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Low key ways to help little kids learn their math.

February 21, 2011

Kids from pre-K to 5th grade often resist formal discussion of math and may not be thrilled with the idea of parents imposing extra lessons especially in a subject as challenging as math. Yet there are several tactics that parents can utilize to help their kids develop their math skills without having to sit them down for a session with flash cards.

  • Manipulatives: For the really young, pre-kindergarten through 1st grade crowd, manipulatives like cut-outs and blocks can introduce the basic numbers and solidify counting.  There’s a reason you see things like these in kindergarten rooms across the country.  At a young age most of us tend to be very visual and tactile learners, as we haven’t really learned to read, and don’t have the focus to handle long auditory strings of information.  Keep the blocks and props around the house and encourage their incorporation into play and discussions.
  • The counter game/helper: The supermarket is probably the best example of this type of exercise. You need help at the supermarket. Young ones can bring you three apples, two boxes of cereal, and thus practice counting. As they get older they can provide more help, by keeping a tally on how much you spent on meat and produce this week.  Enterprising parents have adapted variations of this game for things like gardening and road trips too.
  • Kitchen help:  The kitchen offers a rich environment for the reinforcement of math lessons. Now that you’ve gotten home from the supermarket, you probably need a little one to count how many oranges came in that bag, as they are moved to their proper place. Likewise having kids help you cook not only introduces them to basic cooking and kitchen skills, but can teach addition, multiplication, fractions, and many other skills. How many times do we use the ¼ cup scoop if we need ¾ cup of sugar? If we’re making a double batch and the recipe calls for X, how much do we need to add?
  • “Banking”: At some point most parents will co-sign on a tween-teen childs first real bank account. Prior to going to that effort however, many parents have had good luck being the ‘bank’ for their children’s allowance and chore money storage. Having the child track their ‘balance’ in an organized manner in a set location (binder, notebook, the fridge door, whatever) not only teaches rudimentary life and finance, but can also reinforce their math skills. Are they getting old enough that this isn’t the challenge it once was? Offer to pay interest, if they’ll compute how much it is. Offer a higher rate if they can figure out how to compound their interest on a daily basis.
  • Online and video games: We’ll go into this more deeply in our next article. But, it is sufficient to say that if you have a young ‘gamer’ there are fun educational video games available off the shelf and online for every age group. You could also offer SMALL prizes for achieving a certain level or score.

This is only a hint of all the things that can be done to help reinforce math skills. Creative parents have found all sorts of ways to get the kids to exercise their brains; if you find you are needing help there are tutors in the Greensboro area that can help.  Next: Older kids, and the cornucopia of math games out there.

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