Just as parents can help their children be ready to learn to read, they can give children a good start in math learning, too. Developing proficiency with informal math concepts and skills are easy to do and can start before children enter school.
Math Learning Before Children Enter School
- Find natural opportunities to count, to sort objects, to match collections of objects, to identify shapes (while reading bedtime stories, going up stairs, setting the table, etc.)
- Play games such as dominoes and board games
- Count a collection of objects and use number words to identify very small collections
- Talk with your child about simple math problems and ideas. (How many spoons do we need to set the table? Give me the cup with the two flowers on it. Find the other circle on the page. Sort the blocks by shape.)
Math Learning After Children Enter School
- Expect some confusion to be part of the learning process but emphasize that effort, not ability, is what counts. Math is understandable and can be figured out.
- Avoid conveying negative attitudes towards math. Never tell children not to worry about certain kinds of math because it will never be used.
- Encourage your child to use computers for tasks like developing charts, graphs, maps, and spreadsheets.
- Ask your child what he or she did in math class today. Ask him or her to give details and to explain.
- Let kids know that occupations require a sound based in mathematics. Careers in carpentry, landscaping, medicine, pharmacy, aeronautics, and meteorology all require strong math skills.
- Give your child meaningful problems that use numbers or shapes while you are going about everyday life. Ask the child to explain what he or she did.
- Spend time with kids on simple board games, puzzles, and activities that encourage better attitudes and stronger math skills. Point out ways that people use math every day to pay bills, balance their checkbooks, figure out their net earnings, making change and tips at restaurants. Involve older children in projects that incorporate geometric and algebraic concepts like planting a garden, building a bookshelf, or figuring our how long it will take to drive to your family destination.
- Encourage children to solve problems by providing assistance but letting them figure it out themselves.
Remember math is not just a 40 minute subject taught in school each day. Math concepts are needed for problem solving which is a lifetime skill.
Learning occurs in day to day activities. So, look for and create learning opportunities throughout your day. Stay safe and be well.