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How to Promote a Love of Math When Your Children Are Young

Abby Slutsky has a Masters in Education and has been substitute teaching and tutoring for more than 12 years.

Giving your children opportunities to use math in the course of their day can pique their interest for learning it. Photo by Black ice from Pexels

Giving your children opportunities to use math in the course of their day can pique their interest for learning it. Photo by Black ice from Pexels

Have you ever noticed that parents who are polite tend to raise children who are polite? Parents reinforce qualities that are important to them when they raise their children. Often the qualities that are reinforced at a young age are those qualities that become part of your child’s makeup. You do not have to be a math whiz to promote a love of math when your children are young. As long as you know the basics, it is easy to do.

The trick is to make math seem useful. How many times have you been taught something only to think, "What am I doing here? This is a total waste of my time." All people, even children, value learning and retaining knowledge they think it is useful. Take the person who studies information they think is useless for a test. Let’s assume they get a high grade on the test. Once they walk out the exam room door, they may not be able to answer a thing about the subject because the value of that knowledge no longer exists. So, how do you make math useful to your child so they retain it?

How to Engage Your Kids in Real-World Math

Forget the workbooks because children do worksheets in school and may perceive them as a waste of time. Instead, focus on real activities in the course of your children's daily life that are perfect for making math helpful and essential. Here are some ideas for topics to focus on:

  1. Scheduling and time
  2. Purchases and budgeting
  3. Supermarkets and coupons
  4. Restaurants

1. Scheduling and Time

Here are ways you can use time to instill an interest in math.

Use a Traditional Clock

Today most people use digital clocks, but if you put a traditional clock with hands in your child’s room, he will learn to use it. Start by teaching him to count the numbers up to 12. When he masters that, explain that there are 60 seconds in a minute, and each small line in between the numbers represents one second. Practice a few times, so your child gets the hang of telling time. Now it is time to make it useful. The key is to give your child the responsibility of reminding you when it is time to do an activity that he wants to do.

Reinforce Odd Times

Say that your child wants to watch television, and the show starts at 7:00 pm. You might say, "Come tell me when it is 6:50 pm, and we will get the television set up to watch it." Note that I did not say 7:00 pm. You want your child to know more than just the popular times, so try to get him to identify odd times when possible. This way, he will be comfortable identifying any time on the clock.

Use a Schedule

Give your child a schedule for his day, so he knows what time he's doing each activity. This will get your child used to getting ready for his activities as he masters the art of telling time.

2. Purchases and Budgeting

Everyone enjoys making purchases, and children are no exception. Many parents buy their children what they need when they are young, but the children do not really understand that money is limited when they do that. Often a child will throw a tantrum when a parent refuses to get them something they want.

My Children's Experience With a Budget

Consider giving your child a set amount of money for certain items. For example, we belonged to a swim club that had a snack booth. Rather than deny or permit my children snacks, my husband and I decided to give them a set amount of money for their summer pool snacks. We told them that they were welcome to use the money whenever they wanted for a snack, but they would not get more when it ran out.

If they did not want to spend money on snacks and thought they might be hungry, they could bring snacks from home to the pool. Yes, my husband and I did give up some freedom because there were some times when the kids were loading up on snacks before dinner. However, after the first summer, they were careful with their money and managed to make it last the entire summer. We wound up spending less on snacks than most of our friends, and by 8 or 9 years old, our children were tracking what they were spending. Sometimes they even chose their snacks based on the cost of the item.

Learning to Budget Early Is Invaluable

If you do not belong to a swim club, you could easily do this for a little league snack booth or any other atmosphere that exposes your child to items he or she may want to buy. Learning how to budget their money is an invaluable skill that will help your children well into their adult years.

Make roaming the supermarket aisles more fun with your child by engaging him in shopping. He will learn how to get the most for his money and hone his math skills. Photo by Mehrad Vosoughi from Pexels

Make roaming the supermarket aisles more fun with your child by engaging him in shopping. He will learn how to get the most for his money and hone his math skills. Photo by Mehrad Vosoughi from Pexels

3. Supermarkets and Coupons

I did not mention the supermarket in the preceding paragraph; however, giving your child money to make picks at the market can also be useful. How many times have you seen a child upset because mom won’t buy him or her some favorite cookies? There are a couple of different ways you can use the market to learn math.

Monthly Budget and Coupons

Some people prefer to give their children a monthly amount; it does not have to be a lot—somewhere around 20 dollars is plenty. Maybe less if you do not have to take your child to the market frequently. (My estimate is assuming a once-a-week visit with your child.)

If you give your child a monthly amount, introduce him to coupons and explain how they work. Yes, if you cut out a small coupon or find a digital one, you can save money just for showing it to the store. Coupons can help stretch your dollars. Children may actually enjoy finding coupons for their favorite treats.

The Five-Dollar Game

Another way you can help your child practice adding and subtracting at the market is to play what I call the five-dollar game. Instead of giving my child a monthly amount for marketing, I would tell him that he could have his pick of items that did not exceed five dollars. If he wanted more than one thing, sometimes he would look at the market circular when we got there or find coupons before we went. The trick was that if his items went over five dollars, he had to put them all back.

I taught him to round up when he calculated his costs, so tax usually was not the culprit in pushing him over the five-dollar mark. There were times when my child exchanged his snacks for something else because the store was having a sale, or he was willing to try a generic brand to get an extra treat. Best of all, he was engaged in shopping and very well-behaved in the cart.

4. Restaurants

Restaurants provide another exceptional opportunity for your children to practice math. Play a family game like guess the amount of the check or guess the number of minutes until your family is seated.

Using math in everyday activities will help your children like and use math without thinking about it.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Abby Slutsky


Abby Slutsky (author) from America on February 02, 2021:

Thanks for reading.

Sp Greaney from Ireland on February 01, 2021:

This is really good practical advise. It isn't tedious either, it's more about encouraging the child to use maths in a practical manner in their everyday life.

I wish some schools here would do things like this in the classroom.

Abby Slutsky (author) from America on February 01, 2021:

Thanks for rading and sharing your thoughts.

Alyssa from Ohio on January 31, 2021:

Spot on Abby! Parents are the most important role models for their children and there are many ways to foster a love of learning. These are wonderful ideas to get kids excited about math, and to teach them important life skills! Well done!

Abby Slutsky (author) from America on January 31, 2021:

Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on January 30, 2021:

You have listed many practical ways to teach children about math, Abby. I think the suggestion about money is particularly useful. I don't have any children at home anymore, but we did buy an abacus for our granddaughter. We made it fun to use, so I hope she is still using it as we don't live close to each other.

Liz Westwood from UK on January 30, 2021:

This is a very helpful and practical article for all parents of young children. It is especially useful at a time when so many are finding themselves doing home schooling.