11 Awesome Ideas for Creating a Maths Friendly Home

creating math friendly homes

1. Attitude

Your attitude to maths is vital. If you hated maths at school and found it difficult, you may find that you’ve passed on this attitude to your child, even if not intentionally. Our attitudes as parents are passed to our children in many, many subtle ways that we’re often not even conscious of. If you know you have a bad attitude to maths, you could deliberately take on changing your attitude so as to model a more positive attitude to your child. This may involve talking to your child about what you’ve recognised with your attitude and how you plan to change it. It may involve asking your child to correct you when he/she hears you speaking negatively about maths. It may involve going back and relearning some of the concepts you missed and modelling this to your child. Use your imagination but be aware that if you child has a bad attitude toward maths, it may be related to you. Maybe not, of course, but it’s worth considering.

fun counting game for kids

2. DISCOVER YOUR CHILD’S LEARNING STYLE

Children learn in different ways and if your child learns best through practical, hands-on, movement-oriented ways, they might not be catered for at school. In such cases, you may need to find ways to explain things to them in ways you can understand yourself. Parents also need to be sensitive to their child’s development and ensure that they are not losing their confidence or self-esteem because school says they should be able to do something which you know they’re just not ready for yet. It may be necessary to assert to your child’s teacher that you’re less concerned about him/her being at the same level as everyone else as developing a willingness to have a go and the confidence of knowing that they can learn what they want easily when they are ready to.

3. INVOLVE YOUR CHILD IN EVERYDAY MATHS ACTIVITIES

Let your child help with the shopping, involve him/her in budgeting activities appropriate to his/her age, let your child cook and so on. There are numerous ways your child can be involved with everyday maths when you look for them. Even a simple task such as “can you find out which flour is the best value” when shopping is really useful. Speak out loud as you shop and tell children your thought processes. If you only have a few things to buy, round each item as you buy it and keep a running tally of what the approximate cost will be. Look for any opportunities for your child to be involved in working with numbers without it becoming a lesson. Let children listen to adults talk about numbers, statistics, finances and so on, and involve them in conversations when they are interested. When you are cooking or measuring or doing anything with numbers, try to verbalise your thought process so children can hear how you are working with numbers – and hear how numbers relate to so many every day activities.

4. DEVELOP YOUR CHILD’S FINANCIAL INTELLIGENCE

Financial intelligence involves a different set of skills than the maths taught in school. Some great books and resources for developing financial intelligence include: Rich Kid, Smart Kid, by Robert Kiyosaki Raising Financially Fit Kids, by Joline Godfrey Kids and Money, by Jayne Pearl 18 The games Cashflow for Kids and Cashflow 101. Although Cashflow 101 is intended for adults, children who are literate and have reasonable maths skills are easily capable of playing. I do not generally recommend Cashflow for Kids as it is problematic in a number of ways. Much better to get Cashflow and adapt it for children or give them lots of help. Cashflow is expensive, but can be bought more cheaply through Ebay and such places and are well worth the investment as it teaches a lot about financial literacy. Ed Money Boxes are a great idea (and you can make your own too).

5. THE BIGGER PICTURE IN MIND

Not everyone actually needs to learn higher math. For some people, it’s far more useful to learn the fundamentals of maths, learn them well and understand them than to be pushed into trigonometry and other branches of maths which they are likely never to use and which may only serve to confuse them. It’s also far more important that your child retains a natural enthusiasm for working and playing with numbers than it is to push them to achieve certain skills by certain times. If your child is confident that he/she is an excellent LEARNER, then they know that they can learn whatever they want, whenever they put their mind to it. This attitude is far more important than any school achievement. Talk to your child about tests and grades and remind them that tests are usually done for the benefit of the teacher or because teachers have no choice in the matter and they don’t prove anything about your intelligence. Most tests assess memory skills more than anything, and how well a child performs depends on a range of factors – their reading ability and how well they understand the question (many children are very good at maths, but may not be so good with reading, which means they will not score highly on standardised maths tests), how they’re feeling that day, whether the language used is familiar to them (sometimes children would understand a concept if it were phrased a different way. Standardised tests are also notoriously ambiguous), whether they’ve been prepared to take the test and have test-taking skills and other factors. Tests also only test what a child can do in maths, not their mathematical thinking ability, problem-solving skills or ability to apply the concept to different situations. Use your common sense as a parent about what’s best for your child, and be guided by what your child feels they need when it comes to maths too.

have fun with maths

6. PLAY WITH MATHS

Stimulate your child’s mind with interesting mathematical questions. Have fun during your time in the car or around the house with children and mathematical concepts. These concepts include sorting, sequencing, measuring, dividing or sharing things out, recognising patterns, tracking time, searching for and making shapes, counting in different ways, graphing, weighing, using money, probability and chance, playing with numbers, using calculators and more. Maths doesn’t have to be serious – encourage kids to mess about with maths, investigate, make mistakes and not take it seriously all the time.

7. READ MATHS-RELATED BOOKS

Both picture books for children and books about more ways to nurture your child’s mathematical development. The resource section at the back of this booklet contains recommendations for some great books.

8. PLAY GAMES

One of the very best things you can do to nurture your child’s maths skills is to play games – lots and lots of games. Board and card games are great. They don’t have to be specifically maths 19 games either. Games such as chess and other games of logic and strategy are wonderful for developing mathematical thinking and problem-solving. The resource section at the back of this book provides a list of recommended games. It’s also a great idea to have a weekly games night or afternoon with your family. Sometimes you might invite others to join you too.

math game for kids

9. UPSKILL – DEVELOP YOUR OWN ABILITIES

Look for opportunities to increase your own skills. Even if your kids are learning maths at school, you can still model developing your own skills. If you are somewhat maths phobic or just hate maths, this is particularly important. Learn to become friendly with maths through a home tutoring program such as Math-U-See, or get someone to actually tutor you. Look for professional development sessions you can attend. You don’t have to be a teacher to attend some of the teacher training professional development workshops offered by organisations such as the Mathematical Association of WA. If you already like maths, perhaps you can look for how you might continue to improve your skills or learn new ones.

10. START A MATHS CLUB

Set aside a time each week to have your child and another child enjoy a maths club afternoon. Limit the numbers to 2 or 3 children so that you don’t have to be teaching them and so you can just have fun together. Plan fun activities and games which build basic skills. Invite guest speakers (people you know) with different professions or hobbies to share about how they use maths in their fields – and do some hands-on activities with you too.

11. TAKE ON YOUR CHILD’S MATHS EDUCATION YOURSELF

Yes, this should perhaps be the job of the school, but if your child’s school is not doing the job sufficiently, there may be very little you can do about it. Thus, it’s up to you as a parent. My advice here is to use the Math-U-See program. This curriculum is designed for parents to use at home with children from about 4 through to senior high school. This is the best maths curriculum I’ve encountered thus far and I’ve had huge success in using it, as have many of the families I know. However, like everything, it’s not perfect needs to be used in partnership with lots of other real-life activities, games and other approaches to maths also. Each level has a workbook and a DVD with 30 lessons. The DVD is fabulous because each lesson is taught on the DVD by the creator of the program, Steve Demme. That way, parents can let Steve do the explaining, whilst learning alongside their children and reinforcing the concepts taught. If you were to use this program to enhance your child’s maths education, you could do one lesson a week (for young children, you might watch the lesson together and do one practice sheet and one revision sheet. Older children could do more). This would be enough to ensure your child gained a great foundation in mathematics and that the gaps created in schools were ‘filled in.’ When I started older children on this program, I still took them back to the Beta level and worked very quickly through every lesson even if they’d covered that material in school. I let them do several lessons at a time and didn’t bother with the worksheets if I could see they understood. This was so that they could become familiar with the language used in the program and to identify any gaps. The Math-U-See website does provide tests that you can use to determine what stage your child should be entering, which can also be a useful tool. Another word of advice about using Math-U-See, and that is that you can’t expect it to be the same as the conventional maths curriculum. When I used this with homeschoolers, I used to tell families that they needed to stick to it because it teaches concepts in a very different order than schools do. If they were to have their children do the national standardised test at the age of 10, for example, they’d probably find that the children did very well in some areas because they’d covered it through Math-U-See and understood it, but in other areas, it would seem that they’d done poorly because in state schools, children would have started some concepts which don’t get introduced until later in Math-U-See. You can find out more about Math-U-See here: http://www.mathusee.com/

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