Ten Tips to Help Your Child with Math

“Why do I need math?”

“When will I ever use Math?!”

“Math is SO BORING!”

Yes, I’ve heard all of these. I always respond, “Aw, Math likes you! Math is your friend.” Then I love getting that “my tutor is crazy” look from my students because I’m going to blow their minds and change the way they think. Math is a way of understanding the world, and when you understand how certain Math works, you’ll understand how the world works. And the most useful of all basic Math (in my opinion) is multiplication.

I love multiplication facts–better known as the multiplication table–but that table is the bane of so many children (and parents!). Oh-so-painful but really easier than everyone thinks. After all, the multiplication facts really just come down to rote memorization. They are “SO BORING,” many of my older students have told me. However, the interesting thing is, none of my younger students have ever said that. The younger students may be frustrated that they’re struggling with their multiplication table, but they never say the table is boring. And THAT is where we should start.

1) Start young. Introduce numbers even before your child can talk. By the time your child starts talking, introduce arithmetic (i.e., addition, subtraction, multiplication, division). And remember that both boys and girls deserve to be good at math, so talk to your girls as well as your boys. Some studies have shown that girls miss out on this “math talk” when they’re young, which leads to the girls being behind on math skills their whole lives!

2) Parents should learn to enjoy math too. Just as with reading, children learn what their parents show them. If you enjoy math, or at least show how useful math is, then your child will enjoy it also.

3) Continue talking about and using numbers every day.When numbers are a regular part of everyday words, children will see them as normal, not as something to be feared. Plus, the more you talk about numbers, the more comfortable you will be with them also. This leads to the brain thinking about numbers automatically, because they’ve become a part of your family’s language.

4) Make learning fun! Play together. Study together. Here are some easy online multiplication gamesfor your child to play. You can also play card games likeMultiplication War (some call it Multiplication Snap) or other interactive games. Using a deck of cards, two players throw down a card each, at the same time. Whoever calls out the multiplied answer first collects the cards. The person with the most cards wins.

5)You don’t have to memorize the whole table! Multiplication is commutative. Every multiplication fact has a reflection. For example, 3 x 5 = 5 x 3 .So your child really only has to remember half the facts.This is probably one of the more helpful hints/tips about multiplication. If you get stuck on 6 x 4, think about 4 x 6 instead. This can help ease anxiety: students can see they don’t have as many facts to learn after all.

6) Help in the kitchen. Wait, wasn’t this one of the Ten Tips for Reading and Writing? Yes, it was! That’s because the kitchen is a great place to learn. Recipes have fractions and all sorts of measurements. Oooh, fractions! The dog chewed the teaspoon measure: how many 1/2 teaspoons are in 2 teaspoons? What if we need to double (or triple) a recipe? How many cups of flour do you need for a double batch of chocolate chip cookies, if the original recipe calls for 2 1/4 cups of flour? Having your children help in the kitchen will improve their thinking and arithmetic skills. An extra bonus is now your child knows how to cook also!

7) Learn how to tip. Tipping our servers not only helps the service industry, it reinforces how to multiply by 10, 15, and 20%–also known as 0.10, 0.15, and 0.20, respectively.Have your child practice figuring out how much to tip your server.Yes, there are tip calculators, but once you learn how to do it in your head, it’s MUCH faster… and more impressive.

8) Go shopping. Whether grocery shopping or mall shopping, math is EVERYWHERE.For younger children, at the grocery store, ask them to bring you the items you need. For example, how many total cans of soup do you need if you need two sets of three cans? For older children, at the mall, have them figure out what the sale price is if there’s a discount–without looking at the cheat card the store puts up! For example, what’s 30% off this blouse’s price? If you’re paying in cash, how much money do you need–before tax, after tax?

9) Keep up the repetition. The multiplication facts, as I said earlier, boil down to just rote memorization. That means your child needs to repeat it and repeat it and REPEAT IT as much as needed. Use flashcards: have your child make them. Making them is more effective than buying them. Flashcards work for all arithmetic. Some students love flashcards and others hate them. But love or hate them, they do work. Practice only one set at a time (for example, the 2s) until your child is comfortable with the set. Warm up by flashing the cards in order. Then mix them up and flip them repeatedly until your child gets a bunch correct in a row. Keep up the repetition and you’ll see drastic improvements fast.

10) Most importantly of all, stick with it. It gets easier. Math does seem hard at first, especially if you’re not used to doing it, but that’s the same with everything. Continue to practice math with your children, and everyone will improve.

If you’re looking for more multiplication tips or tricks, use your online resources. There are many webpages on the “tricks” to memorizing the multiplication facts. Most of the pages list the same tricks, which is why I didn’t feel the need to repeat them here. However, if you’re interested, here are a few that are easiest to understand.

Bright Hub Education has a great page on Tips and Tricks.

Multiplication.com has tricks and short videos.

About.com has several useful pages.

Good luck and have fun!

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