It’s a good start to give your child some help with math homework, but, in order to reinforce math skills, it’s important to help your child find ways that math is part of everyday life. It’s really not as tough as it sounds--most of us use our math skills daily without even thinking about it. The trick is to evaluate what you’re doing to see whether or not your child could be learning from the experience.
“Oh no! How are we going to get there on time?”
This frequently spoken lament is full of opportunity to hone your child’s skills. To answer the question, you’re using the skills of: subtraction, addition, estimation, and time sense. A few ways to incorporate math (and keep your children on task while you are frantically trying to gather all your stuff) include:
1. (Ages 7-11) Break down the trip and talk it through. Let your child know what time you need to be there, how long each leg will take and what factors may get in the way. At first, you may want to round times to the 5 minute mark. For example:
“OK, we’re on carpool duty for baseball. We need to be at the field at 5:00 and are picking up John and Sarah. It takes 10 minutes to get to John’s house from here and about 5 minutes to get to Sarah’s house from there. Then it takes about 15 minutes to get to the field. Of course, if they’re not ready, that could add about 10 minutes to the trip. What time should we leave?”
2. (Ages 5-7) Talk through the trip in one part. Younger children are just learning about time and don’t have the same skills as older children. For them it’s enough to let them know how long it takes to get somewhere. For example:
“It takes us 30 minutes to pick everybody up and get to the ball field. We have to be there at 5:00. What time do you think we should leave?”
3. Lead your child through calculating. Once there’s a sense of time, help your child figure out how it all fits together. You may need to work together to add all the legs up. (10 + 5 +15 = 30 minutes) The next step is to help your child subtract or work backward. “OK, we need to be there at 5:00. What time is 30 minutes before 5:00?”
4. Introduce the real-life elements. In a perfect world, we’d be able to get out the door, on the road and arrive somewhere in the exact amount of time allotted. Unfortunately, there are other factors at play. Let your child know that you can’t control traffic lights, traffic or possible detours. Share that because of those factors there needs to be some extra time built in to the trip.
"Your room really needs to be cleaned!”
Also spoken frequently, this phrase offers a lot of opportunity to work on estimation, counting and time sense skills. That is, if your child doesn’t disappear first.
1. Estimate how many items need to be picked up to find the floor. Do a room walk-through with your child and talk to them about how much stuff there actually is to pick up.
“So, do you think there are 25 things to pick up? 50? 100? Closer to 25 than 100?”
2. Count and compare. Help your child count the number of items he puts away and compare that number to the original estimate. You can help your child get a sense of how close or far off he was by subtracting the smaller number from the larger. This will help him refine his ability to estimate.
3. Add a time factor. Ask your child to estimate (a) how much time it will take to pick up his room and/or (b) how many things he can pick up in 5 minutes. Set a timer to clock his efforts.
4. Divide and conquer. Older children can practice division during cleaning. Enlist other siblings’ help and then set up a problem.
“There are 4 of us to pick up. If we each pick up 12 things, do you think the room would be clean? No? How many things do we each need to pick up?”