As parents, we want to help our children succeed. We read with them, play with them, care for them and take them to activities to encourage them to socialize and learn new skills. When it comes to supporting our children’s Math learning, we are often left wondering what to do. Maybe we remember the endless drill and practice of our own Math learning days. YUCK! Is that really the way we want to spend our valuable time with our children? We foster literacy in our children by reading to them as we snuggle together, sharing our favourite childhood stories, helping them write notes or emails to friends and making birthday cards. It is possible to encourage love and understanding of Math in the same way. Take a minute to think about how you use math in your daily life. We all use math every day. Math is everywhere! It is more than just computation. It is shape, space, measuring, logic and analysis. Do you paint, knit, scrapbook? Art uses many strands of Math. Do you build things, cook, shop, garden? All of these activities require Math. Whether you keep a family budget, run a business, design fashion or work in an office, you use Mathematical Thinking every day. Most games require skills that either directly use Math or reinforce skills that aid in Mathematical Thinking. Dice games, strategy games, cards, dominoes and puzzles all help us grow our math minds without creating the stress and boredom of repetitive practice and drills. Just like children need to read every day to become proficient readers, they need to engage with Math every day to become proficient mathematicians. As parents, we may not have a lot of control over how our child’s teachers present Math in the classroom, but we CAN effect our child’s experience with Math outside the classroom. We can communicate positive messages about Math and give them experiences that enable them to feel successful. We can be the ones who ask our kids the important question, “What do you think?” Below are a list of ideas to help you child grow their Math understandings, as well as links to other websites with more ideas, resources and information. Two important things to remember:
- Grow your child’s belief in themselves as a Math learner through positive messaging. Math is everywhere and everyone can do Math. We might need help and have to work hard to learn, but we can do it. Don’t tell your child you are not a Math person or that you can’t do Math. Saying these things only promotes the idea that Math is not for everyone.
- Both girls and boys need opportunities to engage with activities that build Mathematical Thinking. Girls are often excluded from this type of learning at a young age due to gendered toys and activities that has led to a lack of women in the fields of Math, Technology, Engineering and Science (STEM). Make sure that your little girl has just as much exposure and encouragement in Mathematical activities as boys do.
Activities that promote mathematical thinking:
- Board, card and dice games
- Using money: save for something special, estimate the cost of items when shopping, pay the cashier and count the change
- Building and Constructing
- Playing with Lego and other building toys
- Rubik’s Cube and other puzzles (including regular picture puzzles)
- Arts and Crafts
- Quilting, knitting, crochet and other hand crafts
- Coding, robots and video games like Minecraft that involve construction, and strategy NOTE: Most video games will not promote Mathematical Thinking. AVOID math apps or programs that focus on speed, repetition or heavy handed rewards systems and be wary of terms like “mastery” and “individualized,” as these can indicate an approach that leads away from conceptual understandings in Math and can even create Math anxiety.
- Geocaching and other mapping activities
- Talking about Math we find in books, pictures or our world
The file above is a PDF for both parents and educators that describes the process of Mathematizing. Mathematizing means to bring the Math to the surface in whatever activity we are doing. The example used is a Christmas gingerbread house kit that I bought for my kids to build. The ideas are transferable to any activity.
Video: Solving The Math Problem
Remember: You can be the one who asks your kids the important question, “What do you think?” Websites for Math Activities and information (See also the Student Resource page of this site for links to Math activities and games. You may also like some of the games and virtual manipulatives in the teacher resources, but remember to preview them carefully before sharing them with your child, as they are for learners of ALL ages.
More Helpful Numeracy websites for caregivers
- Math Before Bed
- Talking Math With Your Kids
- YouCubed Parent Page
- NRich Math
- Mashup Math
- Games For Young Minds
- Math For Love Parents & Kids Page
For more tools for helping your child learn math in a way that focuses on sense-making and conceptual understandings, please see the links on the Student and Teacher resource pages.