Math demands are rising in our society. However, with a little creativity you can increase your child’s math awareness, number sense, and confidence when you infuse math in your everyday life. Here are a few tips for encouraging and strengthening math skills.
- Share the calendar with your child. Count how many days until a special event, to holidays, and days off or special happenings at school. Model how useful a calendar can be and how to use it themselves. Perhaps get a calendar for their room where they can keep track of events that are happening in their life. Reinforcing the use of a calendar helps them gain a better understanding of the days of the week, months of the year, and lays a foundation for understanding time. If a special day or event is on the horizon in your family, create a countdown calendar which will reinforce counting forward and backward, as well as build anticipation.
- Reinforce time with your child. Clocks are everywhere and can be accessed on cell phones, car dashes, and microwaves. As convenient as the digital clock is to read, also make sure that you are reinforcing traditional clock skills. When they are old enough, give your child a watch, so they can fashionably practice telling time. Relate time to events and concepts that they understand. Not many four year olds understand the concept of half and hour, but many will understand how long a program on TV is. For example: “This car ride to Grandma’s is going to take as long as Sesame Street or Word World.” Build and reinforce elapsed time as conversations progress.
- Even little ones can start understanding elapsed time and sequence of events. Using math vocabulary such as first, second, and third is helpful for your child’s understanding of the sequential order of events. Having a daily schedule posted with pictures will help non-readers understand the concepts of their schedule and the sequence of events.
- Have your child help out in the kitchen, especially while baking. Not only will this give you quality time while making something to share later, but this will also reinforce fractions, measurement, temperature, and time. Talk through the events of baking to reinforce these math skills. Your child will be engaged and learning all while having fun.
- Count, count and recount. Count toys while competing to see who can clean up the most toys. Count cars on the train while waiting. Count bugs found during an outdoor adventure. Count clothes being put in the dirty laundry or in the washing machine. Count how many times their feet touch the sky while swinging. Count by twos, fives, and tens after arranging things in those groups. The more you count, the more your child recognizes the number patterns in addition, multiplication, time, subtraction, and division. Encourage your child to see things in groups once they can count by other numbers beyond one.
- Use math vocabulary in everyday things. Words and phrases like more, time, hour, minute, add, subtract, less, in all, difference, together are all primary math vocabulary. Once your child can understand the terminology, the process is easier to grasp.
- Compare items. Have your child compare toys, food, clothes, or anything else that suits their fancy. When children compare, they are building a foundation for mathematical reasoning that will not only help them in basic mathematics, but also in higher level thinking like algebra.