Help Your Child See Math is a Part of Daily Life
Parents and other family members can influence their student"s math skills. Perhaps you do not realize it, but whenever you sort objects, read maps or schedules, compare prices, make change, or use a calculator or calendar, you are a model of mathematical behavior. When you measure, weigh, work with family finances, or figure out how much wallpaper will cover a wall, you are a living textbook!
The best help you can give your student in math is simply to make your child aware of when and how to use math. Whenever possible, talk through activities with your child and encourage him/her to take part in them. Think out loud, make estimates, check them, correct mistakes, and try more than one way to solve a problem. When you do, you provide your child with important experiences in mathematical thinking.
Here are a few math activities that you can do with your child.
- Young children can estimate by using items like pencils, crayons, or parts of their own bodies. Older children can use regular units of measurement like rulers or measuring cups and spoons.
- Ask your child to guess the number of items in your home. Make a list. Then count them together. Examples may include pillows, windows, doors, chairs, and shoes. Then compare estimates with an actual count. Make comparisons between items to help young children understand the concepts of "more" or "less" and put them into categories.
- Ask your child to determine how much time he/she will have to wait until his/her favorite TV program comes on.
- Have your child estimate how many minutes or hours he/she spends watching TV each evening, weekend, or during an entire week.
- Have your child complete his/her own height and weight charts. Begin by estimating, actually measure, and then graph the information. Keep a record over a period of time.
- Discuss directions (north, south, east, and west) to give your child a sense of coordinates. Have child use street maps to find travel routes and addresses and estimate the time of your arrival and compare that to the actual time it took to arrive at a given destination.
- Have competitions when traveling. Have child count red cars or see who can find the largest number formed by the numerals on a license plate.
- Have child practice, record, and read the large number on license plates viewed. Find the largest number in a given time period of travel.
- Have child estimate, then time how long before a street light changes. Estimate, then count how many stores are in a block.
- Point out speed limits and distances between towns. Talk to child about the time it takes to get from one town to another when you drive at different speeds.
- Have child practice reading the numbers on the odometer.
- Have child check odometer in the car to determine distances on a trip - starting point and ending destination.
- Have child find the differences between certain distances traveled. Find out how much farther you traveled on the first day than you did on the second day.
- Let child help with the cooking by measuring the ingredients and checking cooking times and temperatures. Older children can increase or decrease recipes.
- Have child figure out how to cut a pizza, cake, pie, or sandwich for different numbers of people.
- Have child determine how much or how many of a grocery item is needed for the entire family, or how much is needed for a given recipe.
- Have child check a grocery receipt to find five items that add up to less than $1.00, $5.00, or $10.00.
- Let child help with the shopping by checking and comparing prices, weights, and quantities. Allow him/her to use a calculator to make these comparisons as he/she also keeps track of the total cost of your purchases. If available, allow your child to use the calculator on the shopping cart to keep track of how much money is being spent on groceries while you shop.
- Have child determine how much change you will receive once you"ve paid the clerk. Older children can practice writing a check for the total amount of the grocery bill.
- Using catalogs or newspapers, have child spend a specified unit of money (figure in tax, shipping, and handling charges) and complete order forms.
- Have child look at the sales flyer and determine how much money you could save by buying the sale items.
- Have child determine and select the "best buys" and then prepare the shopping list (i.e., one item costs $7.50 and 2 items cost $14.00).
- Notice large and small numbers all around in magazines and newspapers and have child practice reading the numbers (i.e., weather, cost of a new car, grocery items, price of toys, etc.).
- Have child determine how much a single item costs that is sold by the package (i.e., a single roll of toilet tissue purchased in a four-pack, one roll of paper towels purchased in a two-pack, the price of one can of soda packaged in a box of 12 or 24, etc.).
- Have child see what items in the house come in sets of two (hands, feet, shoes), sets of six (cans of soda), and sets of twelve (eggs in a carton).
- Have child help with the laundry by matching the socks, sorting the clothing into appropriate colors, discussing clothing size according to each family member.
- Have your child determine how much laundry soap to use per load size.
- Have your child graph daily chores, money earned from chores, and/or purchases.
- Have children find pictures or items that are sold in sets (i.e., 4 batteries to a package) and have them determine how many batteries there would be in three packages.
- Encourage child to play games that involve counting, finding patterns, using strategy, and solving patterns.
- Allow child to use a calculator and encourage "messing around" with it to explore numbers, look for patterns, and investigate number patterns.
- Relate sports and the stock market to mathematics. The daily newspaper is full of scores, schedules, statistics, and graphs.
- Card games provide excellent opportunities for learning math concepts. "Go Fish" and "War" helps younger children to recognize numbers and things that are alike, to group and sort, and to use strategy in discarding to win. Gin Rummy, Casino, Canasta, and Cribbage are more complex card games for older children.
- Ask child questions that require simple mental math. Use questions such as, "What are two numbers that add up to 7? What number is two less than 17? Eighteen is twice as big as what number? Can you name two numbers that multiply to 12 at the same time they add up to 7?"
- Play math "Jeopardy" with your child. Give child a number and ask him/her to find a question for which the number is the answer.
- Plan art activities that use measurement, patterns, and/or geometry.
- Plan math scavenger hunts and have child look for lists of specific math related items (i.e., geometric shapes, number of items, etc.) in the house, yard, or in the neighborhood.
- Have child design and make his/her own math practice games.