By GreatSchools Staff
Helping your child become a mathematical thinker is an important way to support your child's classroom learning.
Children typically forget some of what they learned during the school year if they don't engage in learning activities over the summer. This is particularly true in math. A study by researchers at the University of Missouri shows that on average, students lost about 2.6 months of math learning over the summer.
That means classroom teachers spend weeks reviewing math facts and concepts in the first few weeks of school.
Third-grade teacher Linda Eisinger, a GreatSchools consultant and the 2005 Missouri Teacher of the Year, asks her students to take the flashcards they have made home for the summer.
"Math is so sequential," she said. "We tell parents that children just cannot forget everything we teach them during the year."
She also suggests a math twist for a license plate game families can play in the car. Ask your children to add up the numbers in the license plates of passing cars. You can assign a value to the letters, for example, every letter equals 5. Older children can multiply the numbers.
"Children love ideas like this that are kind of quirky," she said. "They seem more fun, not like work."
1. Note numbers.
Increase your child's awareness of numbers by looking around the house to find examples: the kitchen clock, the calendar, a cereal box, a TV dial, a stamp or inside her shoe. Have her write down the numbers she sees, or give her a number and ask her to look around the house for examples of the number. Boost your older child's awareness of how numbers are used by pointing out the movie times, weather forecasts and sports statistics in your daily newspaper.
2. Two, four, six, eight, now it's time to estimate.
Estimation is one way to increase a child's number sense. Before you put a stack of folded towels on a shelf or fill a bowl with peaches, ask your child to estimate how many will fit. Then count afterward to compare the actual number to the estimate. Helping your child learn to make appropriate predictions will help her see how numbers are used in everyday life. Learning to ask, "Is my answer reasonable?" will help her as she tackles math problems in the classroom.
3. What does a hundred look like?
Understanding the concept of 100 is difficult for young children, even if they can count that far. Suggest that your child start making collections of 100 things - rubber bands, watermelon seeds, pebbles or buttons. You can divide the objects in groups of 10 or 2 or 5 to see how these smaller groups add up to 100 in different ways. Glue the objects onto a piece of colored construction paper for a math collage. Seeing 100 will help her conceptualize it.
4. Unlock the code.
Help your child recognize numbers and think critically by appealing to his love of mystery. Write out all the letters in the alphabet on a sheet of paper, leaving room underneath each letter for a number. Under each letter, write the numbers from 1 to 26. In other words, a=1, b=2, etc. Practice writing coded messages using numbers rather than letters. You can use the code to leave simple messages from one another.
5. How tall are you?
Many families record the height of their child on a door or wall chart. If you do the same for everyone in the family, your child can join in the measuring and see how the heights compare. Measurement and understanding relationships between numbers are crucial to the development of mathematical thinking.
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