As parents in Canada, we know that mathematics is an essential skill for success in the workplace and in life. With this knowledge, we really want our children to understand and excel at analytic thinking using math. However, with study after study suggesting Canada is falling behind in math education, we worry our children will not have the math skills they need to succeed in life. How as parents, can we help them?
The most important thing to keep in mind is that, instead of forcing it, we should try to create an environment that makes our children receptive and interested in math. This means creating an environment where they want to learn more about math.
When it comes to encouraging your kids, some motivated “pushing” is fine, but having them actually “pull” for opportunities to do math should be the ultimate goal.
The most important thing a parent can do is show interest, and stress the importance and relevance of math in daily life. Show them math is everywhere and that it’s so important in everything we do (like making change or counting your money). If children observe their parents are really into math at a very early age, they will become interested and motivated to learn the subject.
By making the subject of math interesting, relevant and even fun, children are more likely to be self-motivated to learn it. Try board games, games with cards or dice, math or logic puzzles or competitive games for siblings. Also, screen time with high tech devices, programs or applications (with a math focus of course) should have your child coming back for more. Simply “Google” math games (or ask their teacher) and create a new world for your child.
Be aware of when your child has math homework and take an active role. This can include explaining math problems to your child, or simply just being a cheerleader. When your child successfully completes their homework, have them explain how they came to final answer. (You can even sometimes pretend not to understand). By being able to explain or teach others, a child can demonstrate a thorough knowledge of the subject.
The best way to develop a Math Mind is through practise. Whether it’s simple counting, multiplication tables, math puzzles, homework questions or in depth problem solving tasks, cognitive ability in math improves with every exercise.
During long car rides you can practise counting by 2’s, 3’s or 4’s for younger children and by 6’s, 7’s and 8’s for older children. You can have a race in answering multiplication tables or try other counting games such as saying “skip” for every fourth number as you alternate counting around a group.
Whether it’s a board game, a dice game, cards, or any other “math game” (Google them), anything with counting or numbers is beneficial to a child’s analytic thinking. Plus, what’s better then spending time with your family and math!
Already mandatory in elementary schools in European countries like Spain, Hungary, Romania, and Armenia, is the game of chess. It is said to help improve cognitive math skills in children. Chess is a game of logic, where players must develop strategies using pieces with patterned moves. A chess player develops problem solving skills to counter their opponent, while that opponent is doing the very the same thing. It is in essence, a great math problem! Whether at home, in school or using other community programs, I am a firm believer EVERY child should learn the game of chess and be given time to play. Chess can improve working memory, introduce logic and problem solving, and teach children to focus or concentrate on a single task.