Here’s a good reason to raise kids who love math: President Obama recently announced that as many as 80% of the fastest growing job markets will require people to have a strong math and science background.
It’s to be expected. Our kids are growing up in the age of digital technology, and even if they don’t become programmers, math skills—the ability to detect patterns and understand concepts—are crucial in succeeding in this kind of environment. Here are some parenting tips to help them prepare for this.
Parenting tip # 1: Review your child’s school Math curriculum
Your foggy memories of elementary math are nowhere near the kind of Math that your kids now learn in school. Kids are expected to master more concepts at an earlier age, and the teaching techniques are quite different. Look at your child’s textbook and schedule a meeting with the teacher to find out what he’s learning, what he should master by the end of the year, and what areas he may be having trouble in. (You may also want to check out the website of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.)
Parenting tip # 2: Use fun, age-appropriate ways to teach Math.
Young children still learn best through concrete experiences, such as touching and seeing things. Plus, different kids have different learning styles. Find out what works for your child, and look for specific activities that can reinforce the Math concepts in school.
For example, you can teach a pre-schooler about addition and subtraction using blocks, or introduce him to groups or sets by asking him to sort out laundry. Older kids can help practice decimals by helping out with shopping. Ask them to count the change when you go to the supermarket.
Parenting tip # 3: Look for games that use numbers.
Kids will have so much fun playing these games that they won’t complain about ‘studying’ Math—even if they are! For example, board games like Snakes and Ladders help young kids count the steps they take for every roll of the dice. Even Pokemon trading cards can help older kids compute and compare health and resistance points.
Parenting tip # 4: Teach the right attitude.
Attitude is everything. Don’t let your child hear you whine about Math, and avoid creating negative associations with the subject. Yelling at him when he doesn’t get a problem, or saying, ‘You’re so stupid! Why can’t you get it?’ is counterproductive. Remain patient and positive, and pay attention to your own Math biases. Your kids will hear you make jokes about ‘Oh, I’m not a Math person!’
Parenting tip # 5: Think beyond numbers
The goal of Math isn’t to teach kids to be human calculators. While they will learn addition, subtraction, etc. the real Math skills are logic and problem solving. Teach kids to see Math from this perspective, by getting him logic games and then exposing him to documentaries where Math was used to understand and solve problems (ex: Mythbusters or a documentary on bridge engineering).
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