By Mike O’Hern, Center Director of Mathnasium of West Knoxville
Everyone knows that reading to the young child is crucial to their educational development. But have you ever thought about mathing with your child? Try it! At bedtime, just before or just after reading, give them a mental math exercise. My bet is that they will see it as a fun exercise once they see how they can show off their math prowess for you! And you know that once you start with your oldest child their younger sibling will want an exercise, too!
This kind of mathing with your child will make math easier and develop numerical fluency that will serve them well throughout not only school, but life. And you don’t have to be a math teacher to help your child get off on the right foot. Here are some strategies that can be started as early as kindergarten, and can be extended all the way through elementary school. In fact, these are appropriate for any person of any age who needs help with basic mathematics concepts and skills.
The trick is to do these both orally and visually, with little or no writing. Pictures can be used as visual aids, and real-world objects (coins, blocks, buttons, etc.) can be used as well.
By using this kind of counting practice your child will develop strong addition skills and the painless development of the Times Tables. When we say “counting,” we mean to learn to count from any number, to any number, by any number. Do it both forward and backward.
- Count by 1s starting at 0 (0, 1, 2, 3…), then starting at any number (27, 28, 29…).
- Count by 2s starting at 0 (0, 2, 4, 6…), then starting at 1 (1, 3, 5, 7…), then starting at any number (33, 35, 37…).
- Count by 10s starting at 0 (0, 10, 20…), then starting at 5 (5, 15, 25…), then starting at any number (37, 47, 57…).
- Count by 3s, 4s, 5s, 6s, 7s, 8s, 9s, 11s, 12s, 20s, 25s, 50s, 75s, 100s, and 150s starting at 0.
- Count by 1/2s starting at 0 (0, 1/2, 1, 11/2, 2…), then by 1/4s starting at 0 (0, 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, 1, 11/4 …), then by 3/4s starting at 0 (0, 3/4, 11/2, 21/4, 3…).
“…mathing with your child will make math easier and develop numerical fluency that will serve them well throughout not only school, but life.”
To expand children’s thinking processes and help them “see” groups, ask questions like:
- “7 and how much more make 10?” “70 and how much more make 100?” “700 and how much more make 1,000?”
- “10 and how much more make 15?” “10 and how much more make 18?” “10 and how much more make 25?”
- “17 and how much more make 20?” “87 and how much more make 100?” “667 and how much more make 1,000?”
- “How far is it from 6 to 10?” “How far is it from 89 to 100?” “How far is it from 678 to 1,000?”
- “How many 10s are there in 70? …100? …200? …340? …500? …1,000?
- …10,000? …1,000,000? …a quadrillion (there are 15 zeros)?”
- “How many 4–person teams can you make out of 12 kids? …20 kids?…100 kids?…50 kids?”
- “How much is 5, four times? …ten times? …a hundred times? …a thousand times?”
Notice the varied way to put the question: “7 and how much more make 10?” is the same as “how far is it from 7 to 10?” This will really help when it comes to subtraction as well. “How far is it from 20 down to 17?”
If you are deliberate about doing these exercises on a regular basis, the numerical fluency that calculators are draining from our children will be achieved, and your student will have a strong foundation for what comes next!
Mike O’Hern, Center Director of Mathnasium of West Knoxville, earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Metallurgical Engineering at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in 1988. He pursued graduate studies in Materials Science & Engineering while on the Research Staff at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Mike has had a life-long love of mathematics and teaching, and feels that math is not about learning to be ready for the next math class – it’s about learning to think.
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