Fundamental math skills can be tricky to learn especially for children who have recently just ventured into the path of organized learning from the preschooler, to kindergarten to upper grades.
Luckily, as a parent there are many simple tips you can use in everyday interactions with your children, which can help them solve problems, communicate mathematically and to demonstrate reasoning abilities – all the skills essential to learning mathematics.
For the Pre-Schooler
Your home is a great place to begin to teach your child through play and sing and little kindergartners love to listen to, sing and say nursery rhymes and songs. You can narrate poems like “Five lil Ducks” or “Once I caught a Fish Alive” or “There were 10 lil bears”. Counting rhymes and songs can be both fun and enjoyable and introduce them to basic maths concepts such as number names, counting and sequence. Show your child how to perform with actions, and other family members can join in the fun too!
The desire to learn is a key to your child’s success, and of course, enjoyment is an important motivator for learning.
Walk and Count
You can take your child for a walk around your neighbourhood, through a park, or just be indoors. As you take a stroll, say silly or interesting things for him/her to do such as the following:
# Take 2 big steps and 3 small steps.
# Take 1 big step, hop like a bunny, take 3 little steps.
# Take 1 little step, clap 4 times, turn around once.
# Take 1 big step, turn around, and take 4 steps backward.
Counting loud along your child reinforces his efforts (and arithmetic skills) and gives them the joy to re-enact once more. And yes don’t forget to compliment.“1,2, 2, 3, That’s great Myrah! Well Done!”
You can also expand this activity for your kindergarten child by asking her to – for example ‘guess’ how many steps it will take to get from one corner of the wall to the other.
For the Kindergartener: Find It and Sort It
Calling attention to everyday objects and number such as cans, grocery or the number of bananas on the shelf lets children know that numbers are important and they are used for many different purposes.
What you can do is:
# Place several boxes, cups or spoons laid out on the floor or carpet, and let your child sort and find the contents.
# Look for labels or things that has numbers on it, point it to your child and say it loud (e.g.: newspaper, magazines etc)
# When you’re sorting laundry, hold up one pair of socks and ask your child to find another matching pair.
# Take our several pairs of socks and ask your child to match them according to size or color.
Pointing out to everyday items improves your child’s number sense and sorting and matching activities introduce them to mathematical operations of comparing, classification and measurement.
Shape Up with Circles, Squares and Triangles
Everyday objects that are familiar to young children can be a good way to introduce them to differences in shapes and to classification.
What you can do is:
# Fill a bowl with biscuits and crackers in shapes such as circles, squares and triangles. Point to a biscuit and say “Look this is a triangle, it has three sides, 1-2-3”. This one’s round in shape.
# As you make sandwiches or rotis, describe the shape of it. Ask your child to tell the shape as you cut the sandwich into half, or to match the pairs of sandwiches with same shape.
For Grades 1, 2 and 3: Taking the Next Step
Once your child is 5 – 6 years old, he or she will now be comfortably counting up to 30 and will be able to easily represent numbers up to 20. At this point, they are expected to be able to link the number of objects in question with a numeric value.
It is thus time for you to start encouraging your children to start solving simple everyday mathematical problems with the help of number symbols. Encourage this approach by discussing problems such as – ‘If you had 2 chocolates and daddy gives you 2 more for being such as good boy/girl, there would be 4 chocolates all together, for which you could write – 2 +2 = 4.”
This is also a great age to start teaching them comparisons such as ‘greater than’ and ‘less than’ to describe groups of objects. At this age, it is recommended that you work with numbers between 1 and 10 – where 5-6 year olds are comfortable identifying the ‘less with’ numbers – for example, ask them ‘Which is less – 8 or 5?’
As your child gets older, he or she may need to take on more complex mathematical problems such as that of multiplications. There are a number of tricks that can be employed to make learning much more fun and simple. For example, for the 9 times tables, you can do the following –
- Hold your hands out with all your fingers spread out.
- For 9X2 – bend your second finger down, for 9X3 bend your third finger down and so on…
- For 9X2, you have 1 finger in front of the bent finger and 8 after the bent finger – hence, the answer is 18. This technique words perfect up to 9X10.
Weight, Volume and Density
Simple everyday activities such as playing in sand or bath time in the tub are an excellent way to expose your child to concepts such as weight, volume and density.
To make fractions more relatable for your growing children, spend time with your children baking or cooking to teach them concepts in fractional measurements such as dividing brownie recipes or cutting a pizza in equal pieces.
All in all, keeping the tone of math activities light and fun will increase the likelihood of your child wanting to delve into the world of math with much more enthusiasm.