5 Real-Life Ways to Help Kids Improve Math Skills at All Ages
While some kids take to math like a fish to water, many others will inevitably utter the refrain: “When would I ever have to use this?”
It only takes a real world example or two to elicit an eye roll and maybe convince them, for today, to continue with their homework. The fact is, math is everywhere in life. It can even be fun and natural, especially in a rewarding context.
Success in math doesn’t depend so much on innate ability as on persistence and application. These 5 “teachable moments” will help you show your child the real world importance of math skills. Because they’re activities you can engage in regularly, you can create lots of opportunities for practice!
5 Real-World Opportunities to Help Your Child Learn Math skills
Shopping, Budgeting & Making Change
Demystifying money is a practical gift we can give our children that sharpens their math skills and empowers them to make sound financial decisions in the future. A grocery shopping trip provides a chance to show younger children less and more concepts in quantity and price. Older kids can calculate the best value and convert to prices per gram or litre, for example. Teens can be given a grocery list and cash and allowed to prove their skills on a solo trip. Grocery shopping provides a fantastic opportunity to improve your child’s financial literacy and cultivate an appreciation for the ingredients and labour that go into their meals.
As your teen begins to work outside the home and earn money, work with them to understand the ins and outs of tax, interest and banking. You’ll help them use their money wisely and make them more likely to manage their money well as adults, later.
Building & Construction
There’s a reason Lego makes the wishlist of children around the world, year after year. We’re all builders, innately! Construction toys at your child’s developmental level are wonderful gifts that provide hours of entertainment and foster invaluable math and science skills. Often, construction toys provide the first insight that a child is interested in, and possibly headed toward a career in, STEM.
Following instructions, using tools, and calculating dimensions are natural parts of the construction process. As your child ages, engage them in 3D puzzles or miniature sets. Work together on a seasonal construction project, allowing your child to calculate, measure, and build to the best of their ability. Whether you child becomes an engineer or an artist, the confidence to DIY can make for a joyful and lucrative pasttime.
Cooking & Baking
Your kitchen is the math heart of your home, and the necessity for daily cooking provides ample opportunity to impart math and life skills. Baking and cooking offer opportunities to learn about measurement, ratios, multiplication and division, conversions and time.
Younger kids can count number of cups and teaspoons. Grade schoolers can multiply and divide ingredients. Older kids can learn the tricks of converting Imperial to Metric. The tasty result is a rewarding experience, and the real-life skills of cooking and baking are arguably just as key to you child’s success as the math itself!
Scheduling & Time Management
Time management is a set of skills so woven into our daily habits that we often forget it was something we had to learn. As a busy parent, there’s no doubt that time management is a vital part of your routine. Including your child in the planning and calculation that goes into running a household will empower them and perhaps even invite better cooperation. Win win! A family calendar on the fridge allows young children to grasp concepts like weeks and months. They can label a blank week-by-week calendar with the dates or read the calendar when you ask “Which day is Grandma coming?”
Older kids can calculate driving times to family destinations and be responsible for giving everyone a heads-up when it’s 5 minutes before departure time. And it goes without saying that managing homework deadlines is a necessary and natural way to help kids experience the real-life need for — and consequences of neglecting — time management.
Board Games & Puzzles
When you’re having fun, it doesn’t feel like “learning” at all. Dice, cards, and board games are a wonderful way to connect as a family, model the characteristics of fairness, and effortlessly impart some math skills along the way. Whether it’s moving around the board in Candyland or calculating a score in Crazy Eights, there’s inevitable math in any activity where we compare and keep score.
As kids grow, more sophisticated games like Monopoly and Settlers of Catan introduce concepts of money and geography, not just number sense. Solo games & puzzles are great to stuff in the car for read trips. Sudoku books and jigsaw puzzles, when left about, can pull in a bored kid for an educational bit of quiet time. You’ll help them see the joy in math and give them valuable “low-tech” experience entertaining themselves.
How do you weave math skills and opportunities into your child’s life? Do you involve your children in math-related activities like baking and building? Share below!