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3 Simple Tips to Help Your Child Get Good at Mathematics
Most young children, and many not so young, struggle with math in school. And most parents don’t know how to help them. I learned math from an early age in school and studied math in college. My career was based on mathematics and mathematical statistics. So I want to share my experiences helping my three daughters do well in math at school with you here today. And it’s easy if you know a few secrets about how the brain works to solve number problems. It’s just training the brain to think in numbers.
Mathematics is a very logical subject. If the basics are grasped early, the more complicated math that comes later in school will be easier to grasp. So I’m going to focus on the basics and show you how to help your kids develop early problem-solving skills. And it’s never too early to start introducing these skills to your children. Of course, a good foundation in mathematics will serve the student well later in life.
First tip: start early with the basics
The foundations of a good math foundation are the famous four; addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. To help a child’s brain begin to grasp the basics and make them second nature, it’s important to start early and have them repeat over and over the times tables they will be given in school. Work with your child to learn the tables by heart. Help them with their math homework every night. Ask them little math problems at every opportunity. For example, when shopping, ask your child to add the prices of two items together. First let them do it in their head, then let them check it on a calculator or on the cell phone. Subtraction can be practiced in the kitchen by asking simple questions like:
If we have 24 knives and 24 forks and there are only 16 knives and forks in the drawer, how many are in the dishwasher?
When you take your kids out for a meal or a milkshake, let them pay and bring you the change. Ask them to check the bill and make sure the change is the correct amount.
Tip Two: Make Problem Solving Fun
I used to use every meal hour to give my daughters problems to solve, which involved them thinking and using math. And often the youngest of the three got the answers first. For example:
Suppose 4 people board a bus at the first stop and another 5 board at the second stop. Then at the third stop, 5 more people get on and 3 get off. How many shoes are there on the bus on people’s feet? The answer is 24, because you have to count the bus driver .
I used to have a few little tricks in the problems I posed to make the girls think before they answered and they found it a lot of fun. So make problem solving fun and use mealtimes, when the family is together, to ask some questions for the kids to think about. Of course, you will need to know the correct answers.
I have also found that teaching my daughters about money and saving and getting them to set savings goals has helped them develop their digital problem solving skills.
Third tip: for older children, use number puzzles to encourage their mathematical mind to develop.
Most newspapers now include both Sudoku and Kenken puzzles on their puzzle pages that require the use of numbers. The first requires filling in the gaps in a 9 by 9 square, with no repeating numbers in a row, column, or 3 by 3 square. The simpler ones are great training for children and books are available from vendors of newspapers filled with number puzzles. KenKen is a fairly new number puzzle, using the four basics I mentioned in the first tip, and also requires filling in the missing numbers. Encourage your kids to do these puzzles and reward them for completing them. You can even photocopy them and have a timed race to see who can finish first. Children especially like competition.
There are also handheld computer games, such as those marketed by Nintendo, that help train the brain to solve math problems. And even the well-known Monopoly game will help children with their number skills.
We didn’t have these computer games when my daughters were younger, although we played Monopoly a lot, so I used to make up number puzzles on paper for them to solve.
There are so many opportunities in everyday life to ask your kids to think in problem-solving ways, and the more variety you bring to it, the better.
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