Demystifying Math Facts for Life
Addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division- these are the four building blocks of all of the mathematical computations that your child will be learning during their first twelve years in school! Wow! From basic addition to advanced algebra, students need to be able to understand and use these important concepts in order to be successful in school.
In order to help your child be successful, it is important that you begin early in helping them to learn their basic math facts. These individual facts are used every day by most adults, so it is easy to forget that they are actually skills that must be mastered. But, by giving your child the opportunity to practice a little bit each day, you can help them become as proficient as you are- and have a huge advantage in school, too!
Learning Math Basics - Addition and Subtraction
Children generally learn to use addition and subtraction facts first. These concepts are more easily understood by children who have a very concrete view of the world. They are able to comprehend the processes behind these ideas because they are able to clearly see things being added together or taken away from each other. Here are some ways that you can encourage your child to use addition and subtraction in daily life:
- For younger children, ask them to go through cupboards and add up all of the same kinds of items (soups, vegetables, etc.). Sit with them while they're taking "inventory" for you, so that you can help them write out their learning with pencil and paper. As they become more proficient, have them do the writing for you.
At the grocery store, have your child keep a running tally of your total bill. For younger children, you may have them just add dollar amounts; older children may use dollars and cents to calculate.
- If you give your child an allowance, create a sheet to record "deposits" and "withdrawals". Each time they add money to their savings, have them record the amount on the sheet and add. When they take money to purchase items, have them subtract the amount. This exercise is also an excellent way of having students estimate and create budgets with money.
Use your child's video game enthusiasm to support their math learning! Challenge them to a game, and then have them record the scores you both receive. Calculate the sums and differences between the two numbers. Keep a log over time, so you can see if there has been any improvement in your playing!
Jennifer Cummings, has a B.A.in psychology, and a M.Ed. in special education from Framingham State College in Massachusetts. She has been an elementary teacher in Massachusetts for almost 10 years, serving both regular education and special education students. She has taught grades 1,4, and 5.
"I believe that families' involvement in their child's education is one of the key ingredients to creating a successful school experience for children. Keeping parents informed about school-related issues helps parents and teachers work together for the best possible outcomes for their children. Learning together makes learning fun - for everyone!" - Jennifer Cummings. Contact her at A Note from the Teacher.
If you have any school-related questions, please e-mail us and we may answer your question in a future column! A Note from the Teacher
Beyond Math Basics- Multiplication and Division
Once children are comfortable with the concepts of addition and subtraction, they can be introduced to multiplication and division. These concepts can be more difficult to teach concretely, as many of the numbers are large. However, by beginning the study of these facts with manipulatives from around the house, your child can learn the foundations of each operation and then proceed to more complex learning. Here are some possible activities to try out:
Use household items to concretely demonstrate math facts. You can use dried beans, toothpicks, cereal pieces, buttons, beads, erasers, and other small items to represent each math fact. To play, give your child a math fact and challenge them to represent the answer with the manipulatives. Keep a timer on hand to see how quickly they can show each fact. Make it into a fun race by letting them challenge you!
Use your home as a model for mathematics! Do you have rows of bricks in a fireplace? Do you have tile floors or counters? Use them to teach multiplication! Have your child count the number of tiles in one row. Then, have them use multiplication to find and estimate of the number of tiles in the room or counter space. This activity can also lead to discussions of area for older children.
- Shopping at warehouse stores is a great opportunity to use division! When you purchase larger quantities of an item, have your child use division to find out how many "supermarket sized" items you would have to buy to get the same amount. You can also use division when shopping for items that are priced in multiples (5 items for $1.00, for example), so that your child can learn to compare prices and be a smart shopper, too!
- Have your child make a list of the point values in some of their favorite video games. Then, have them multiply to find out how many items they need to get to reach higher scores. Then, after they play for a set time, have them divide their score to see how many individual items they actually got.
A Final Word
Your child will be learning math facts in a number of different ways all through their school career. By helping them use their facts in daily life, you not only support their math skills practice, but you show that you care about their education. You give them a more thorough understanding of math than they can receive from a worksheet or computer program. When you give your child the chance to use math in a real world setting, you help them understand that their classroom lessons are not just important today- but for life! Keep up the good work!