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Seven secrets to get your child excited about math

When you balance your checkbook, buy shoes, measure distance or check the time, you're using math. Use these tips to help get your child excited about math.

By GreatSchools Staff

Be an example

Many adults say they hated math in school, according to national polls. If you are one of them, be careful that you don't communicate that attitude to your child. Help him improve his attitude toward math by showing him that you are confident when completing routine tasks like counting money from a school fund-raiser, balancing your checkbook or completing your tax return. You can also point out the importance of math in different professions including architecture, medicine, fashion design, restaurant management and computer programming.

Help your child use math every day

Encourage your child to solve problems involving math outside of school. In the grocery store, ask her to figure out the price of four cans of tuna fish. In the car, ask her how long it will take to travel to your destination based on your speed. In the toy store, ask her to calculate the price of a discounted toy and how long it will take to save up her allowance to buy it.

Familiarize yourself with learning standards

It's important to know what math skills your child should learn in his current grade. You can access the learning standards for your child's grade on the Web site for your state department of education or ask your child's teacher to outline them for you. If you know what your child will be learning, it will be easier to complement those skills with activities at home.

Monitor your child's math homework

Do your child's math assignments only call for rote work or does the teacher include a creative "problem of the week" that tests students' understanding of mathematical concepts? Ask your child's teacher which techniques he uses to help students become more comfortable with math.

Pay attention to details

You can help your child with math homework by making sure she shows all her work when solving equations and checks for correct calculations and answers. It's a good idea to limit distractions and set aside the same time every day for homework.

Play math games at home

There are many games your child can play that involve math. Beginning in the elementary years, students can learn to enjoy math by playing games such as chess, dominoes, cribbage, checkers, Yahtzee and backgammon.

Read books that incorporate math

More and more schools are starting to integrate diverse subject areas in the curriculum so that students can make clearer connections. But how do you include math in a history or English class? One way is to read books in which the main characters solve a problem using math or logic. Examples include One Hundred Angry Ants by Ellinor J. Pinczes, The King's Commissioners by Aileen Friedman and Socrates and the Three Little Pigs by Tuyosi Mori.

The bottom line

We naturally encourage our children to read, write and speak outside of school, but often leave learning math skills to 45 minutes a day in the classroom. Like everything else, your child's skills and confidence in working with mathematical concepts will improve with daily practice, support and encouragement.


Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

03/21/2012:
"This has been helping my kid so much now she loves math. "
10/26/2011:
"Hello, Learning strategies are not designed to be clever or anecdotal. They are primarily based on synthesis, and go beyond the person's response to society. Genuine mathematical paths help in assessing the composite element of most inquiries. "
11/29/2010:
"Why do teachers have to yell?..Is this something that they think will solve the problem of students not turning in homework, I have a great problem with teachers that are always shouting and yelling!!!"
12/5/2008:
"I don't have a problem with homework, but when a math teacher gets upset with a few children in her class room and takes it out on the rest of the class by giving them 200 math problem in one night along with all the other homework that's when I have a big problem with her!!!!!!"
10/13/2008:
"'Do teachers have 'mandatory classes' that educate them about how to 'handle the frustration' that a child with A.D.H.D. feels when they 'can't get' the principles of certain subjects? For example: My 10 year old daughter struggles with math, but is unwilling to tell her teacher in fear of #1: the teacher telling her in a short tone that-'You can figure it out!', or the fear of being made fun of by her peers: being called 'stupid', etc. What should I do about a teacher that OUTWARDLY shows 'her low tolerance level' for students with A.D.H.D.? This is NOT the 1st. one either!! Mom Agonizing in Auburn, Wa.!!"
09/16/2008:
"Great ideas and information, please keep sharing those with all parents !!! Thank you"
02/26/2008:
"I need help I have a fifth grader who needs help with math and also I am trying to find some sample test for EOC for fifth grade"
02/15/2008:
"this was a great article to read! thanks."
02/7/2008:
"This is a wonderful article. I am a teacher and I truly agree 100% with these wonderful motivational and educational article!"
10/22/2007:
"'The article really helps and will ensure students are motivated to learn Math and remove mathsophobia. '"
10/19/2007:
"Thank you for such great tips. These are really helpful and in our very busy schedules we tend to overlook a lot of these little practices that can help our children in their classroom and better score! "
09/20/2007:
"I didn't realize just how much my son was being taught in his classroom, until reading your article. I have been so concerned with the fact that not much homework was being sent home, and not realizing how important the work was that he was bringing home. From reading this article, I can see the different tools my sons first grade teacher has been teaching him, in a fun way! Thank you."
04/16/2007:
"This is an excellent article. It should be mandatory in every school system to teach more math in every grade level. I have always told my son, his wife and my grand childrend that math is the most important subject a child can take because it teaches you how to think process thoughts and subjects. Keep up the good work. James C. Broome P.S. I am retired and spend a lot of time doing all kinds of research on the internet. The SC school websites are a great tool. I am going to try to get our schools interested in providing something like this. Thank you. James C. Broome from Arkansas"
04/9/2007:
"I love your website!!!!! I try to remember to do some of the things you list and instill high standards for my daughter but some times in the day to day scheme of life, I forget, or put it off. Your website is a GREAT REMINDER!!!! Thank You!"
11/3/2006:
"great article. good to have such support and know if you are on the right or wrong track. My daughter had a very hard time w/math just because she did not know her times table. I encourage all parents to have child write table 3-4 times daily for a month. This repetition improved her math understandin triple fold!"
10/10/2006:
"Great article for both of my children, one in Third Grade the other in First. I'm interested in tutorial resources that can add to the success of my children, especially when it comes down to math. Thanks again. Gary Schoenfeld San Diego Parent"
09/26/2006:
"Thank you for this great resource. I am a parent who as a child loved math. Then the experiences around math shifted my love to dread. Until I met my geometry teacher Nancy Maslack, who is now the head of schools for at Darrow School, I had no belief that I could be good in math at all. Her joy and practical approach gave me courage to engage, practice and enjoy math from that day on. My first grader is more interested in the non-math subjects, but your newsletter provides great stuff for getting him excited about math early so that he is not lack confidence later on. Thank you, Sadie Burton-Goss DJ's Mom Boston, MA"
09/19/2006:
"I liked the part,make your child excited about math.I also keep him excited when we go to a store.He takes his cash with him and then decides if he can buy that toy.Does he have enough money.Thanks for more ideas."
09/28/2005:
"I used to LOVE the game of Yahtzee, but haven't really played it lately. What a great idea to help my child improve and practice math skills! Plus, it's time spent together, also. Great tip--thanks!"
06/23/2003:
"This article was very inspiring. I am looking for ways to keep my son's math skills up during the summer vacation and the additional resources were very helpful. Thanks "
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