Monday, April 30, 2012

Math Around the House

Amy Croker, MAT

Growing up, I was not a big fan of math. It wasn't that fun to me. In fact, it was the subject I dreaded the most and was probably most intimidated by.

I grew up in a very small town in the Florida Panhandle where everybody did really know your name, your Dad's, Mama's and grandparents too. The high school I attended consisted of a few teachers that were on their way out the door to retirement. I think some of them even taught my parents. Put it this way, they were done and ready to wrap up their teaching career! They paid their dues! So by the time I got there, they were not interested in making math fun, trying innovative teaching methods or learning how to best support their students' different learning styles to succeed in a subject like math that some people (mwah!) did not enjoy.

I know math comes easy for some people (that would be my husband, thank God!).  Others have to work at it and may be stronger in other subjects. However, I have always wondered (even with me as the non-math student) if I would have had a more effective learning experience if I had been taught in a way that I could understand it better. Who knows? I do know that you can't rely completely on the teacher to do everything related to the child's education. Parents have to get involved in their child's learning as well. If it were not for my parents, sitting at the kitchen table with me, helping me work through math problems, I may not have passed these classes I dreaded so much.

My point is when parents are actively involved in their children's learning, their children will become more successful learners.

Once I became an elementary school teacher I made it my mission to make math fun and to also educate the parents on our math curriculum, so they could better support their children at home. So in every newsletter, I would give my parents a simple math activity they could do at home or incoporate on the go,while taking their child to swim lessons or running errands. It was that easy and fun too!
I called it "Math Around the House."

Parents, there are plenty of opportunities in your every day life that you can reinforce math concepts. I have listed below some activities that you can easily do "around the house" with your child. I hope that you will print these out and do them with your child, especially this summer, as you get your them ready for the next school year.
  • Cooking-If your children are like mine, they love to help in the kitchen, especially when you are baking something really sweet and yummy. Cooking is full of opportunities to practice math skills such as counting, measuring, estimating, adding, subtracting, temperature and time. For your younger ones, you could even talk about shapes or patterns. For example, different shape cookies or the shape of your pans.
  • Laundry-yes, even with the laundry you can incorporate math and get a little helper to help you sort the clothes. With laundry, you and your child can estimate how many clothes might fit into the washer, but will not overfill it. You could have your child set the wash and then once the laudry is washed and dried, match the socks (if they didn't get lost like ours do). Then, take even further...when folding you can talk about wholes and halves.
  • Collection of things-your child may have a collection of certain things like cars, trains or like my girls princesses and dress-up clothes. With their little collection, you can have your child organize and sort the items by size, shape, color, design or maybe their function. This way, they learn how to classify things.
  • Meal time or Snack Time- you may have a child that takes all day to eat or doesn't eat that well. I have both. So I had to get a little clever with the mealtimes and snack times just so I could get through it without losing my sanity. For example, for breakfast, my girls sometimes eat Nutrigrain waffles. I cut them in eight triangles. So already, I could talk about the shape of the waffle, fractions when cutting and then have them count the pieces of waffles. Once the pieces of waffle are counted, I say, "You have eight pieces of waffle to eat, and if you eat one, how many would you have left?" I keep going with this strategy until the waffle is gone and it will be because they will get so excited about counting and taking (eating) away the waffle. At snack or a treat time, you could have your child estimate how many M&Ms or fruit chews are in the bag, then have them count the pieces, and then sort them by color and type. You could go even further and ask them what type or color they had the most of and the least. This is a great way to reinforce, "more than" and "less than" concepts, which they will use a lot when reading graphs.
  • Money-your child may have piggybank in their room that they love adding coins or dollars to it anytime they can. This is a great time to not only talking about the importance of money and saving, but it is also a good time to simply introduce the name of the coins, their worth and how they are different from each other.
As you can see Math is everywhere! So take advantage of your eager beaver learners and get them excited about learning Math!

On Wednesday, I will be talking about traditional games such a Go Fish and Chutes and Ladders that reinforce great math concepts, as well as some easy homemade math games you can incorporate in your daily routine. All of these games will provide opportunities to talk about sorting, measuring, money, adding, subtracting and estimating.

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