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3 Simple Tips to Help Your Child Get Good at Mathematics
Most young children, and many not so young, struggle with math in school. And most parents don’t know how to help them. I learned mathematics from an early age at school and studied mathematics at university. My career was based on math and math statistics. So I want to share with you my experiences helping my three daughters do well in math at school today. And it’s easy if you know a few secrets about how the brain works to solve number problems. It’s a simple matter of training your brain to think by numbers.
Mathematics is a very logical subject. If the basics are understood early on, the more complicated math that comes up later in school will be easier to understand. So I’m going to focus on the basics and show you how to help your kids develop some early problem-solving skills. And it’s never too early to start introducing these skills to your children. Of course, a good foundation in mathematics will stand the student in very good stead later in life.
First tip: Start with the basics from the beginning
The basic foundations of a good foundation in mathematics are the famous four; addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. In order for a child’s brain to begin to understand the basics and make them second nature, it is important to start early and get them to repeat the multiplication tables they will be given in school over and over again. Work with your child to learn the tables by heart. Help them with their math homework every night. Give them little math problems at every opportunity. For example, when you go shopping, ask your child to add the prices of two items. First let them do it in their head, then let them check with a calculator or cell phone. The rest can be practiced in the kitchen by asking simple questions like:
If we have 24 knives and 24 forks and there are only 16 knives and forks in the drawer, how many are in the dishwasher?
When you take your kids out for lunch or a smoothie, let them pay and give you the change. Ask them to check the bill and make sure the change is the correct amount.
Tip Two: Make troubleshooting fun
I used to use every mealtime to come up with problems for my daughters to solve that involved them thinking and using math. And often the youngest of the three got the answers first. For example:
Suppose 4 people board a bus at the first stop and another 5 at the second. Then at the third stop 5 more people get on and 3 get off. How many shoes are on the bus on people’s feet? The answer is 24, because you have to count the bus driver .
He used to have a few tricks in the problems he posed to make the girls think before they answered and they found it very funny. So make problem-solving fun and use mealtime, when the family is together, to come up with a few questions for the kids to think about. Of course, you will need to know the correct answers.
I also found that teaching my daughters about money and saving and having them set savings goals helped them with their number problem solving skills.
Tip Three: For older children, use number puzzles to encourage the development of their mathematical minds
Most newspapers include in their puzzle pages both Sudoku and Kenken that require the use of numbers. The first requires you to fill in the blanks in a 9 by 9 square, without repeating any number in any row, column, or 3 by 3 square. Singles are great training for kids, and the books are available at newsstands full of number puzzles. KenKen is a fairly new number puzzle, it uses the four basics I mentioned in the first tip and also requires you to fill in the missing numbers. Encourage your children to do these puzzles and reward them for completing them. Even photocopy them and run a timed race to see who can finish first. Children especially like competition.
There are also handheld computer games like those marketed by Nintendo that help train the brain to think through math problems. And even the well-known Monopoly game will help children with their number skills.
We didn’t have these computer games when my daughters were younger, although we played a lot of Monopoly, so I would make paper number puzzles for them to solve.
There are so many opportunities in everyday life to ask your children to think in a problem-solving way, and the more variety you provide, the better.
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