Learning Strategies for Math

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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!)

Learning strategies for math- confused child looking at math

Hands On

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.

Learning strategies for math- counting on fingers

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.

Unifix Cubes

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.

Learning strategies for math- unifix cubes

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.

Learning strategies for math- base 10 blocks place value

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.

Learning strategies for math- 357 in base 10 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.

Multiply

Watch the video below to see how to use base- 10 blocks to multiply!

Divide

Watch the video below to see how to use base- 10 blocks to divide!

Pattern Blocks 

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.

Learning strategies for math- pattern blocks fish

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.

Learning strategies for math- triangles in real life
Triangles in real life!
Learning strategies for math- compose and decompose 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!

Use Visuals

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.

Learning strategies for math- visuals

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?!

Learning strategies for math- cookies

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?

Learning strategies for math- box of apples

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!

Learning strategies for math- kids teaching each other

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.

Learning strategies for math- math vocabulary

Word Wall

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.

Kid-friendly Definitions

When your child comes across an unfamiliar word, explain the meaning of the word in words they can understand.

Learning strategies for math- addends definition

Math Activities

Store Ads

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.

Learning Strategies for Math- skittles

Graham Crackers

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!

Learning strategies for math- graham crackers

Look around your house and find other yummy treats you could use to make math even more fun!

What strategies help your kids learn math concepts? Please share in the comments below!

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28 thoughts on “Learning Strategies for Math”

  1. I am from Thailand and math is like a big thing over there. Not only that we learn it in school, our parents send us out to cram classes just to be better at it. (Think Kumon) I personally always enjoy math since the numbers don’t lie and I want to teach math to my little nephews as well. 

    You are absolutely right, visual is the key here and it sounds like a fun activity to engage learning with things around the house. I personally love the compose and decompose shape, will get a set and play it with my nephews.

    Reply
    • You definitely understand the importance of math! That is true, math is pretty straight forward. I have lots of kids (students, nieces, nephews, etc) really enjoy working with the shapes. Your nephews would love them!

      Reply
  2. I am a math teacher with young children. I really appreciate the strategies. I found that younger children learn better if the get to touch and handle things. In fact when my kids are struggling with a math concept, I look for things that I use to demonstrate the concept. I have used all the manipulatives at one point or another and they are really good for a variety of math concepts.

    Reply
    • Oh yes, as a teacher and parent you would definitely have lots of experience with teaching math! I’m not surprised you have used all of these manipulatives, they really are so helpful. Thank you for stopping by!

      Reply
  3. These are some great strategies for teaching kids how to do math. I especially liked the hands in approach as I found it personally the best way I learn.

    Also adopting these methods to help your kids during this struggling time can help them learn while still at home.

    Quick question. Do you home school or send your kids to Public schools? Also have you found one strategy to be better than the other or they all about the same?

     

    Reply
    • I currently only have one child who isn’t old enough to go to school yet, but I taught in a public school for 9 years. I’ve also used some of these things with nieces and nephews of various ages. 🙂

      As far as one strategy being better than the other, I think that would be a tough call! Each strategy could be helpful in different ways, depending on what the child is learning. It can also depend on the child! Some children really like the Unifix cubes while others may do really well with a ten frame. So overall I would have a hard time choosing one over the other!

      Reply
  4. This is great especially for people like us who wants to invest more into homeschooling rather than normal classes. This is massive for us to know of. Thank you so much for sharing such a post out here with us. I believe this is more than enough as all the techniques and simple tricks here have been noted by me. Thank you

    Reply
    • You are welcome! I’m so glad it provided tricks and things you could use as you look more into the homeschooling side of things. I hope these strategies will prove helpful in those efforts!

      Reply
  5. The fact that i have come to learn something tangible from this post is satisfying. The make of your website is nice and the simplicity of the color selection makes it beautiful. the use of blocks has always worked for me from the time  was small. it is prooving to be effective with my kids also

    Reply
    • That makes me happy you learned something useful! Blocks certainly are a great thing, that is awesome they are working well with your own kids now!

      Reply
  6. Heidi, your website is absolutely lovely! Everything is so well thought out, from the layout to the font. Very welcoming and although I do not have kids of my own…the topics you covered has opened my eyes to the amount of information that is being processed daily as a child. 

    I can greatly appreciate the work that you have put into this. Maybe this will go without being noticed….but please. PLEASE continue making content. 

    Amazing work!

    Reply
    • Thank you so much! That is great to hear the website layout is welcoming and easy to navigate. Feel free to share it with anyone you feel could benefit from these strategies.  I will definitely keep sharing things, come back anytime!

      Reply
  7. Hello Heidi, you have done a great job by putting up such an incredible article. Mathematics is one thing most kids battle with and parents are sometimes helpless about it. Having a particular method(s) to teach your child mathematics and make them understand would be really great and these methods listed here are very nice. My daughter battles with subtractions especially and its been really sad. It would give me great joy is any one of these methods can aid say understanding for her. 

    Reply
    • Thank you! I know math can be a tough subject to teach, especially at home. I really hope some of these strategies help your daughter in her math learning journey. I’d love to hear how it goes!

      Reply
  8. This article couldn’t have come at a better time with so many children having school cancelled right now! I used to enjoy math when I was young because it always had one right answer! I still remember standing outside the bathroom door telling my mother that I had figured out the concept of multiplying. Hahaha!

    These are some excellent ideas. I still count on my fingers. Money is a great method of using objects for math because it’s one that they will use for the rest of their life. 

    When I saw the cookies, I thought of baking! Baking would be an excellent math exercise for older children using fractions and maybe even multiplication if you did conversions on different measurement systems. 

    Thanks for this excellent article!

    Reply
    • I love your story about figuring out multiplying! That is great! A skill you still use all the time;) 

      You are right, money is something our kids will deal with their whole lives, it doesn’t hurt to get a good start on understanding how it works!

      Oh my goodness, baking would be so fun! Thanks for sharing another great idea! Older children would be more than excited to learn about fractions and potentially multiplication if they knew delicious cookies would be the end reward.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  9. Hi Heidi! I have found your post very useful! Thank you. I have been struggling with my little daughter concerning math. Yeah, math seems like a complete foreign language for her. And I don’t want to get stress, but both her mom and I are engineers and this has taken me by surprise.

    Recently I have seen her explaining her younger brother the things she has learnt. So, as I saw it here on your post, from here on, I’ll encourage her to explain others every time she learns something new about math.

    Reply
    • Yay! I’m so glad you have found this post helpful! Math can really be such a hard thing for kiddos and frustrating for parents when you feel like you’ve run out of ideas on how to explain it. Your daughter is in good hands and will learn many great things with you and your wife being engineers!

      Yes, definitely encourage her to keep explaining things out to her brother and others! It can be a wonderful way to solidify her own knowledge and understanding. Best of luck teaching math!

      Reply
  10. First of all thank you so much for sharing such an excellent article with us. Your article is really informative and I gained a lot of knowledge by reading your article which is very helpful to me .Personally I always enjoy math and I’m a math teacher .And because I love teaching my kid math, I have to be very tactful .Personally I greatly enjoyed the Unifix Cubes technique .And I think it would be very easy to teach kids math from home by applying these techniques .And my kids learned math through fun .You certainly deserve praise for this great article .

    I will definitely forward your article to my friend. Because he is also a mathematics teacher and for him these techniques will play a very important role. And he will certainly share with you his new experience.Can I share your article on my social media?

    Reply
    • That is awesome you enjoy math and you have the opportunity to teach math! I love the Unifix cubes as well! Kids definitely respond well when they have things they can work with in their hands and that help them have fun. I really hope these techniques can be used at home as a way to make things a little easier and more fun for both the parents and the kiddos!

      Yes, please do share it on social media! I’d love to help as many people as I can through sharing these ideas!

      Reply
  11. Thank you so much for sharing with us an interesting and informative article. The main content of this article is some strategies for learning Math.The techniques mentioned in your article are wonderful and awesome for teaching child math.

    I too went to one of my teachers to teach math when I was a kid and he took me on a variety of strategies.Currently, I buy some toys for my child to learn math, which is instructive.I bought a Unifixx cube for my child to teach mathematics a while back.By which he is gradually taking the idea of mathematics.

    Finally, I would like to read your article so this is an educational article I would like to share in my Facebook group so that everyone can know about this educational toy.

    Reply
    • I am glad the article was informative to you. That is great you have bought some toys for your child, some, like Unifix cubes, can make such a difference with helping a child grasp new concepts.

      I’d love for you to share it in your Facebook group, the more people it can help, the better! Thank you!

      Reply
  12. What an amazing post! Take my heartiest thanks for this informative post sharing with us. I have a 7 years old kid. I want to teach him math. Actually I am good at math. But I didn’t know which way is better to him math. But now I have learned so many things by reading this article. Your strategies are awesome. I completely agree with you that children learn more through visualization .i like to share this post with other people who want to teach their child in a very better way.

    Thanks again for this informative post

    Reply
    • That is awesome to hear! That is a common thing for a lot of parents, we know how to do the math but teaching it to our children is a whole new ballgame. I’m so glad the article was helpful in sharing other things you can do to help your son. 

      Feel free to share it with anyone who could benefit from it!

      Reply
  13. Thank you very much for the nice article. Your post is really enjoyable. I enjoyed it very much. Your post is informative and also educative. I appreciate you for this kind of writing. I think younger kids can learn a lot better if they can touch and handle things. Occasionally my nephew struggles with math. I think your strategies are helpful for my nephew.

    I hope everyone who reads your article will benefit and will share their experiences with you soon. I will share your article on my social media. Thank you again for the educative post.

    Reply
    • You are welcome! That is great to hear it was informative. I agree, younger kids especially learn best when they can touch things. I’m sure some of these strategies would help your nephew when he comes across a tricky concept.

      I’d love for you to share it! It is meant to be informative and to help make learning fun!

      Reply
  14. finding a good article does not come by easily so i must commend your effort in creating such a beautiful website and bringing up an article to help others with good information like this. getting that right strategy matters a lot especially for young ones. it goes a long way to affect their mentality

    Reply

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