For some kids, math comes easily enough and provides an excellent (and sometimes even fun) opportunity to solve problems. For others, math can be difficult and frustrating. If you are struggling to help you child learn to love math, the five tips below can help. They are appropriate for children from kindergarten through high school, so feel free to adapt them to your own personal needs.
Tip #1 – Keep a Great Attitude
The most important thing you can do to help your kids learn to love math rather than fear or avoid it involves setting a good example for them with your own attitude. It’s easy to feel frustrated when your child brings home math homework and asks for your help during busy after-school or evening hours, but it’s important to smile and show that you are excited for the opportunity. Remember that kids’ minds are like sponges, so any negative statements you might make about mathematics will affect your child’s own attitude toward the subject.
Tip #2 – Make a Math Toolkit
Abstract concepts in mathematics can be confusing, especially for smaller children. What’s more, children are often very visual and hands-on learners, which means a toolkit could be a fantastic way to encourage independent problem solving. Some items to consider for your toolkit include a standard ruler, graph paper, counters, and depending on your child’s age, perhaps even a calculator. Smaller children can benefit from hundred charts and number lines, as well. Get smaller kids involved with decorating the outside of the toolkit with stickers, paint, markers, and other art supplies.
Tip #3 – Play Math Games
Math games typically work better for younger children, but there are some that are great for older kids, too; Yahtzee, Farkle, and other games that require quick addition and multiplication can keep anyone’s math skills sharp. You should aim to play games based in math a few times each week, especially with younger kids. You can find games in stores and online, and you can even find games you can play with everyday household items, too. Playing math games associates math with fun, which will help your kid develop a positive attitude toward it.
Tip #4 – Don’t Punish Mistakes; Celebrate Them, Instead
Winston Churchill once said, “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” This is exactly what parents and caregivers should make clear to their children as they learn mathematics. Mistakes will happen at any age, but rather than punishing them or allowing them to cause frustration, they should be celebrated. Each mistake is a learning opportunity that brings kids closer to the correct answer.
Tip #5 – Work on Mental Math Frequently
The ability to work out math problems in their heads rather than on paper will give kids the confidence they need to tackle more complex problems as they arise. By incorporating this challenge into everyday tasks, such as grocery shopping or buying treats for the class, kids will learn how important mental math will be for the rest of their lives. Start with smaller numbers – especially for younger kids – and then work your way up. Some examples include single-digit addition and subtraction, which is ideal for very young children; multiplication tables for kids in grades three through five to reinforce important skills; and multi-number addition, subtraction, and multiplication for kids in grades six and up.
Mathematics can be a complicated subject, especially when larger numbers and unknown functions are involved. By following the five tips listed above, you can make math less terrifying for your kids and show them that learning to solve problems can be a fun, exciting, and rewarding part of their education.