Children certainly need some rest and relaxation, but summer is a great time to work with your child without the pressure of his or her busy, school-year schedule. Often, parents express a lack of confidence when it comes to their own math skills and in turn, are hesitant to work with their child in this area. These simple tips will help you strengthen your child's math skills now and throughout the school year.
Early Childhood*Make math fun! Sorting, counting, and categorizing toys are all simple and fun ways to expose your child to math at an early age. When playing with blocks, identify and sort different colors and shapes. When coloring, ask your child to pass you different numbers of crayons. Find math in every day activities and show your young child how much fun math can be!
*Keep a calendar. Exposing your child to time concepts by utilizing a calendar will support him throughout his life. Identify the days of the week and teach your child to label yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Mark a special event on the calendar and count down the days as it drawers near. Specify when events are happening in relation to his daily routine. For example, "We will go to Grandma's house after lunch." Keeping a calendar not only exposes your child to time concepts but helps create structure.
Elementary School *Check out your local teacher supply store. There are many pre-made materials that you can use at home, such as board games, flash cards, and other manipulatives. Playing a game such as Multiplication Bingo once a week will help your child maintain her multiplication facts in a unique way. Most of these materials are categorized by age so you will easily match the materials with your child's needs. If you are looking for an inexpensive way to have access to materials teachers use, scan the store for ideas and see if you can make some of these materials at home. Index cards and markers are an inexpensive alternative to store-bought flashcards.
*Give your child an allowance. Managing money is a math skill your child should learn early. He should learn to save money, become familiar with the cost of items, and make decisions about purchases. After making a purchase, he can count the change and make sure he got the correct amount back. Helping your child become comfortable with money is a skill that will last a life time and make a clear impact on his success as an adult.
Middle School *Leave your child a to-do list. Word problems are a source of weakness for many children so having your child attend to written language will sharpen her attention to detail and order of directions. Make your lists fun, and even a little silly, by giving directions like "Make your bed. Jump up and down three times. Put your shoes in the closet." As always, bringing humor into learning will make the experience more enjoyable.
*Review tests and quizzes together. Not all teachers have children correct their errors but you can use this opportunity to look at where the errors occurred and help your child learn from his mistakes. Mistakes, as we all know, are invaluable opportunities for learning.
High School*Host study sessions. Teenagers often crave independence and establishing their own homework routines is one common source of conflict between them and their parents. Inviting your child's classmates over for a study session creates a fun way to ensure your child is getting her homework done. It also provides an opportunity for students to "tutor" each other: if one child is unsure of how to solve a problem, another student can explain it. Provide healthy snacks and a good work space and check in on the work session periodically.
*Put your teen to work! Encourage him or her to get a part-time job. Many jobs, such as working in a grocery sore, retail store, or movie theater, offer real life experience with math skills such as making change, monitoring inventory, and discounting sale items. Children this age often begin to ask "When am I going to use this skill in real life?" Applying these skills from an early age is motivating and reinforces that classroom work can be beneficial outside of the classroom.
Another great way to incorporate math skills for children of any age is to get in the kitchen and start cooking! Reading a recipe, measuring ingredients, and timing the completion of your creation are all math skills in action. Your child will be so proud of her work she won't even realize you just taught a math lesson!
The most important factor for helping your child is to get over your own fear of math. Remember that making mistakes is part of learning and showing your child how to work through a problem is also an essential skill. If you are stuck, consult the textbook, your child's notes, or contact the teacher and ask for help. Teachers will appreciate you asking for help!
Jennifer Cerbasi teaches at a public school for children on the autism spectrum in New Jersey. As a coordinator of Applied Behavioral Analysis programs in the home, she works with parents to create and implement behavioral plans for their children in an environment that fosters both academic and social growth. In addition to her work both in the classroom and at home, she is also a member of the National Association of Special Education Teachers and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.