Being Able to Count to 100 Doesn't Mean He Knows Math

Memorization is not a truly effective way to learn math. Interactive exercises and experience are the best ways to learn and truly understand mathematics. Read on to learn more.

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Being able to count to 100 doesn't necessarily indicate mathematical talent. Memorization is important, but it's not the bottom line. The skills and sensibilities that make for a strong understanding of math are broader and involve more complex relationship. It's a great beginning to recognize the number 12. But in order to grasp mathematics a child needs to evolve his understanding of what number 12 means.

Surrounded by Math!

Children begin to count by themselves as they grow. Everyday life surrounds the child with opportunities and reasons to notice numerical values. A child will count the number of steps it takes to reach the door, he'll count how many snowflakes there are on his mitten (or try to!). Long before he's mastered it, he will struggle to understand the measurement of time portrayed by the clock on the wall. He sees the thermometer outside the window, the display on the TV, the egg timer on the counter. Very small children can even recognize the ATM machine as a source of money. A true understanding of math is fostered by hands-on activities that connect a child to the world of numbers.

A Point of Pride

Knowing her own address or his own phone number is a source of great pride for a child. You can begin, simply by pointing, to associate the numbers on the mailbox with the house you live in. Over time your child will come to recognize them. And even before he can speak, a child is aware of differences in age. Telling him how old he is will give him a sense of self in relation to people older and younger than he. Every child wants to know her own height and even to compare it to that of other people. Set you child on the scale and let him watch the numbers move, then take him off again and let him see the scale go back to zero.

Cook Up Some Math Lessons

When we cook we tend to take the math for granted, especially if we cook a lot. We wind up back at that early memorization point and disconnect from the real meaning of teaspoons and ounces. Even so, adults pour, measure, divide, estimate time, read labels and use instruments every time we prepare a meal. This is a great opportunity to expose your child to some very useful mathematical concepts. Read the recipe out loud like a story. Let him play with some of the safe instruments like the rubber spatula or the wooden spoon. When you're done, make sure your child knows the cake you made together was somehow connected to all the math and measuring.

The Root of all Evil?

Maybe, but money is also a great teaching tool. Children see money every day. They watch you take cash from the ATM, then they watch you dole it out in varying amounts to all the merchants you deal with. They also notice the small amounts and different shapes of the money you take back in change. An older child may well have an interest in saving, sorting, and certainly spending money. Help your child understand the way money works by engaging with him when you make a transaction. You can remove some of the mystery associated with money (and some of its appeal!) by allowing your child to develop a familiarity with it. And as he watches, he'll get a feel for how many nickels make up a quarter or a dime.

Mr. Fix It

Household repairs are filled with math. Ever try building a door without a tape measure? If your child is watching you, he's curious. Let him watch and talk to him about the process. When you make mistakes, let him see it. When you make a measurement, run it past him. He can help hang pictures, arrange furniture or organize the garage. If he's too small to lift things, it doesn't mean he won't benefit from watching. It's important for a child to see math being applied in daily life. Maintaining that association will serve him when the time comes for tests and books.

Make Believe Math

Watch all the ways your child engages in play. You'll see math. When he makes his first forays into make believe play, you may see some amazing similarities to grown-up life right off the bat. Does he pretend to measure, weigh or align objects? Math is one of the elements of life that attracts the young mind. It makes sense and a child is drawn to cause and effect in his play. Building on this deep capacity is the best way to enhance your child's understanding of math. Instead of encouraging him to memorize numbers, which might just as well be made up words, give your child opportunities to explore his world through the mathematical doors that life opens every day.

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