Helping Children Learn Math

Teaching math to children is sometimes a very difficult task. It is an entire subject that does not have the same easily explained concepts as some other topics. Each teacher has a slightly different way of instructing students about the basic and advanced concepts in mathematics. There are a few simple ways that parents and teachers can help children to learn math beyond what is in the core curriculum.

Develop The Correct Vocabulary

Math has its own distinct vocabulary. The word problems that are listed in teacher resource books go very far to try to explain real world examples of situations that require math as a solution. Ultimately, there will come a time when a student requires the correct understanding of the vocabulary of mathematics in order to describe procedures, solutions and even problems. Simple words like sum, divisor and product are all useful. This vocabulary will serve as the educational base needed to move forward with more advanced concepts. Allowing children to go forward without the correct vocabulary will result in problems in higher grades.

Integrate Lessons Into Everyday Life

There are limits to the operational memory of a child. There are also some basic facts about memory that will present problems if the lessons are not reinforced later in the day. New concepts like division or multiplication need to be refreshed within a few hours after they are first introduced. Homework normally helps with this. A better way would be for parents and teachers to integrate mathematical concepts into everyday life. This could include asking a student to divide resources between a group of classmates for a project, or it could include attaching creative games to other activities and subjects so that there is some awareness of the importance of math outside of testing. Additionally, establishing an environment that reminds children about mathematical concepts is helpful. This might mean hanging math posters around a room, or making games available that will help a child to practice the skills that have already been taught.

Move Beyond Procedural Understanding

Some students are able to move through many years of school with just a procedural understanding of mathematics. This means that the operations that are necessary are memorized, but they are not understood. It is important to teach children exactly how and why certain operations work. Rote memorization of division and multiplication will not help when more advance algebraic concepts are taught in high school. There are teacher resource books available that provide the tools needed to explain how division or fractions actually work.

How Soon Can a Child Learn Math? Part II

As was noted in the previous article, age requirement for beginning mathematics with your child will be depended upon a few things: 1) your readiness to come up with creative ways to teach and command attention and; 2) your willingness to exercise patience and a loving attitude. Early childhood learning, whether its mathematics or reading, works best when abilities are allowed to unfold naturally and isn’t hampered by the pressure of expectations one way or the other.

Below are practical tips for preparing your child’s mind for basic mathematics. These exercises can work well with preschoolers as early as three. However, a child a little younger can also be instructed if the child demonstrates proficiency with the 1 – 10 counting sequence and exhibits an eagerness as well as a quickness for learning. It is essential to utilize good teaching practices particularly for children this age for optimal success.

Institute a routine to impress upon the child that these sessions will indeed become a part of his/her day. All in all, let your intention be to make this an exciting time to begin your child on a productive journey of learning experiences.

Tips for early preparation conducive for creating junior mathematicians:

o Build upon toddler activities of counting using fingers 1-10 by purchasing computer programs, DVDs, workbooks for toddlers – ages 2.5 through 4.

o Using other objects in your environment to count: apples, oranges, toys, etc. During car trips, count the number of a particular color of cars. Count the number of seconds between green and red lights. Do this throughout the day so that it becomes a habit! If the child is not receptive, (ill or temperamental) do not attempt to engage him/her. Remember to associate learning with the good feelings of fun and enthusiasm.

o After they have mastered counting 1 – 10 and are able to do it with ease, make a first attempt at teaching basic addition.

o Introduce basic addition as a new game! Grab a total of 4 oranges (or apples, etc.). Initially keep the sums to numbers under 5.

o Start with one orange. Place it in front of the child and ask him/her how many oranges he/she sees. Confirm pleasantly that it is ONE orange.

o Now grab another orange and state clearly that you will now add another orange. Place it a little apart from the first orange and then ask how many oranges are there? If the answer is TWO oranges – state that he/she is correct and reward with praise. Be sure to give hugs and kisses.

o Here is the important part of the exercise. Slowly enunciate how 1 orange PLUS 1 more orange equals 2 oranges! Get them to comprehend the concept – slowly, calmly and patiently. Never add a negative tone. If you do, the exercise becomes heavy and undesirable; possibly sabotaging a constructive attitude needed for future proficiency in math.

o Add additional oranges (or other fun objects) as learning capacity expands, gradually moving up to sums equal to five.

When complete mastery of basic addition has occurred now would be a good time to introduce workbooks (and other instructional tools) featuring basic addition. Once the child gives cues that he/she is ready to move on, subtraction beginning with differences under 5, could be a next step.

Just a few more suggestions, if the child has a hard time understanding the concept behind the word PLUS use a substitute like “add ___ more” and so on. The bottom line is to ensure that a basic understanding of addition takes place. Again, keep it fresh and fun by “adding” all kinds of things around the house. Ensure that it becomes a habit by doing it daily! Stop before the child tires of the “game” simply because it creates eagerness.

Research a good kindergarten curriculum to determine which concept to tackle next and don’t hinder with superficial (i.e. age-appropriate curriculums) limits, especially if he/she is content and capable of learning it.

Bear in mind that with early childhood education, especially mathematics – consistency and progression is key!