Many teachers have long wondered what is it about mathematics that makes children so unreceptive? For years, various studies have shown that students lose interest between the years of elementary school and high school in math, and many don’t regain interest until they are in college or beyond. Moreover, according to a research conducted to develop the suit of assessments for the SAT by the College Board, only 45 percent of high school graduates were ready for college-level math. One of the main factors identified was lack of motivation; kids just don’t care enough about math to excel at it.
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After all my years as an educator, I’m convinced that the problem with embracing math (as the fascinating subject it really is!) stems from a fundamental starting point: our own construction of the subject as a complicated and tedious matter. Instead of dreading homework, children should be taught – since the earliest phases of their school life – that math can truly open the door to greatness and be applied to a wide array of disciplines. Here are some practical (super easy!) ways to encourage your young kids to love and embrace math every day:
1. Incorporate basic math concepts into everyday life:
Highlight the usefulness of math every chance you get; don’t limit yourself to just homework time. Try to incorporate basic math concepts into everything you do. Have your child count objects regularly and pose easy counting challenges, such as counting the number of steps on a flight of stairs or the number of red cars you see while driving. Take opportunities to count by twos or fives or tens, for example, if you’ve bought many of the same item at the grocery store or need to count a pile of coins.It’s especially memorable to children when they can use their new math concepts in their everyday life. you can also have your child arrange his favorite stuffed animals in a circle for a party and give two or three crackers to each toy. Have him add up the total number of crackers distributed. For example, ask him or her to predict how many more crackers he would need if one of his toy action figures joined the party, and so on. Also, use every opportunity to practice recognition of different shapes. Have your child spot things that are triangular, like pieces of pizza or the roof of a house, or rectangular, like paper money. As you talk about different shapes, have him describe why a shape he spots is a triangle (three sides) or a square (four equal sides) or a rectangle (two opposite equal sides and two other opposite equal sides of longer length).
What is it about mathematics that makes children so unreceptive? Studies have shown that students lose interest between the years of elementary school and high school in math, and many don’t regain interest until they are in college or beyond.”
2. Talk to your child about the great feats others have accomplished using math:
My students’ eyes light up when we mention spaceships and intergalactic travel, but – understandably – they fail to make to make the connection that astronauts can only accomplish these amazing feats using the power of math. By highlighting the great distances, the astronomical calculations (pun intended) and the years of preparation in math required for the job, you will not only offer a new perspective, but also inspire young children to explore other great applications.
3. Practice sequencing:
Practice sequencing with your child to develop his ability to recognize and store math procedures and number sequences. Make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or build a snowman together, then ask him to describe in order the actions that took place. He can also describe the sequence of events that took place in the day, in a movie he saw, or in a story he read.
4. Help him or her develop an understanding of units of time:
Use a timer for activities like watching TV or using the computer, so that your child becomes familiar with the concept of time and how long different units of time last. If your child doesn’t want to leave the playground, tell him he can stay for 5 more minutes. He’ll start to develop an understanding of time and how long different units of time last if you do this regularly.
5. Spend some time playing math games:
Doing puzzles is a great way to develop important visual discrimination skills, or the ability to recognize differences and similarities in shape, form, pattern, size, position, and color. There are plenty of family games incorporate math. Tic-tac-toe, Connect Four, and dominoes are just some of the many games that help build math skills. Another idea is to play a fun little estimation game in which you think of a number for your child to guess. After each guess, respond with the words “higher” or “lower.” At different times use the words “more” or “less,” so he learns different arithmetic vocabulary. This game helps him correlate number words and counting sequence with actual amounts or sizes.
“There are plenty of family games incorporate math. Tic-tac-toe, Connect Four, and dominoes are just some of the many games that help build math skills.”
6. Teach him or her to count money:
Give your child a piggy bank and help fill it with spare change. Every month, empty it together and have your child sort the coins by denomination. Have him or her match the coins to the denominations indicated on coin wrappers, which can be obtained from some banks or purchased inexpensively (I’ve gotten them at the dollar store). This will help your kindergartner with counting, value recognition, and sorting, as well as hand-eye coordination.
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7. Play music:
Music is a great way for your child to engage with concepts related to math. Practicing an instrument means learning about tempo, measure, and meter – all of which involve math.
Let’s celebrate Math!
It’s plain to see that math is everywhere and encouraging students to love it and celebrate it is all too important for parents and teachers. Use every opportunity to make math fun, challenging and exciting, but also highlight its depth, meaning and importance, which will result in long-term enthusiasm… but it has to start early.
about the author
Jennifer Sanchez is a Texas native and elementary school teacher in Austin. A self-proclaimed ‘Math-a-Holic’, she has inspiring kids to be great at maths since 2000, by applying super fun games, song and props in her lessons. She’s extremely proud to teach in the Lone Star State and shares her insight and tips with our audience every week in the EDUCATION section.