A Mothers Ramblings: Helping your Children with Math skills

Monday, 18 October 2010

Helping your Children with Math skills

After my blog post, Helping your Children learn to read and learn to love to read it was suggested on Twitter and in the comments that I should also write up my tips on helping develop math skills in children. I'm not a child development expert and these suggestions aren't ground breaking new methods, but the way that you were probably taught Maths without even realising it!

I own Flash cards for all occasions. There are the ones that I have to help Top Ender and Baby Boy to read, there are the ones that I have to teach colours and shapes and even ones that show different foods. I have two sets of homemade maths ones and one store brought ones though. The first homemade set are the numbers one to twenty as words and numbers and the second are simple math equations with the answers. The set of store brought cards are pictures of various items in groups, with the numbers inside the cards. All three sets are fab for playing with and when you make your own you can make sure that they are personalised to your child's tastes! Doubled up with posters, they mean that there are numbers everywhere!

Card games are fantastic for teaching better math skills; Twenty-One, Number Snap, Patience, to name just a few help children to learn to recognise numbers, to make basic sums and  for increasing confidence in numbers. Its a great way to encourage math skills without making it about maths and also teaching children cards games could mean they could become a great poker player in the future...

Dice Games and any game that uses a die (that's one of a set of dice you know) encourages basic maths! I know! And all this time that you were playing snakes and ladders and counting the number of jumps that you had to make with your little counter you didn't realise did you!

Calenders aren't just for Christmas; If you can make up a calender (or even buy one cheap or use the family calender) and promise that if your child does a chore everyday for 14 days (as an example) that you will get them a surprise gift, they will count down eagerly! I used to cross off boxes on a piece of paper on my wall for important dates that were coming up and as a bonus depending what the chore is you could get a really clean house!

Pocket Money isn't something that we give Top Ender really, but we do give her some cash every now and then. I do give her some money for when she does some jobs, but mainly it is saved in her Christmas box. When we do give her some we always make sure we tell her how much we have given her and then she has to count it to make sure that it is correct.

Looking for Numbers where ever you go is a good game too, we used to play a game in the car where we had to look at all the number plates and go from 1 to what ever number we could. With the new style number plates becoming more and more frequent its getting harder, but its still fun looking out for new plates or personalised ones!

Cooking and Baking is great for more number practice, not only do you have to weigh ingredients, and work out how long things need to cook but you need to make sure the oven is the right temperature and you have the right amount of bowls or cake cases! It's maths with food at the end of it... always goes down well with me.

Math problems are great fun for car journeys in our house. Daddy or I will randomly shout out a maths problem for Top Ender to solve, who will then give us the right answer and if she does is allowed to challenge us with a maths problem. The added benefit of this is that she also has to work out the answer to her own maths problem to check if we are right! Top Ender is also the only child I know who will come and ask for a sheet of math problems to be created for her. As soon as she has answered them and they have been marked she goes back and corrects any mistakes!

Some Computer Games are fantastic for math skills. Top Ender has the Leap Frog Explorer and several of the games that can be brought encourage math skills as part of the game. When this is added to a few websites that Top Ender like to visit, where she needs to accumulate points in order to create the perfect outfit for her character, I am not worried that Top Enders computer time is doing anything to undo the things she is learning! I also like for Top Ender to play on some of the downloaded games on my ipod, I have a whole section for her, which are math skills based, great for when we are in queues!

Recognising Shapes comes under math skills too and both Top Ender and Baby Boy have used the paper plates that I made with different shapes drawn on them. I remember making them at work during my lunch break and having to look up on the internet what different shapes were! I even managed to confuse one of the senior members of the Sales Team, as it had been a few years since either of us had to name a shape with more sides than a square! Luckily thanks to the shapes Top Ender and Baby Boy are much better at working out which is an octagon and which is a pentagon amongst others!

Telling the time is part of math skills and even though Top Ender has learnt it now thanks to her school and the fabulous Aramazu book we still practice by asking her to tell us what the time is, how long until we go out,  how long she has to tidy up or similar. It's a great achievement and when a child knows that they can do something well, it gives the encouragement in other areas too.

My last tip is a bit cheeky and is the sort of tip that our children hate and that is to make sure that when you can you sing math songs. I learnt a lot of times tables thanks to the song method. The song method is where in maths we would recite the times tables and it turned into a chant and then into a song. I am sure you know the tune as its very simple to memorise! The good part of this is that I play CD's in the car, or whilst we are not watching Television or I just start singing in the supermarket and its very hard not to join in!

What other tips do you have for helping your children with developing math skills? Leave me a comment to let me know what it is!