following helpful strategies.—>
If you work with your child on math tasks, you may find the following strategies helpful:
- Where possible, make it fun by turning it into a game.
- Encourage your child to go slow, check his work, and assess whether his answer makes sense.
- Begin with easy problems and gradually proceed to more difficult ones.
- Model how to solve the problem by verbalizing the steps as you do it on paper.
- Avoid giving your child a different approach for solving a math problem than what he learned from his teacher.
- Use flash cards to help her recite and then absorb math facts.
- If your child is struggling to grasp a concept, use concrete materials to help him understand.
- Review your child’s work after she finishes or is halfway through a difficult assignment. In this way, she will avoid practicing mistakes.
If you find yourself becoming impatient with your child, it is probably best to back off. Your impatience is only going to sour him on math. If his difficulties persist, contact his teacher. The classroom pace may be too fast or the level too difficult. It may be that your child needs bolstering of specific skills, perhaps through extra help from the teacher or remedial help.
Start with the fun activities early and make math a regular part of your child’s day. Eventually, your child will see math as an exciting challenge, and not a bore.
Dr. Shore, a psychologist, teaches part-time at Rutgers. He has authored six books and created a film series on bullying.