How can I help my child to learn math skills?

Don't turn your kids off by forcing them or 'teaching' them math. A better idea is to provide experiences for 'playing and living' math. We want to encourage children to learn the math skills that will help them throughout life and teach them how to enjoy those skills as they grow up.

Children are quite adept at understanding what they need to know at home and in the community, so if you use practical real life experiences, children, particularly those with short attention spans, will thrive. For example, using a cake or pie to explain fractions is a good exercise particularly when siblings are involved - every piece must be exactly equal to be one of three, four or six pieces! Of course, in sharing anything that is coveted, children quickly understand that the 'big half' is better.

Try introducing the concept of telling time by using a favorite television show scheduled in the newspaper television guide. Drawing what the clock will look like when the time arrives helps establish that memory.

Allowing children to use real money is a great teaching tool - saving small change to convert to $1 or $2 coins that ultimately convert to $10 or $20 notes can be a delightful pastime for some children. Coins present a choking hazard and wind up in unusual places so always supervise money play (make sure you wash coins for games in mild soapy water). Shopping during very slow times at stores allows children a less stressful experience when they are spending their money on items. If there is an item they like make them save up for it and draw them up a tally sheet to show many of each coin or note they need.

Measurements are often learned while helping with recipes or 'home improvement' projects, keeping track of height and other measurements while children grow. Science 'experiments' growing sprouts from seeds can be all about measuring height and recording times. Sometimes children's science experiments use math in ways that are not intimidating or confusing to young people.

Making real tools available for children, including measuring spoons and cups, rulers and tape measurers, teaches them the real units we use in life. Cloth tape measures are of course choking hazards, and metal ones that automatically rewind into a box can cause cuts and other injuries, so remember safety lessons and supervision of younger children.

We hate to mention it but sometimes us parents can't understand certain school texts when they are explaining concepts we learnt many years ago. Your local public library or bookstore may have just the book you need to help your child learn basic and advanced math skills, including books for you to 'brush up' on your skills if your child needs help with something that is difficult for you to remember or understand.

Many commercial games are available that teach math thinking skills. Look for games that:

* Require and develop skill with mental computation and estimation
* Require players to use their math skills
* Involve the development of strategies
* Require players to think about the probability of certain events occurring.
* Require the use of spatial visualization skills
* Require logical thinking

Some games that fit these recommendations are Chess, Connect Four, Dominoes, and Monopoly. No need to mention to your child that you're teaching them math while they play!

We recommend:

Monopoly Junior D
Monopoly - UK Classic
Monopoly - NZ Edition
Connect 4
Le Toy Van - Ghost Ship
Learning Journey - Giant Dominoes
Deluxe 3-in-1 Games Set
Travel Chess

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