Math has long been stereotyped to be boring and hard. This can lead to disengagement and lack of interest and can cause your child’s grades to suffer. However, there’s a better way to do this: make math fun. This can get your child excited about math and open them up to a whole world of possibilities. Here are a few of our suggestions.
1. Combine it with things they love
For any parent who’s ever had to sneak some spinach and kale into other meal items to get their child to eat vegetables, this method is just like that. Sometimes your child has to see math within everyday life — or even within their favorite hobbies.
Math for book-lovers
If your child loves books but isn’t so sure about math, combine the two. Use short books where the main characters use math or logic. Some may be used for counting, while others focus on addition and subtraction. Others can be just plain fun and make them think about math in a new way, like the book “Math Curse.”
If your child is happiest outdoors, you can even find math activities in the wild. Some are simple: go on a nature walk and identify shapes. Others can get more complex, from doing flashcard races to problem-solving circuits.
Art and Geometry
If your child enjoys coloring and cutting out shapes, geometry is a natural fit. One game includes having your child draw lines all over a paper, making sure the lines intersect and cross over each other. Then they can color in all the shapes that they see. Have them identify the different types of shapes that might be in there and have them count the sides. Do all kinds of drawing games, and don’t be afraid to start including graphs.
2. Use food
Who doesn’t love food? Whether you’re having your child help you make dinner or just playing with small snacks, there are many ways to use food to teach math. For example, a good way to teach division is to have your child sort berries into bowls or muffin tins. Another division lesson can be taught by cutting pizza (or cake or pie) and learning how to cut the slices as evenly as possible. Plus, with any round objects, such as pizza, you can also teach about circumference, perimeter, and area.
3. Make it a game
Mary Poppins had it right: every job (or, in this case, math) has an element of fun. You find the fun, and SNAP — the job’s a game. Luckily, there are a wide variety of math games out there, so let’s break it down.
Some of the best math games for kids come in electronic form. Electronic games — as in computers, video, cell phones, and tablets — can be useful tools for learning. There are plenty of apps out there for multiple levels, including
Stack the deck in your child’s favor and whip out some cards. Play a game of blackjack — with the gambling element removed, of course. Other games include adding up to 10, using cards for visual fractions, or building the biggest number possible.
Board games can make math a lot more applicable. Yahtzee helps with counting, addition, subtraction, and even multiplication and division. Monopoly shows the application of adding up money and potential spending and losses. (It also might start a few fights, depending on how competitive your family might be.) Other board games include checkers, chess, dominoes, and backgammon.
4. Turn on the visual
You might already notice a pattern here: any time you can make math more visual, the easier it is to learn and the more interesting it becomes.
Watch fun math-related videos
There are many resources out there, and videos can be a fun and easy way to simplify and internalize concepts. We might sound old school for saying this, but Schoolhouse Rock is an excellent resource for math videos. You can find many videos that use music and dynamic animation to make the concepts more interesting.
Create visual aids
Have your child create visual aids for themselves, such as posters. They can create number lines, times tables, shape names, or other types to help them understand. When your child creates something for themselves, they’re teaching themselves the lesson again.
5. Make mistakes
Failure and its grading penalties often turn off many learners. Help your child get used to failure by deliberately making mistakes. When your child makes a mistake with math concepts or homework, be sure to point out what they were learning correctly. Have them show you what they already know so you know how to help them best.
If you’re learning some new math concepts yourself, say things such as, “we’re learning together,” and show your own curiosity. Avoid negative statements such as “I’m bad at math,” even if you’re trying to compliment your own child’s abilities.
While we’ve highlighted a few examples to help your child get excited about math, we hope this has inspired you. Feel free to customize these tactics however you need.
If you need some extra help getting your child excited about math — or would like to take their skills up a notch — Savvy Learning is right here. We offer instructional help for grades 2-5 and hold classes four days a week for 25 minutes each. Take a free assessment today and see if Savvy’s for you.