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Math tips for every grade

Too many kids get math-phobic as they get older. Here's how to keep your child passionate about math from kindergarten through high school.

By Connie Matthiessen

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First grade: Shape sensations

In first grade, your child will hone her "number sense" — her understanding that numbers represent quantity and that we use numbers to calculate "how many" — whether she's counting how many cookies are left in the cookie jar or how many kids she wants to invite to her birthday party. Other first grade math skills include: mastering addition and subtraction up to 20, understanding place values of 1's and 10's, and developing a more sophisticated grasp of geometric shapes.

Do this: Make play dough with your child (there are easy recipes online). Have your child measure out the ingredients and point out the difference between a teaspoon and a tablespoon, a half cup and a cup. When the play dough is ready, help your child cut it into basic geometric shapes: squares, triangles, rectangles, and circles. Have your child identify the different shapes and ask questions about what makes them different: How many sides does a triangle have? How do you know that's a square, not a rectangle? How is a circle different from the other shapes? Then let her squish all the shapes together into a blob and make her own creations. (For a delicious variation, make shapes out of cookie dough, instead).