Who hasn’t muttered about math at least once? But, for the sake of your children, flip those feelings around. Why? Because a positive attitude toward math goes so much further than you think. When parents say positive things about math, kids feel more capable and confident — and they tend to succeed at higher rates. Here are TK ways to sneak math (and your positive attitude toward math) into your child’s day.

  1. Ask why

    Kids love to ask Why? Now, you can turn it back on them! Ask your child to explain her reasoning about everyday things: Why did you make that move (in a game)? Why did you build the Lego tower that way? Why is that the right amount of change? This will help get your child in the habit of explaining her thought process.

  2. Give a wrong answer

    Create a sample problem based on your child’s homework — but provide an incorrect answer! Have your child explain why your answer is wrong.

  3. Cook together

    Have your child measure the ingredients. Ask your child about the measuring tools: Why is a teaspoon sometimes a better choice than a measuring cup? If the directions call for 1 cup of water, have him use the 13 measuring cup. After he puts in three 13 cups of water, have him explain why it equals a whole cup.

  4. Oh, yeah?

    Make a silly statement and then ask your child to critique it. For example, say, A square is always bigger than a triangle because it has more sides. Do you think that’s right? Show me an example of why that’s wrong.

  5. Practice those times tables!

    If you practice together, it really can be fun. Focus on 1-10, but feel free to go a little higher if your child can handle it. When your child has trouble solving one, ask What answer would be reasonable? Listen to your child’s reasoning — and share your own. For example, if 4 times 6 is hard, think about 4 times 5 — what is that? Would 4 times 6 be more or less? Why?

  6. MultiPLAY!

    Pick a number target, like the number 24. Ask your child what pairs of numbers can be multiplied to equal 24 (3 x 8, 6 x 4, 2 x 12, and 1 x 24). If this is tough for your child, use beans or coins to build models placed in columns and rows (like 3 rows of 8 pennies). Take turns picking the target number and trying to stump each other with numbers that have many factor pairs.

  7. Cut it up

    During meals, ask your child to cut something (e.g., a waffle) into two, three, or four equal pieces. It’ll help him understand that fractions are equal parts of a whole.

  8. How many, how much?

    At the store, ask your child how much it’ll cost to buy six boxes of cereal if each one costs $3. Or ask how many loaves of bread you can buy with $16 if each loaf costs $4.

  9. Measure it!

    Get out the measuring tape, and ask your child to find the area of things around the house: the TV screen, a table, the floor. Whose bed has a larger area — yours or hers?

  10. Draw like Picasso!

    Help your child learn to recognize shape attributes by drawing. Challenge your child to draw abstract portraits of family members using only shapes.

  11. How tall are you?

    Hand your child a tape measure and have her figure out everyone in the family’s height down to the 14 inch. Then, have her plot the numbers on a number line and see how everyone’s heights compare.

  12. Sports stats!

    If your child is into sports, look at a website together for some great data analysis and modeling. The practice you’re looking for here is with the four operations. For example, How many more points did this team score than that team? For now, steer clear of anything involving averages or decimals — save that for fifth grade.

  13. Reading chart

    If reading is your child’s favorite thing, help her make a table that shows how many pages she reads each day. Analyze the data together. On which day does your child read the most? Can she estimate how many pages she’ll read in the next week?

  14. Problem solving

    When your child encounters a problem — in homework or in real life — resist the urge to jump in and solve it for him. Instead, ask him What do think you should try first? Working through challenges on his own is one way he’ll boost his problem-solving skills.

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