MathNook

A blog about MathNook, math, math games, and more.
Browsing Math

How To Use Teaching Moments Your Children Will Love

November26

Math Games

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.

IMAGE CREDIT: Image courtesy of Flickr.

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5 Factors that Could Affect Your Child’s Math Skills

November19

Five FactorsContrary to popular opinion, no one is born a math genius.  Although some people definitely seem to have a predilection for math and science or for humanities, it is something that has to be cultivated and developed.  If your child is doing well at math, then chances are there were factors that led to this.  And if you are looking to have an impact on your child’s abilities, then it is probably a great starting point to take an objective look at these five factors.

  • Being “Math Positive”— One of the biggest factors in a child’s math success is his or her parent’s attitude toward math.  Parents should do everything that they can to be as positive about mathematics as they can.  Too often, parents who struggled with math will make comments putting the subject down or implying that it is “too hard” which has a negative impact on the child.   Instead, be positive when talking about math and encourage your child as much as possible.
  • Finding Math Alternatives— One of the greatest ways to promote math in your child’s life is to find alternative ways to work math into his or her life.  Let them play math related video games that can promote math skills in a new and exciting way.  Let them into the kitchen where basic math skills such as measurements are reinforced in a real world setting.  Play board games that can help to teach basic skills such as counting and numbers.  These are all alternatives to the old tried-and-true method of learning math with paper and pencil.
  • Modeling Math Skills— Another way that parents can help to promote math skills is by modeling it in your daily life.  Let your child see you working on math in the real world with things like balancing a checking account or doing your taxes.  It doesn’t have to be something incredibly complicated, but it can show them that you use math as well.  Also, show them your interest in math by working problems with them.  Follow along with the curriculum and refresh your own math skills along with your child.
  • Having Open Dialogue With Teachers—Unfortunately, many parents only contact a teacher when there is a problem.  But the best way to help your child is to be proactive and let them know you care.  These conferences can give you expert advice on how to help your child specifically, what areas to target with him or her, and how you can be a positive influence in your child’s mathematics education.
  • Remembering Language Skills— In all of the rush to emphasize math skills, it is important to not lose sight of language skills or to think of them as mutually exclusive.  Many students can work out complex math equations, but can’t solve the simplest word problem because their language skills are lacking.  That is why it is important to keep your child’s language and vocabulary skills up by reading with him or her and encouraging this activity as much as possible.

Cultivating math skills is something that takes time and dedication.  That is why parents should be ready to do what they can to help their children in this endeavor.  With the new emphasis on math and technology-based jobs, it will definitely pay off for them in the future.

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No Such Thing as Bad at Math?

October20

Anyone who has been involved in mathematics education will tell you that there are tons of excuses out there as to why students don’t succeed in math class (and conversely, why parents aren’t comfortable helping their children with math homework).  But perhaps one of the most depressing labels is that a child is just “bad at math.”  This label, unfortunately, gets tossed around quite a bit (and labeled at girls an inordinate amount of time more than boys).  Many see the mathematics bug as some kind of genetic lottery, where someone is born lucky or unlucky at numbers.  But, as usual, the truth is much more complicated.Challenging Math

Ability in mathematics isn’t some inherent talent.  It is actually a skill that is cultivated through hard work and dedication.  Unfortunately, in the United States, many people use the “bad-at-math” label as a crutch to simply excuse the need for more work.  In fact, the opposite is true.  Those who need help in bringing their mathematics skills up to par need more math classes, not less.  Math is one of the courses that require drill and practice for a person to “get the hang of it.”  That is why more work and practice is needed for these students.  A child cannot master a concept after only a few practice problems.  The more computations and problems they perform, the more likely they are to master the skill.

One of the far-reaching consequences of this attitude can be found in the high-stakes competition of the contemporary job market.  Other countries have taken the opposite attitude of American students.  They realize that they must push themselves harder in order to succeed, particularly in jobs such as science, math and engineering.  These are the peers that our students will have to compete with for these jobs and these are the reasons why our students routinely score lower than other countries in these areas.

So how should parents help to break the “bad-at-math” label?  One key way is to encourage your child to do more work in math.  Many parents encourage just the bare minimum when it comes to homework, when more practice, particularly with the challenging problems, can actually aid a student in developing cognitive ability.  Another way to help your child is with online free fun math games.  These video games with a mathematics design puts your child in a fun learning environment that can help them get extra practice every day without feeling as if they are being overloaded with work.  If your child is in high school, you should also encourage him or her to take as many math classes as possible.  Advanced math courses help keep your mind sharp and they show colleges that your child is willing to go the extra mile with an academic challenge as well.

As you can see, it is important to move beyond the stereotype of math as being something you are inherently born with the ability to know.  Instead, it is a difficult, but worthwhile, subject that requires a great deal of patience and practice.  By taking time to explain this and show the benefits of learning math, parents can help their children succeed in the future.

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Online Math Help for Those Who Need Tutoring

October13

Math website

What is a working mom or a busy parent to do when they either don’t have time or don’t understand math well enough themselves to help their child?  These days, money can be really tight, so paying a tutor may not be an option for financial reasons.  Also, taking your child to a tutoring center or getting a tutor to come to your home may not be the most convenient fit for you and your child’s busy schedule.  That’s why there are a few online sites that should be considered.  These give your child the chance to receive top-quality tutoring and support while also working within the time constraints of your schedule.  And the best news is that all of these are free!

  • Khan Academy (www.khanacademy.org) -The Khan Academy has truly revolutionized the way math is taught in schools.  The old system of students learning concepts at school and going home to practice has shifted as students now go home and watch well-crafted videos put out by the Khan Academy which demonstrates even the most complicated mathematical concepts such as Calculus.  Then, the student goes back to class the next day and practices the material with the aid of a teacher who can provide individual assistance if the child becomes stuck on a problem.  But even if your child’s school isn’t using this tool, you can take advantage of it as the Khan Academy’s instructional videos are available online for free.help their child?  These days, money can be really tight, so paying a tutor may not be an option for financial reasons.  Also, taking your child to a tutoring center or getting a tutor to come to your home may not be the most convenient fit for you and your child’s busy schedule.  That’s why there are a few online sites that should be considered.  These give your child the chance to receive top-quality tutoring and support while also working within the time constraints of your schedule.  And the best news is that all of these are free!
  • MathNook (www.mathnook.com) – If you are looking for a great way to make math fun, then look no further than MathNook.  This website features cool video games which help to make education exciting again.  It doesn’t matter if you are good at math yourself and you don’t have to pay for any expensive memberships.  MathNook lets your child work at his or her own pace playing the games which review math concepts and it is all for free.  New games are added regularly and skills range from early math like counting and basic addition and subtraction to more complicated ideas such as geometry and algebra.
  • Webmath (www.webmath.com) – Webmath, in conjunction with Discovery Education, is a great website for tutoring as it has multiple tabs that you can select for help including “General Math” all the way up to “Trigonometry and Calculus.”  Once he or she selects a tab, your child can then few a series of sub-topics and allow your child to enter a problem for a detailed explanation.  This is a great way to get help on a challenging homework assignment when you feel uncomfortable with the material and can’t provide the assistance you wish that you could.

These three sites are among the best the web has to offer when it comes to providing tutoring opportunities for your child.  Math is a key concept for success in the twenty-first century and your misgivings about your own math ability should not hold you back from making sure that your child gets a top-notch math education.  That’s where the Internet can make all the difference.

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Should You Be Concerned About Learning Disabilities?

September26

Every parent wants his or her child to be successful and they can all see that one key to that success is doing well in school.  That is why many parents panic when they hear or read the phrase “learning disability.”  Although it may seem that the diagnosis of learning disabilities is becoming more and more prevalent, the reality is that the disabilities have always been there, parents and educators are now becoming more aware of what is going on with their children and students and finding these problems early on.  If you suspect that your child has a disability, then the key is to talk with his or her teacher or pediatrician to set up professional testing as soon as possible.  So just what should you look for to determine if your child may have a disability?  Here are a few of the most common warning signs.Learning Disabilities

  • First, a parent should be wary of early childhood developmental milestones.  If your child fails to consistently reach these milestones, then there may be a neurological cause for this that should be investigated.  Such milestones can include standing, walking, talking, or forming more and more complex sentences.  If your child is a little behind, then you shouldn’t panic.  But consistent issues in these areas should be brought to the attention of a professional and investigated.
  • Another issue that parents should consider is risk factors for learning disabilities.  If you or your spouse has a learning disability, then there is a chance that your child may development one as well.  Other risk factors include pre-natal alcohol or drug use or difficulties during the delivery that may have caused a cut off in the air supply to your child.  Finally, another risk factor could be any traumatic brain injury that your child may have suffered since birth.
  • Once your child is enrolled in school, if he or she has difficulties, then you should schedule a conference with the teacher to find the cause of the problem as soon as possible.  If it is a simple fix like failure to do homework, then you can handle this immediately.  If your child is bored in school, you may wish to look at doing what you can at home to spice things up like using online games as a supplement to their daily instruction.  But if your child has a larger issue like not reading on grade level or not understanding what they read, then you may need to have him or her tested for a disability.

A learning disability is not the educational equivalent to the end of the world.  If your child has one, then there are many resources available to help them adapt their learning style in the classroom.  Also, teachers today are more aware of learning disabilities and will put something called a 504 plan into place that can help them with extended testing time or other accommodations.  But, learning to deal with the situation is one of the most important first steps that you and your child need to handle after the initial diagnosis.

 

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This is a blog about Math Nook, math games, math and other fun and educational subjects.
Math Nook is owned by Jan and Tommy Hall.

Jan is retired from education where she spent 30 years in various positions ranging from classroom teacher to math specialist. She now spends her time working on the website and raising MathPup.

Tommy works full time but spends his free time utilizing his math degree and love of games to create some of the math games found on the website.