Starting school can bring on a range of emotions. While some children may experience happiness, excitement, and joy about the prospect of a new year, others may feel fearful and anxious – especially kids who generally do not perform well at school, and particularly those who struggle with math.
What can parents do to ease their child’s concerns?
Five Tips to Help Get Your Child Thinking About Math:
- Back to School Shopping: Give your child a budget and list for back to school necessities. This will give your child a chance to practice financial literacy skills while getting stuff he or she needs for the school year. Calculators optional!
- Play Card Games: Depending on your child’s age, there are a variety of card games that will engage your kids in counting, matching, sorting, ordering, and computational strategies - skills they will need to show their math knowledge in school. Whether it’s Crazy 8’s, Go Fish, or Gin Rummy, teach your child a new card game, or ask your child to teach you one. Just remember to let your child win once in a while.
- Talk About the Math All Around You: Make your child aware of how much math there is in everyday life. Talk about the math you use in your job. (e.g. “I have to figure out how much this project will cost, how many people I need, how many hours it will take …”) Talk about the things you do at home that require math (e.g. measurements in cooking, household budget) Take your kids grocery shopping with you and ask them to spot the “better deal”. I was so proud when my daughter discovered that a three-pack of peppers was $3.97 but the same peppers were being sold singly for $1.00 each. She wondered why anyone would buy the three-pack? Maybe because not everyone bothers to do the math.
- Let Your Kids Help: Use your child’s interest in helping you to help them engage with math. While cooking, get your child to measure ingredients. While recycling, ask your child to sort items. While driving, get your child to count objects – how many red cars, how many stop signs? If you are assembling something at home like a bookshelf or a piece of furniture, get your child to read the instructions and help out at each step e.g. sort the pieces.
- Encourage Your Child to Estimate: One of the most important math skills your child will need to develop is the ability to estimate, and it is easy for you to help your child practice this skill. Start by asking lots of estimating questions like: “How much longer until we arrive at …?”, “How big is our sofa?”, “How many cars are in that parking lot?” These kinds of questions will strengthen your child’s estimating skills and also really increase his or her chances of winning the next “how many jellybeans in the jar” contest!