Is math a dreaded subject at your house? Here’s how to make math fun!
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How do those two words make you feel? More important, how do they make your child feel?
For many children, their feelings about math change right around fifth grade. It’s either overwhelmingly hard, or frustratingly boring. What’s a parent to do?
First, banish “I’m not good at math” from your family’s vocabulary. Your child doesn’t say it. And you don’t say it, even if you feel it’s true.
Expect that homework will be done, and keep your comments positive. If homework time is becoming tense, seek advice from your child’s teacher.
Above all, have fun with math apart from homework!
Your job is to grab teachable moments as they happen, listen to your child’s questions, ask some of your own, and and learn right along with him.
Think of yourself as your child’s math cheerleader.
How to make math fun for kids ages 8-12
1. Play math games.
You already know about the old stand-bys like Checkers and Battleship. But have you heard of Colorku and Yamslam? Browse What Do We Do All Day’s list of math gifts for kids in elementary school. (Better yet, follow her blog! She often shares new games her family has discovered.)
2. Take a field trip.
Do you have a math or science museum nearby? Without guidance, your child might hop from one station to another and get very little out of the experience. Be sure to slow down and explore exhibits together.
Do some research and find out if any local factories give tours. Talk to the tour guide about how math is used to design and manufacture the product.
3. Try not to drill your child on math content.
Let’s face it. Mindless repetition is boring.
Yeah, I know. Your child has those math cards to learn. Even flash cards don’t have to be painful! I recently shared over 25 fun ways to learn math facts. Go check it out!
4. Help your children see the purpose of math.
Let them see you calculate gas mileage, determine the best buy at the grocery store, and balance the family budget. When your kids see your interest in math (and enjoyment of it, hint, hint), they’ll see its value.
5. Teach your child to manage money.
Give your child a ledger to record income and expenses, and help him learn to manage his birthday money or allowance. If he wants to borrow from you, help him calculate the interest.
6. Take your child’s interests into account.
Math is related to nearly every interest. Here are just a few!
Is your child a baseball fan? Record statistics. Calculate batting averages.
Is your child into fashion? Visit a fabric store and calculate the cost of materials to create a dream design.
If your child is into computers, find a beginner’s coding class.
Building is your child’s thing? Design and build a complex structure.
7. Ask thoughtful math questions.
Are you waiting in the doctor’s office? Waiting for your meal to arrive? Sitting on the sidelines waiting for a sibling’s game to start? Resist the temptation to check your phone or get out the iPad for some easy entertainment. It’s the perfect time to talk about math!
“Do you think 1/2 or 3/4 of a pizza is bigger?” Draw a picture on a napkin.
“Look at that score. Our team has 14 points. What does the one mean in 14?”
“About how many people are in this packed auditorium?”
“If we’ve used half a tank of gas, when should we refuel?”
“This package of 12 oz is $2.49. This package of 16 oz is $2.70. Which one is a better deal?”
“This coupon gives us 15% off our total bill. How much will we save if our bill is $75?”
For a huge variety of math questions for all ages, check out the classic book Family Math.
8. Celebrate the birthdays of famous mathematicians and talk about their accomplishments.
Okay, I may have lost you on this one. Wake up, now, and hear me out. There really are some fascinating stories out there! Like Susie Johnson McAfee, a brilliant daughter of former slaves who couldn’t become a teacher because the examiner “lost” her spelling paper and charged her father a huge sum to find it. Instead of becoming a teacher, McAfee taught her own eight children, five of whom received degrees in mathematics. Check out the book Mathematicians Are People Too (and its sequel, volume 2).
9. Model persistence and enjoyment of math.
When my computer is giving me trouble, I tend to shut down. I’m frustrated, troubled, and quite sure it’s the end of the world! On the other hand, my husband calmly sits down and tries many different things until he solves the problem. I think he actually enjoys the challenge.
That’s the way all of us should be about math. It’s just a problem to be solved. There is an answer. Patience (and sometimes outside help!) will get you there. “Fun” and “easy” are not necessarily the same thing. Remember that the challenge of math is what makes it fun!
10. Read some incredible math picture books.
What Do We Do All Day has been sharing a fabulous book list with each of my math appreciation posts. Check out this week’s!
*Images via Depositphotos (c) Paulpaladin & (c) whitestar955