As any educator will tell you, not all learning takes place inside the four walls of a classroom. In fact, many of the best lessons you can teach your child take place at home, even when it comes to “hard” subjects such as mathematics. All you have to do is look for the teachable moments in your child’s day-to-day life that make it easier for you to work in math concepts that will reinforce what your child is already learning. Once you learn a couple of these yourself, you will see that math is really all around you and that the opportunities to use everyday activities to teach math will help inspire both your child and yourself.
- Play a game—Math isn’t something that you have to take ultra-seriously, especially at an early age. One of the best learning experiences that can help teach math to young children is with games. Board games require children to roll dice and count out steps on a board. This is all about basic number and counting skills. Even games as simple as Candyland and Chutes and Ladders can be used to teach these skills. For more advanced children, Monopoly is a great way to teach money skills as players have to add and subtract money from their accounts. Steer clear of the newer automated/computerized versions that do the counting for you as these keep children from learning these skills. Also, for advanced students, consider games such as Clue or Chess. Although you may not see the mathematical skills inherent in the game, they teach logical thinking which will go a long way in all fields of study.
- Use math songs and stories—Many children’s stories also teach basic number theories with popular choices being “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” or “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” Another avenue would be to sing counting songs such as “Ten Little Monkeys Jumping On the Bed” or “The Twelve Days of Christmas” which help children learn their numbers in a fun way.
- Cook up some math—The kitchen is a great place to learn math as it provides a place to learn about time duration, temperature settings, and measurements. Once your child is used to helping you in the kitchen, get them to help you adjust recipes by calculating how to adjust a recipe that serves for if you need it to feed two or eight. This is a great way to teach children about calculations and proportions and it serves to help get them involved in learning a practical skill that will benefit them throughout their lifetime.
- Teach money management—One of the best ways to make a child feel like a “big kid” is to give them a sense of having their own money. Pay them an allowance for their chores, but then let them spend this money when they go to the store. Have them tell you how much an item costs, if they have enough to pay for it, and how much change they should expect back. These simple calculations, along with the idea of learning to do math in your head, will be invaluable to them in the future and it gives them a sense of being grown-up.
If you want your child to succeed early on in math, these are some of the best ways to give them “teachable moments” that they will love. These moments will slip math past them so that they are learning without realizing it and will show them that math is really something that they use every single day.