Highlight Real-World Uses of Math
As the math they’re learning becomes more complicated and less obviously connected with their everyday experience, some children start to develop math anxiety. It’s important to keep your child engaged with math and to help her understand the real-life applications of the concepts she’s learning in school. Coming up with a budget for back-to-school supplies or for her monthly allowance is one way for her to practice addition and subtraction. Asking her to help you with cooking or baking shows her how fractions work. Helping you calculate prices when you’re grocery shopping is also good practice.
Help Prepare for Math Class
Help your child reduce stress over math by familiarizing her with the concepts she will be covering in class. Ask her teacher for a syllabus and refer to this to preview each evening the material that will be covered in the following day’s math class. Skim over these pages with your child. No need to spend time working out the meaning of concepts or trying sample problems, although you can consult the glossary for definitions of unfamiliar words. Even this slight increase in familiarity with the terms that will come up the next day will help your child approach math with more confidence.
Read Problems Out Loud
If your child is struggling with math problems, have her read each problem out loud slowly and carefully so she can hear the problem and think about what is being asked. This helps her break down the problem and come up with problem-solving strategies.
Keep Math Positive
Speak positively about math and reward effort rather than grades or ability. Think about how important reading is and how we are told to model this behavior for our children. We need to place math in the same category. Don’t discount the importance of math by saying, “I’m not a math person, I was never good at math.” Help your child read books that incorporate math, such as Millions of Cats, by Wanda Gag, or On Beyond a Million: An Amazing Math Journey, by David Schwartz.
Consult Online Resources
Familiarize yourself with the range of online resources that can help your child practice and review the math concepts she is learning. See our Additional Resources section for some links.
Practice Calculations Using Decimals
Connect the work with decimals that your child is doing in class to the real world by encouraging her to shop for bargains. Have her divide the cost of bulk-packaged items by the number of single items to find the cost per item. So how much are you paying per roll of paper towel or per can of soda when you buy in bulk? Or ask her to calculate how much of a savings you’ll make per item with sale prices offering volume discounts.
Practice Using Fractions
Help your child familiarize herself with fractions by asking her to scale recipes for your family. Have her start by halving or doubling a recipe. When she feels comfortable doing this, ask her to convert it by 11⁄2, allowing a recipe that is supposed to feed a family of 4 to work for a family of 6.
Set Up A Bank Account
Set up a bank account for your child. Before you do this, discuss with her the basic concepts of banking – interest, checking and saving accounts, credit and debit cards, etc. The experience will help get your child excited about saving and increasing her money.
Highlight Math in Sports
Sports provide a fun and engaging way of exploring a host of mathematical concepts, starting with basic addition. Any hard-core baseball fan knows that the game can’t truly be appreciated without an understanding of some essential statistics, like a player’s batting average and runs batted in. If your child is passionate about a sport, encourage her to explore it through math.
Play Games That Use Math
Play family games that help foster math skills. These include card games like Go Fish, which requires counting and sorting cards into sets, or board games like Monopoly.