By Allison Zaleski
“Why do we have to learn this?” is a common lament when you try to get kids to focus on math lessons. Dreading a math class is almost a rite of passage for many young learners. Helping children connect with math, understand it is important, and, even, enjoy learning it can give them more confidence and open doors.
Math is often seen as a stand-alone subject that doesn’t have much to do with other subjects. However, math is all around us. Helping a child connect math lessons with other lessons in art, literature, science, and more can create memorable and fascinating experiences.
Math can be found in nearly every school subject: Measures in music, the geometry in art, poetic stanzas and sentence structure, fractions, measurements, and calculations in chemistry, and even measuring distance in geography. Creating these cross-disciplinary connections makes math less intimidating and more relevant. Helping children appreciate the universality of math helps them unlock many things about how the world works.
Get kids excited about math with these resources that will make math fun again!
It is important to emphasize how math connects to daily life. “Talk with your child about people with cool careers—astronauts, video game programmers, scientists, and race-car drivers—who use math formulas every day,” as Jeannette Moninger of Parent’s Magazine recommends. This will tie in real-world connections and classroom subjects that naturally fascinate children and spark their imagination.
There are many other ways to make math feel more accessible for kids – and even fun!
Perhaps one of the most intimidating moments in learning math is the mistake-making process. However, as José Vilson of Edutopia writes, “Once we [as parents and teachers] allow more mistakes, we let students into the process that our earliest mathematicians used in developing the axioms we believe today.” Teaching a child that some of the most brilliant mathematicians—from Pythagoras to da Vinci—made mistakes all along the way gives students perspective and encouragement in their continuing studies.
Vilson advocates for using mistakes as learning moments in and of themselves, noting that, “When students struggle with the material, they learn how to work problems out as their own self-motivated teachers.” This process provides a sense of ownership for students, as they conquer the equations that once gave them trouble.
This system also allows students the opportunity to get a bit creative in the problem-solving process, showcasing the multi-faceted and multi-level aspects of the world of mathematics, and allowing them to explore how math impacts their critical thinking skills.
Daily Math Fun
Jeannette Moninger advocates the use of “fun and games” in developing math skills with your child. She emphasizes that in the home, math should be seen as something fun, positive, and useful—not a chore that must be slogged through. Rather than doing “drills” and “exercises” with your child, try to incorporate math lessons into their daily lives. Moninger notes that “kids naturally love counting, sorting, doing puzzles, and discovering patterns,” and these activities can incorporate math throughout the day.
Some of her suggestions include applying math to money problems, such as encouraging your child to help you calculate tips at restaurants, add up grocery prices while you go shopping together, or even setting up a mock “store” at home and having them calculate the change. Interacting with money not only creates a real-life example of every day math, but provides rewards to you child through the process. Additionally, Moninger recommends cooking with your child as a way to include measurements and fractions in their learning.
Making math a daily part of your family routine can make a big impact on young learners, breaking down the barriers that can make math intimidating and separate from daily life.
Books with fun math challenges can be a great way to add math to family time. One popular title, 65 Short Mysteries You Solve with Math contains dozens of entertaining math challenges through short story problems. Written by Eric Yoder and his daughter, Natalie, the five-book One Minute Mysteries series includes fun games to learn math and science at home. Solving each mystery in the math book requires readers to make use of their math knowledge, such as using fractions to modify a recipe or calculating average scores. These engaging stories of diverse kids using math to solve real problems helps math become relatable and solvable!
Math Before Bed
Many parents make a point of reading to their children at bedtime. Math at bedtime can be another fun—and educational—routine. Alexander Cho of Science Magazine explains, “If a child’s parents replace a bedtime story with math discussion even one night a week, the child’s math skills may improve markedly.”
The simple substitution can make a larger impact that one might realize, as, according to one study, “over the course of a nine-month school year, students who do bedtime math gain, on average, the equivalent of a three-month advantage over their peers.” This advantage can prove especially useful in building the confidence of young learners and helping them feel more comfortable with the subject.
Where can you find quality, appropriate activities for evening math? Go to www.BedtimeMath.org or download the Bedtime Math app. This free site aims to make math part of every family’s nightly routine. Your kids will have fun, they’ll start seeing math everywhere, and they’ll clamor for more.
Math certainly doesn’t have to be a chore. Showing your children that math exists all around us helps to ground the concepts in their minds, and helps them count on fun!
for Calculating Families
Great Math Books:
- One Minute Mysteries: 65 Short Mysteries You Solve with Math!
- 101 Things Everyone Should Know about Math
- How Many Guinea Pigs Can Fit on a Plane? Answers to Your Most Clever Math Questions
- Math Hysteria: Fun and Games with Mathematics
And check out the Mathical List—Books that inspire a love of mathematics in the everyday world for tots to teens. Visit MathicalBooks.org.
Fun Math Websites:
Geralt – Pixabay
Erin Costa – Flickr
Laterjay – Pixabay
Allison Zaleski has a deep passion for lifelong learning and integrated subject matter. She is currently pursuing her Literary Studies degree at Roanoke College in Salem, VA. She hopes to pursue a career in the publishing field. She can be reached at [email protected]