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. It can cause math anxiety, which sadly is contagious. Help your child improve his attitude toward math by showing him that you are confident when completing routine tasks like counting money from a school fundraiser, estimating the cost of a purchase, 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. These small switches in how you talk about math can make a difference and even get your child excited about math.
Help your child use math every day
Encourage your child to solve problems involving math outside of school. In the grocery store, ask him 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. (Here’s what your child should be learning in math in kindergarten, 1st grade, 2nd grade, 3rd grade, 4th grade, 5th grade, 6th grade, 7th grade, and 8th grade. You can also see grade-level math skills in action by watching our Milestones videos.) If you know what your child should be learning, it’s 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 she 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, Set, Monopoly, Yahtzee, and backgammon.
Read books that incorporate math
More and more schools are starting to integrate diverse subject areas into 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. Yet we often leave learning math skills to 45 minutes a day in the classroom. Like everything else, your child’s skills, confidence, and excitement about math will improve with daily practice, support, and encouragement.