It’s been said that American children continue to lag behind their peers in other countries in the subjects of science and math. While there are as many different viewpoints on why this is the case, the underlying factor remains that many children struggle in these subjects.
Several ways that I found to assist my children in making math not only practical but relevant included using everyday items and life skills. It was a “light bulb” moment for them and for me when they realized that fractions and division weren’t an evil thing made up by mean teachers, but an ability that was actually relevant and useful.
What are some ways that parents can help their children improve their math skills? I’ve shared a few of these tips with you below:
Take Trips to the Grocery Store
Taking your kids to the grocery store doesn’t have to be a challenge. We’ve all heard the tips to let children keep the list and check off items as you stack them in your shopping cart, but what about comparing the cost of items? Or helping you keep track of what is going to be spent? Not only will your child be less bored because they’re helping you, but also life skills for budgeting as well as practicing math talents will be honed. Not to mention that your child will gain positive self-esteem in being able to assist you.
Many stores now have helpful little stickers under the items which show how much it costs per pound or ounce. These are essential in helping a shopper who is on a limited budget to decide which item is actually the better bargain when comparing. Let your child read off how much an item costs per ounce and then ask what the better bargain is. You may be surprised as well to discover that your favorite brand is actually 10 cents more than an off brand containing almost identical ingredients.
For items on sale, typically the price per ounce, etc. isn’t shown. This is where old fashioned adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing come into play. Just because an item is on sale 2 for $5 doesn’t mean that it’s a better price than an item marked $2.15. See the difference? If you buy one of the 2 for $5 items, you have spent $2.50, whereas if you buy one of the items not on sale and priced at $2.15 it is cheaper. Let your child do the adding, subtracting, and dividing to help you find the best “deal.”
In addition, give your child a calculator and let him or her keep up with how much you are spending. This is an excellent way to show your child how quickly grocery store items can add up in price! Set a budgeted amount and let your child discover when you are close to that set amount.
Figure Out Taxes
This is easier for older children, certainly. Many young children see “2 for $1” and assume that the item is only $1. Almost everywhere has taxes, however, so the child is often shocked to discover that they need more than just a $1 to buy something. Help your child figure out the tax amount on that dollar item. If your tax rate is 7% per dollar, how much money do you need to buy this?
Many states also have different tax rates for different categories. For example, food may be taxed at 2% while non-food items (such as clothing, toilet paper, paper towels, etc.) are taxed at 8%. Help your child figure in these costs with two separate lists of the items. For example, the total for the food items cost $150. There’s a 2% tax on food items, so how much will the tax be? The non food items are $40. The tax rate is 8% on non-food items. How much will this be? Then add the two totals together for the final total amount. It sounds more complicated than it really is, plus you have just aided your child in solving a multi-step complex math problem.
Now that you have your food from the grocery store, why not have an afternoon of baking? There are few things in life more wonderful for teaching basic math skills than baking with your child. In addition to spending time together and creating delicious family treats, you will teach your child how to multiply, subtract, and divide with simple recipe measurements.
For example, if a recipe calls for “1/4 teaspoon” and you are making a double batch, how many teaspoons do you need? Or if you are making half a batch, how many teaspoons will you need? If you triple the recipe, how does that change the amount of ingredients that you will need? Of course, you could just have your child add the ¼ teaspoon three times and this is also helping him or her practice math skills.
The amount of baking time is also a good way to practice math. If brownies bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes per pan, how long will two pans of brownies need to bake? Why is it the same amount of time for when there are more pans or fewer pans? These are the dreaded “word problems” that are often on standardized testing. You have simply made them fun and shown them a real life example.
You will no doubt find new ways to help your child with math skills. Please share your tricks below or on our web page. We can all learn math together.