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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

5 Simple Ways to Make Math Fun


Since both my husband and I are engineers, it is important to us that our kids do not develop a fear of math.  We want them to see math as a part of everyday life, and not a bad word.   Here are a few things we have done to encourage math:

  1. Count coins:  When my oldest was around 4, my husband started counting coins with him as a game.  He would lay a few coins out, then have my son count them.  He would then put another group of coins together in another pile and have my son count those.  Next he would put the coins together and ask how many there were now.  My son would count all the coins together, not realizing he was doing addition.  My husband would then tell my son to count out a certain number of coins from the pile, and put them aside.  Next he would then ask him to count what was left over: subtraction with a four year old!  My husband would continue to play this game with my son by increasing the amounts, and eventually seeing if he could say the left over amount in the piles without counting. 

  2. Count while reading:  There is a lot of focus on early literacy right now, but not much on early math skills.  A very simple way we incorporate math while reading is to count items on a page that we are reading.  For example, my youngest has a book he loves about a baby and mama bears' day.  On one of the pages, the bears are playing in a stream with fish.  After reading the page, I then ask him how many fish are there, and I count them while he points to each fish.  He can't really talk yet (he's not quite two), but has started to understand that when he points at the fish, mommy says something.

  3. Count at the grocery store:  My toddler is in that phase where he does NOT want to sit in a shopping cart. So one day he was throwing a fit while sitting in the cart because he did not want to be there.  I tried distracting him (ie stop the crying) with the apples I was picking out.  I would grab one, hand it to him, and then let him put the apple in the bag and say "1", then "2", and so on.  The crying stopped.  So I just kept letting him put fruit and vegetables into bags while counting, and our shopping trip went a little better. 
  4. Early Multiplication at the Grocery store:  As I'm sure most parents can attest to, the most painful errand with children is grocery shopping.  One particular painful grocery trip I had both of my kids, the toddler and my 5 year old.  The toddler was fine at the time, but my oldest was complaining about how bored he was (a pet peeve of mine).  So I started having him help me put fruit and vegetables in the bags and counting them, like I do with the toddler.  Then I would let him place the food on the scale, and ask him what it read.  On the items that cost $1 a pound, I would say "This fruit costs $1 a pound.  If we have 4 pounds, then how much do all the apples (for example) cost?". It took a little coaching the first time, but he eventually found the pattern, and was able to tell me 4 pounds of apples costs $4.  We play this game most times that we go grocery shopping together. 
  5. Allowance:  To be honest, we started giving our oldest an allowance out of frustration.  Around when he turned 5, every trip to the store turned into "can you buy me this, how about that?" So we decided to start giving him an allowance to show him if he buys everything he sees, money with run out.  But we were not just going to "give" him the money.  We decided on a list of chores we knew he could do, and told him if he completed these chores everyday, then on Saturday we would give him $5.  Below is the list of chores we gave him:
    • Put the pillows on your bed.
    • Clean up toys from your room and the rest of the house.
    • Put clothes in the hamper.
    • Set and clear the table.  Which is really just putting placemats, napkins, and utensils on the table. 
    • Cleaning his closet.
We also decide to have him keep a ledger for his allowance.  We started by counting all the coins and birthday money he had in his piggy bank, and wrote the total in a notebook.  Then each week we have our son bring us the notebook, and add he watches as we add the $5 to the ledger.  We've noticed two benefits from giving him an allowance.  First is the argument of whether we can buy him something at a store has stopped.  When we are at a store, and he asks us if he can have something, we tell him he can if he has his money.  And the asking stops.  Also, he has started understanding the concept of saving.  During a trip to the mall, we stopped at the Lego Store just to look around.  He of course saw a Jurassic World set he had to have.  We told him he could start saving his allowance to buy it, and that satisfied him.  So for the next few weeks, when we added the money to the ledger, we would also determine how much more he needed to save to get the Lego set.  Along with saving, he started finding toys he was willing to sell.  After about three months of saving, he finally had enough to buy the set he wanted.  But it didn't stop there.  Once we were at the store, my husband showed my son that for the same price of the Jurassic World set, he could buy 5 Lego racing sets.  We then let our son think about that for a little bit, and eventually he decided that he would rather have 5 Lego sets, than one.  We were fine with his decision either way, but were wanting to show him other options.

Those are just a few of the ways we show our kids that math is just a part of life, and is nothing to fear.  What kinds of ways do you show that math is a part of life?

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