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Math can look and sound like a foreign language to kids.Try some of these learning strategies for math to help your child view the wondrous world of math through new eyes! (and understanding!)
Anytime you can put something into your child’s hands to help them learn- DO IT! Learning new things can be an overwhelming experience as our kiddos are trying to wrap their minds around many different concepts. Giving them physical objects to use that can represent the concepts they are learning can be a game changer.
Imagine asking a 5 year-old to add 5 and 3 together without using your fingers, objects, or a story. Tough, right? Try it again and this time help them count out 5 beans then add 3 more beans to the pile, one at a time. Makes a lot more sense!
Manipulatives are tools/objects used to help teach a concept.
Pretty awesome stuff, if you ask me! Some manipulatives I loved using in my classroom (that could certainly be used at home as well) include Unifix Cubes (or linking cubes), Base 10 Blocks, and Pattern Blocks.
Below are some ideas on how to use each type of manipulative.
Count Practice counting by 1s, 2s, 5, 10s, etc. It is a great way to count because each cube is equal to one!
Link them up in sets of 2 and your child can practice skip counting by 2s. Apply that same principle to skip count by any other number as well.
Solve addition and subtraction problems- link cubes together and take them apart. Use two different colors to represent both sides of the addition equation.
Sort the colors into groups.
Create patterns with the colors, linking the cubes together. There are a bunch of pattern variations you can use. ABAB, ABCABC, ABBABB, etc. It offers a great opportunity to be creative!
Base 10 Blocks
*Tip- if you don’t have the actual blocks at home/school, draw a representation of each size.
A small cube for the ones, a stick for the tens, a square for the hundreds, and a large cube for the thousands.
Learn Place Value These blocks are an awesome way to teach place value! Going along with the hands-on idea, your child can hold the blocks representing 1s, 10s, 100s, and 1000s. Each time they add ten 1s blocks together they can ‘trade’ it in for a 10s block. The same method continues as they add ten 10s to make 100.
Show the number Use the blocks to show a specific number. For example, if you ask your child how many hundreds, tens, and ones are in 357 they could show (or draw) this by using 3 hundreds blocks 5 tens blocks and 7 ones blocks.
Add and Subtract all kinds of numbers! This could be a fun way to practice adding and subtracting, using the different blocks to physically move the numbers represented to solve the latest problem.
Watch the video below to see how to use base- 10 blocks to multiply!
Watch the video below to see how to use base- 10 blocks to divide!
Create pictures using various pattern blocks, let your child fit them together to create whatever comes to mind. This is something they can get caught up doing for hours, endless possibilities! You may just find yourself joining in on the creations! I always liked pairing this with a writing activity, invite your child to write about the picture they created. They could also trace the shapes to recreate their picture on paper.
Learn the shapes Talk about the name of each shape and how many sides and corners (vertices) it has. Look around your house, inside and outside, to find real-life things that look like the shapes.
Compose and Decompose Shapes
Put the shapes together and take them apart to create other shapes. This helps solidify how the shapes are ‘composed’ and ‘decomposed’ into other shapes. For example you can use 3 triangles to create a trapezoid. Or 2 trapezoids to make a hexagon.
Symmetry Draw a line down the middle of a page and ask your child to create a picture off to one side of the line. When they are finished, have them mirror the same thing across the line of symmetry. Talk about lining up each shape to match the other one across the line. A fun way to show this is to put your hands together then open them up with your pinkies touching to see how they ‘mirror’ each other.
Take a look at this article for more fun ideas with Unique and Creative Building Blocks for Kids!
Most children are visual learners, makes sense as to why children’s books are dominated by pictures! There are tons of awesome math picture books available that teach concepts in a fun and engaging way. Pictures can help your child visualize what the math looks like outside of just numbers and symbols.
Make Connections to the Real World
“Is there a point to all of this?” Likely a question that has gone through the minds of many kids!
Sometimes math concepts can seem so abstract and disconnected from kid’s lives. Tying in some familiarity through story-telling can go a long way.
Going back to our example above, ask your 5 year-old the question “what is 5+3?” They may be able to answer it right away, but some may not.
Now try asking them the same question with a little story mixed in. If mom has 5 cookies and dad has 3 cookies, how many cookies would they have altogether?
(Bonus points if you have real cookies they can count with and enjoy after!) Which version of that question would you want to hear?!
Another story example for older children: Meg had 3 boxes of apples. Each box had 5 apples in it. How many apples did she have altogether?
Teach Someone Else
After your child has learned something new, have them teach it back to you! Or they could teach a sibling, grandparent, or friend.
It gives them the opportunity to think through how they would solve a math problem (in this case) and figure out how to explain it with words, objects, and numbers.
Not only are they solidifying their own understanding but they are building confidence!
True mastery is shown when you can correctly teach it to someone else.
Build Math Vocabulary
Kids hear many unfamiliar words and ideas as they continue learning new math concepts. You can help ease the pain of the unknown! Help them build their math vocabulary using these ideas.
This strategy works well for any type of words you’d like to help your child learn. In this case, for math words, choose a few words to put on a poster, whiteboard, etc. When possible, include the word, a picture, a child-friendly definition (in their own words is fabulous!) and examples.
When your child comes across an unfamiliar word, explain the meaning of the word in words they can understand.
Gather or print weekly ads from various stores. There are several activities you could do with these ads!
1. Using play currency like monopoly money (or cut up pieces of paper for dollars and beans for coins), give your child a certain amount of “money” and have them shop for a list of items while staying within the budgeted amount.
Teach them how to compare the same products on different ads looking at the price and quantity. Then switch roles and have them create a budget amount for you.
1. Using play currency like monopoly money (or cut up pieces of paper for dollars and beans for coins), give your child a certain amount of “money” and have them shop for a list of items while staying within the budgeted amount. Teach them how to compare the same products on different ads looking at the price and quantity. Then switch roles and have them create a budget amount for you.
2. Give them a list of ingredients for a recipe and let them choose the best-priced ingredients off of the ads.
Use Treats to Count and Learn
It’s pretty much a universal thing, kids love treats! Anytime food is offered as part of a learning activity, they are all ears (or all mouths?!).
Skittles/ M&Ms- Give your child an individual pack or small handful of skittles/M&Ms. Ask them to sort them into colors. Add up the total.
Create addition and subtraction problems by adding just two colors (ie. red and blue) or subtracting the amount of one color from the other. Create a pattern using the different colors.
Graham crackers are great for teaching parts/whole. Give your child a graham cracker and talk about it as being one whole. Have them break it into 2 halves. Then break the 2 halves into 4 fourths. Show how the 2 halves come back together to make 1 whole and 2 fourths make 1 half. Then enjoy the graham crackers with frosting!
Look around your house and find other yummy treats you could use to make math even more fun!