When will I ever use this?
It is difficult for kids to see the value in learning math if they don’t see the relationship to when they will need to use math. Honestly, it is sometimes difficult to find an answer to their question. To better equip you, let’s look at some ways kids use math to which they can relate and how you can help them build the skills they need.
When kids need math
- Tell time
- Purchase something
- estimate amount of purchase to ensure they have enough money
- give the right amount of money for a purchase
- know how much to expect to receive back as change
- calculate tax and tip
- Play games
- count spaces for turns
- add up scores
- Share with friends
- how many pieces each friend should receive so everyone has an equal amount
- fractions and proportions such as doubling, tripling, halving recipes
- draw up plans
- calculate fabric needed
- Estimate distances
- Sports scores
- how far behind
- what’s the score after the touchdown
- batting average
Five math skills kids need to master
Usually, kids use math in practical and simple ways. They don’t need higher math for most of their everyday tasks. If you think about it, you probably don’t either. It really boils down to five basic skills that kids need to learn and master.
- Tell time
- Basic math operations (add, subtract, multiply, and divide)
- Fractions and percentages
Helping kids master math skills
We can help kids master these basic skills through games and practical application.
Begin with learning how to tell the hour. Then move on to half-hour, fifteen minute increments, five minute increments, and finally minutes. You start by teaching your child when he is allowed to come out of his room in the morning. I taught my girls to recognize the number “7.” I then told them that they could not come out of their room until they saw “7” as the first number on their clocks.
It is helpful for younger students to have a clock with the minutes labeled every five minutes. If you do not have a clock like this, you can easily make your own.
You can also learn to tell time through games. I created Time to Tell to help my daughter learn to tell time. This game can be played with multiple ages at the same time. Younger children can work on hours and minutes while older children work on military time.
Don’t forget that calendar skills fall into this category, too. Help your student learn to keep a calendar and learn the days of the week and months of the year in less than five minutes a day.
You can find more ideas on my Pinterest telling time and calendar skills board.
The best way to learn to measure is to…measure. Have rulers, yard sticks, measuring cups, measuring spoons, and various containers available for your child to explore.
Mason jars are a great way to practice volume. Add some food coloring and you have an afternoon filled with fun learning.
We love using Estimation180.com to practice our estimation skills. Mr. Stadel posts pictures for you to estimate various items such as height, volume of water in various containers, length of hoses, and number of candy hearts in a bag.
You should also practice estimating throughout your day. One way to encourage your children to think about estimating is to have an estimation jar. Take turns putting items in the estimation jar. After everyone has had a turn to make a guess, count the items and let someone else take a turn.
You can find more estimation ideas on my measurement and estimation Pinterest board.
Basic Math Operations
Make sure you include mental math practice. Three good sources for practicing mental math are:
- “Secrets of Mental Math” (DVD) by Arthur Benjamin from The Great Courses
- Secrets of Mental Math by Arthur Benjamin (similar content as the DVD but in book form)
- Short-Cut Math by Gerard W. Kelly
Find more game suggestions to build number awareness and practice math facts.
You can find more estimation ideas on my numbers and strategies Pinterest board.
Fractions and percentages
Practice fractions and percentages in the context of every day life.
- Talk about cutting sandwiches into halves, fourths, or eighths.
- Use one measuring spoon and one measuring cup instead of the specific ones called for in the recipe
- Allow your child to help calculate a tip at a restaurant.
- Fraction drinking glasses provide hands-on practice.
Manipulatives that are helpful for learning and practicing fractions and decimals include:
- Fraction Circles
- Fraction Tiles
- Fraction Tower Activity Set
- Fraction Bars—Products available include the fraction bars, teacher’s guide, and games (games include a set of fraction bars).
- Decimal Squares—Products available include the decimal squares, teacher’s guide, and games.
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