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Put away the flashcards and check your negative feelings about math at the door. Don't bother with worksheets – your child will have plenty of time to do those at school in the coming years. Right now, your goal is to introduce math concepts with as much enthusiasm and as little pressure as possible. The more you enjoy numbers, and the more you can show your child how math is a part of everyday life, the more motivated she'll be to learn.
Here are six activities you can do at home to instill a love of math:
Don't let your own struggles with math influence how you introduce the world of numbers to your child. Since you were in school, our understanding of how to teach math has been completely overhauled. For example, teachers now emphasize making the connection between real world activities and math concepts. Children understand that math helps them develop good problem-solving skills. To them, learning math is actually fun.
Use math every day
Let your child see how important math skills are in your daily life and how frequently you use them. Ask for his help when you pay bills, measure a room for a new piece of furniture, or measure out ingredients for a recipe. Point out to him how doctors, pharmacists, builders, and astronauts all use math in their jobs. Each of these activities reinforces how useful math skills are in life.
Broaden the boundaries of math
Math isn't just about numbers. It's also about:
- Identifying shapes ("How many triangles do you see in this picture of a sailboat?")
- Noticing patterns ("This picture shows a red circle, and then a blue circle, and then red again. What color will come next?")
- Making comparisons ("Is this sock bigger or smaller than that one?")
By developing these skills early on, your child will have an easier time grasping geometry and more complex numerical concepts years from now.
Think out loud when you're calculating sums at the supermarket, at the furniture store, and at home. For example, if your child asks for some cookies during a playdate, you can say, "Let's see, there are four cookies left. If I give one to you and one to your friend, how many will be left over for me?" As your child grows, you can make these more complex. Encourage your child to figure out the answer on her own, but urge her to think out loud. Getting the right answer is less important than working through the steps to get there. You could also make it funny by having her figure out that she and her friend get ALL the cookies, and you and Daddy get none. Thinking that math was a good way to play tricks on grownups can make it more interesting.
Let your child use a calculator
Children love gadgets, and adding and subtracting on a calculator is an exciting way for him to learn to manipulate numbers. You'll also introduce him to a tool he'll use one day in school. And even if he's too young to understand what's happening with the calculator, it will probably occupy him for longer than you think it will.
Try out math learning apps
While not a substitute for real-world lessons, math apps reinforce skills being taught in the classroom. Plus, kids love the interactivity. Ask your child's teacher for recommendations.
Play math games around the house
Play math games. Check out our list of fun math activities for preschoolers.