Learning math can be frustrating for grade school children. Math class in school can be full of repetitive drills and page after page of problems to be solved. Add to that the fact that most parents don’t enjoy math themselves and you have an environment that is not conducive to easy learning. One thing that has helped my grade-school children learn math more easily is my attempt to make math a part of our everyday routine.
Math at Mealtime
One of the easiest ways to incorporate math into your day-to-day activities is to sneak it into the kitchen. Food and math go together very nicely.
Younger kids can practice counting and early math skills right at the dinner table. My five year old loves green beans. When I place beans on her plate, I have her count them to see how many there are. Then I casually work some math questions into our dinner conversations. For example, I may say, “Wow! You started with 10 beans. How many did you eat so far? How many are left on your plate?” This gives her a chance to practice her counting and arithmetic skills in a relaxed, friendly environment.
Asking older kids to help with meal preparation gives them a chance to reinforce their knowledge of measurements and fractions. In addition to having them measure out the ingredients you can ask them to help you convert a recipe to increase the number of servings. For instance, take a recipe that feeds four people and have your son or daughter calculate how much of each ingredient you would need if you wanted to feed eight people.
Math Out and About
Running errands or traveling to and from after-school activities can present many opportunities for useful math lessons.
Carry some cash with you when you go shopping and have your child pay for a few items themselves. Help them calculate the tax and figure out how much change they should get back. Your child’s change will most likely come in the form of a handful of coins and bills plopped into his or her hand. Take the time to show them how to properly count back the change. State how much the item cost then place each coin into your child’s hand and count back up to the amount of cash he or she handed the cashier.
Older children can act as your co-pilot when travelling. Let your child know how far you have to drive and your average rate of speed. See if they can figure out how long it will take to arrive at your destination. Depending on his or her skill level, this could be an exact calculation or an estimate. Both are valuable skills to learn.
Math at Playtime
Does your family have a weekly game night? Make sure some of the games you play involve some math.
Games that involve counting out the number of spaces to move are great for younger children. Some of our favorites are Trouble and Sorry. We also love Hi Ho Cherry-O. My kids love picking the cherries off the trees and putting them in the baskets. They always keep track of how many cherries each player has in their basket. This is a great game for learning about “more” and “less”.
Monopoly and Mall Madness can help teach money management skills to older kids. Pizza Fractions takes a hands-on visual approach to teaching kids how to convert and add fractions. Players try to be the first to build a whole pizza out of various sized slices of pizza.
Math and Reading
If your child loves to read, making math fun should be easy.
Picture books are perfect for learning counting skills. As you read to your younger child, take time to pause and enjoy the beautiful illustrations. Help your child count objects in the pictures. Books like Caps for Sale and Ten Apples Up On Top are great examples of counting-friendly books.
Ask your child’s librarian to recommend math themed books for your older child. Some of our favorites are Inch Worm Helps Out and Pizza Party. These types of books incorporate math problems right into the story.
Learning math doesn’t have to be unpleasant. Giving your child opportunities to practice their math skills throughout the day in a relaxed way can help them gain confidence and begin to enjoy learning math.