Math can be very conceptual. Many of us say a math example instead of showing a math example to our children. The fact is children must see what is happening instead of just hearing what is happening. This is true with most areas of math. Here are some ideas to help your children see what they are learning.
Addition and Subtraction
Instead of saying, “Bob had four apples. He gave two away. How many does he have left?” Show it. Cheerios, blocks, cubes, or whatever you have can work. Have your children count out four Cheerios. Then have them physically move two Cheerios to the side. Now they can see that 4-2=2.
Instead of saying, “Laura had five bears. Lisa gave her three more bears. How many does she have in all?” Show it. Get out the Cheerios and show that 5+3=8. Or better yet, have your children gather five of their teddy bears. Then have them get three more. Now they can physically see what they are counting. Don’t move the objects for your children, have them do it. This is another way children learn – by doing.
Instead of saying, “There were five dogs. Each dog had four bones. How many bones are there altogether?” Show it. Have your child draw five dogs (they don’t have to be perfect). Then have them draw four bones under each dog. Now have them count up all of the bones. This helps to lay the foundation of multiplication and what it means.
Next, explain that multiplication is really repeat addition. Have them write the number four five times (4+4+4+4+4). Now have them add it. They will start to see the connection between multiplication and addition.
After that, have them draw five rows of four dots. Then have them count the dots. Children also learn multiplication through arrays.
The key to understanding the concept of division is to understand that it is sharing equally. This can be done through “divvying up.” I often start division by using Skittles or playing cards. I give groups of children a set amount of cards. Then I tell them to pass out the cards like they do when they are playing a game. The dealer passes out one card to each person until all of the cards are dealt. Then, they count up how many cards each person has in his or her hand. I purposefully start with an even amount. After this, I give them enough playing cards where there won’t be an equal amount. I explain to them that no one gets these cards because that wouldn’t be fair. Division is fair. Everyone gets the same amount. I explain that these “leftover cards” are called a remainder. This can also be done with Skittles. Children definately understand the concept of fairness when it comes to candy. After this, we move on to story problems.
Instead of saying, “Anna had 30 lollipops. She gave the same number to each of her five friends. How many lollipops did each friend receive?” Show it. Have your children draw five people (stick people are fine). Then have them “divvy up” the suckers. Starting with the first person, put one sucker under each person (one at a time) until all of the 30 lollipops are gone. Then have them count up how many lollipops each friend received.
It is important to lay a foundation of geometry in children when they are young so that it is easier for them as they get older. Start out by showing them different shapes. Younger children could work with triangles and rectangles, and older children could work with triangular pyramids and rectangular prisms. Show them different examples of color and size. Also, turn and flip the figure so they can see it from different angles. Once they recognize the shapes, make it meaningful to them.
To make geometry meaningful, have them find the shapes they have learned in real life. For example, a Kleenex box is a rectangular prism. Let them go on a scavenger hunt finding as many “real life” shapes as they can. This can also be done as an activity on a trip. “I spy something that is a sphere.”
Here is also a post on how to teach fractions through art: Teaching Fractions Through Art.
If your child needs more practice with measurement, check out: Fun With Math: Hands-on Measurement (Part 1) and Fun With Math: Hands-On Measurement (Part 2) Paper Airplane and Watermelon Seed Spitting Contests.
Here are some sites that provide online math practice for your child: Online Math Practice.