Learning Decimals: Help for Struggling Students

Decimals can be a difficult concept to grasp for many students in elementary school. However, you can help by introducing your child to the concept early and using fun exercises. Read on for information about helping your child with decimals.

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Helping Your Child Learn about Decimals

Introducing the Concept of Decimals

Children typically learn about decimals in upper elementary school but begin preparing for this topic as early as the 1st grade. You can help your child prepare for learning decimals by emphasizing certain math concepts when completing at-home practice. For example, focus on place value when your child is learning long addition and subtraction. After he or she solves an arithmetic problem, ask him or her to name the digit in the ones, tens or hundreds place. It's not important for him or her to understand these concepts fully yet because the idea is to plant the seeds.

Decimals and Fractions

Since decimals are simply another representation of fractions, you can use visual models of fractions to help your child understand decimals. When you order a pizza, teach your child a mini-fraction lesson while eating. If the pizza had 8 slices and there are 3 leftover, teach your child how to figure out the fraction of slices remaining. This knowledge will help your child understand why decimals are used.

A simple way to show your child decimals visually is to draw a rectangle. Divide the rectangle so that it's made up of 8 squares and explain what you've done. Show your child the fractional value of each section. For instance, 1 square would be 1/8 and 4 squares would be 4/8. For advanced students, start working on decimal conversions.

Teaching with Money

Introduce your child to money and show how to write sums in decimal form. Many kids won't think about playing with money as math practice. Whenever you're shopping with your child, ask him or her to say the costs of items. At the grocery store, for example, you can use the price of different food items to illustrate what decimals are. For example, if an item is $0.50, then point out that 50 cents is 1/2 of a dollar.

Online Decimal Games and Activities

There are many decimal learning games and activities available at no cost on the Internet that you and your child can play together, or that your child can play alone. For example, 'Gamequariam.com' offers more than 20 links to free games. One of these games is called 'Death to Decimals'. The object of the game is to guide a hero named Fraction Man in saving the earth from an alien invasion. This is done by converting deadly decimals into harmless fractions, all while launching calculators at the enemy invaders.

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