Promoting Your Child’s Math Skills
By Dr. Kenneth Shore
Math is a skill which permeates almost every aspect of our lives. We use math skills when we balance our checkbook, measure a room for carpeting, or determine the better buy in the grocery store.
You can enhance your child’s math skills by helping him see their practical value. As an example, you might have him set up a lemonade stand. He will not only find it fun but will learn about money and math skills as he decides on prices, gives change to customers, and calculates his earnings.
Here are some other examples of activities which may be both fun and instructional. You might have your child:
- count the number of vans on the highway
- determine how many days until his birthday
- pay for an item at a convenience store and count the change
- measure how tall he is using a tape measure
- figure out the ingredient amounts on a recipe which is doubled
- determine the length of a car trip by using the odometer readings
- figure out how many miles your car is getting to the gallon
- figure out batting averages
There are a multitude of board and card games that children can play which foster math skills. In addition, many good math web sites are available for children. Remember to keep these activities tension-free. The purpose is not only to hone math skills but also to develop a positive association with math.
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 when he is ready.
- 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 he learned from his teacher.
- Use flash cards to help him learn math facts.
- If your child is struggling to grasp a concept, use concrete materials to help him understand.
- Review your child’s work after he finishes or is halfway through a difficult assignment. In this way, he 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.