Mathematics is one of the biggest challenges for children and often causes the most stress. Math requires our kids to be confident, skillful, engaged and focused. Sometimes that seems as too much to ask from such young human beings; the truth is that the things they learn in their young age will guide them through other life problems later on. Too often the kids of today are turning to technology to solve their problems for them, but by doing that they are depriving their brains of development and improvement. That is why it is important to build the set of skills needed for solving math problems early in childhood. These five tips can help your children develop these essential skills.
Use Math in Everyday Life
When helping your child overcome a math issue, you should look way beyond what they do in school and the homework. After all, you use math in everyday life, why not use this time to teach your child? Go to the grocery store together and figure out the total bill before the salesman does (before tax). Once they start learning about multiplication and percentages, you can teach them how to calculate tax (though technology may be needed for this in the form of a calculator). After you can step up the game and send your child to the grocery store alone once they are old enough. Give them a specific amount of money and name all the items which they have to buy with that amount. You can help them learn measurements by cooking and baking together. Find a recipe and follow it, and have your child do most of the measurements, with a little help. Have them find the measuring cups and spoons they will need. Eventually you can even practice conversions such as tablespoons to teaspoons or cups to ounces, for an even bigger challenge. You can find many other ways to use math in everyday life, just get creative.
Have a Problem Solving Plan
In life, when you have a problem, you have a plan for how to deal with it, you don’t just ignore the problem. It is the same with math. Use George Polya’s summary of the plan to show your child the process:
- Understand the problem
- Come up with a plan
- Carry out the plan
- Look back
Of course, the problem must be identified before it is understood. Divide the problem into these steps and allow your child to take the steps one at a time.
Identify and Understand Word Problems
For a child, sometimes it is difficult to understand the words that are being used in a math problem. When a problem is posed in the form of a sentence (e.g. A boy and a girl collected 24 nuts. The boy collected two times as many nuts as the girl. How many did each collect?), you can advise your kid to draw a boy (two pockets) and a girl (one pocket). Having a visual in front of them can help them determine what the question is asking. As for the commonly used words explain that “and” means addition, “less than” subtraction, “product of” multiplying, etc.
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The only way for your child to become proficient in solving math problems, is by constantly solving more problems. That does not have to be an imposed chore, though. Solve problems together by talking through the task, before expecting the answer. Simple homework is not enough, try to find other books with math problems or search online for math tasks. Practicing on a regular basis will teach your child patterns of thinking and problem-solving skills which will, later on, make your child’s education much easier.
Problem-solving is the combination of the ability to think logically and the ability to think creative, when utilizing the given facts to solve a certain problem. A child who develops that set of skills in their early years will improve their abilities to think, learn, be confident and understand the world. And that is the most important benefit of mathematics.
Math is an essential life skill that every child needs to learn. It is never too early to start teaching kids math, just as it is never too early to read to your child.
How do you help your child improve their math skills?
This is a guest post contributed by Peter Minkoff. Peter is a lifestyle writer at Voice Boks magazine living in Brisbane, Australia. After graduating from Australian Institute of Creative Design, he worked as a fashion stylist and also as a freelance writer for few local magazines in Brisbane. Beside writing, he loves shopping, cooking exotic meals and traveling around tropical destinations with his hubby Josh. His future plans are in creating his personal lifestyle blog about everyday life-saving tips