Teaching mathematics can be a challenge for some, especially if this is not a subject that you, as a parent, are overly fond of. However, mastering elementary mathematics is one of those skills that is infinitely invaluable as one goes through life. Of course we want our children to be brilliant, and to be able to master all of their academic ventures, therefore we must come up with fun ways to help and encourage our children to not only want to learn, but to retain what they learn. The most fundamental aspect for a parent to understand is that most children learn best when the lessons are applicable to daily life, and when they have a hands on component to them. This is why advanced mathematics is not a subject typically taught to children that are still in elementary school. The applicability of learning math is the key to engaging your child.
Children learn best by doing. Studies have often shown that when we just hear or read information it is often lost faster than when we actually have a hands on experience. What that means is we, as the parents, have a task ahead, making math fun, useful and hands on.
Math with Manipulatives
Many companies will offer you overly priced manipulatives in the form of plastic blocks, bars, etc. In realit, all you really need is a package of M & M’s, Skittles, some Legos or even Macaroni Shells to get the job done. You can effectively teach addition, subtraction and multiplication and some division using simple household objects. The bonus can also be that when your teaching time is done, there is something sweet!
Applying Math to Everyday
When we help children see the usefulness of mathematics, they are more invested to learn. For example, if your son loves Legos and he gets an allowance of $5 a week you can easily use multiplication for his benefit. Start a graph of sorts with the amount of a Lego set he would love to own. If the value of the set is $50, then you can graph out (through addition or multiplication) how many weeks, days, etc it would take to earn the amount of money required to purchase said item.
Your child already thinks you are amazing, why not show him or her some magician style antics that you create? I am a fan of showing how amazing a parent can be by mystifying a starry eyed child with the concept of volume. Take any child in the early elementary age range and begin showing them different sized and shaped containers, some tall and narrow, others short and fat. Then show them how when filled with the same fluid amount of water, all the containers appear to have different amounts. This works great when you do this exercise ahead and then ask your child which of the containers has the “most” water in it. The starry-eyed situation happens when they are given an opportunity to measure out the water and they learn the concept of volume. Another amazing magic trick here, fill a jar full of rocks and ask your child if it is “full” when they say “yes,” add some sand, when you ask again and they say “yes it is full” add some water.
Edible Kitchen Math
Let’s take math to the next level, simple fractions can be introduced when you ask your child to cook along side of you. Baking a batch of cookies becomes a learning experience when you change things up and ask your child if the 1 cup of butter is the same as 4 of the ¼ cup measures of butter. If they are unsure, allow them to do a quick experiment. Make a recipe, allowing them to do the measurements, and then the next time have them double the recipe and see if they can figure out the measurements. Again, by making mathematical concepts not only applicable but hands on and fun, we are engaging their minds, and in this case their tummies, to want to learn more.
Parenting and education are two areas where creativity is key. When we, as the parents, are able to think outside of the box and get our heads off of just using worksheets and drills to teach concepts, we are more able to engage our children to become partners in learning. Use what you have, think creatively and your child will also be well engaged in the process.