Teaching Decimals: How to Teach the Decimal System

In most schools, children begin learning the decimal system in the 4th grade. Although this topic will be covered in the classroom, there are a number of techniques that you can use at home to help your child master decimals. Read on to find out more!

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Teaching the Decimal System to Your Child

Getting Started

Before helping your child, talk to his or her math teacher to find out which decimal skills the class is learning and what types of teaching techniques the teacher is using. It's also a good idea to find out how your child is performing compared to other students. You can use this information to create at-home lessons that add value to what your child is learning in the classroom, or that provide remedial help where he or she needs it. For example, if your child struggles with whole-number place values, he or she will need to master that skill before moving on to decimals.

Teaching Concepts

If you're introducing your child to the decimal system for the first time, it's a good idea to begin by telling him or her the names and values for each decimal place using an example with each place labeled. Once you've taught your child the names (tenths place, hundredths place and so on), you can show how each place value relates to a fraction. For example, 0.2 = 2/10, 0.02 = 2/100 and 0.002 = 2/1,000.

It's also helpful to explain how decimals relate to fractions using a visual aid. Start by drawing a rectangle on a whiteboard, a chalkboard or a piece of paper. Then, divide the rectangle into two parts and remind your child that each one equals 1/2. Then, you can explain to your child that since 1/2 = 5/10, the decimal version of 1/2 is 0.5. You can continue this process by dividing the rectangle into fourths, sixths, tenths and so on.

Decimal Learning Activities

Once your child has mastered the basics of the decimal system, you can use fun games and activities to help him or her practice. You can write real-life story problems to help your child see the relevance of decimals in his or her own life. Another possible activity is to have your child measure objects using a meter stick and write the measurements in decimals.

You can also create activities using money. For instance, you can take your child to the grocery store and help him or her identify the place values of numerals within prices (the 3 in 4.39 is in the tenths place, for example).

Online Math Resources

Another helpful resource that your child can use to practice the decimal system is the Internet. You can find websites with decimal lessons, games, quizzes, flashcards, activities and more. Many of these resources are available at no cost. If your child is struggling, there are also math homework help sites where your child can post questions and get answers from other users or professional tutors.

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