During elementary years, kids typically perceive that math is becoming exponentially harder (and less fun) every year. They view the subject as a concept detached from every day life, which in turn becomes a tedious chore. It shouldn’t be that way. Our roles as parents and teachers (and parent/teachers) should include reinforcing their interest in climbing up the different levels of Math. We don’t want kids to think of Math as a school-life-long sentence, but rather, as a the levels of a video game… and who doesn’t want to reach the boss level? Here are some great tips for home and the classroom to spark the love for math in kids between 4th and 5th grade (ages ranging between 8 and 11):
Constantly emphasize the real-word uses of Math:
Some students start to develop math anxiety when the math they’re learning becomes more complicated and less obviously connected with their everyday experience. It’s important to keep your kids engaged with math and to help them understand the real-life applications of the concepts they’re learning in school (or homeschool). Coming up with a budget for school supplies or for their monthly allowance is one way for them to practice addition and subtraction. Also, asking them to help you with cooking or baking shows them how fractions work. Helping you calculate prices when you’re grocery shopping is also good practice.
Fifth graders may think they are big kids, but they’re still motivated by rewards. I give tickets to my students (bought from a party-supply store or even the dollar store), that they can redeem every other Friday. A certain number of points can be cashed in for prizes, like a piece of candy or extra computer time. Do the same at home, prepare a chart so they can score each time they do extra Math practice or come home with perfect Math work from school.
Parents: open a bank account for them:
Set up a bank account for your child. This will be a major big-kid confidence boost. Take the opportunity to discuss the basic concepts of banking with him or her – interest, checking and saving accounts, credit and debit cards, etc. The experience will help get your child excited about saving and increasing his or her money.
Practice calculations using decimals:
Connect the work with decimals that your children are doing in class to the real world by encouraging them to shop for bargains. Have your kid divide the cost of bulk-packaged items by the number of single items to find the cost per item (same goes for the cost per ounce at the supermarket). So how much are you paying per roll of paper towel or per can of soda when you buy in bulk? Or ask them to calculate how much of a savings you’ll make per item with sale prices offering volume discounts.
Keep Math positive:
Always 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, well the same goes for math. How can we encourage kids to love anything if we constantly complain about it? Don’t discount the importance of math by saying, “I’m not a math person, I was never good at math” and instead show interest in learning it as well.
These are just a few suggestions that work in my circle of students and parents. I hope you enjoyed them and I’d love to hear your feedback. What else would you recommend we apply to everyday live to keep the love for math going as we transition into middle school?