Math Tips For Parents






 Math is everywhere and yet, we may not recognize it because it doesn't look like the math we did in school.  Math in the world around us sometimes seems invisible.  But math is present in our world at all time--in the workplace, in our homes, and in life in general.

     You may be asking yourself, "How is math everywhere in my life?  I'm not an engineer or an accountant or a computer expert!"  Well, math is in your life from the moment you wake up, until the time you go to sleep.  You are using math each time you set your alarm clock, buy groceries, mix a baby's formula, keep score or time at an athletic event, wallpaper a room, decide what type of tennis shoe to buy, or wrap a present.  Have you ever asked yourself, "Did I get the correct change?" or "Do I have enough

gasoline to drive 20 miles?" or "Do I have enough to fill all my children's thermoses for lunch?" Math is all this and much, much more.



                       HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT MATH


     How do you feel about math?  Your feelings will have an impact on how your children think about math and themselves as mathematicians.  Take a few minutes to answer these questions:


             ~Did you like math in school?

             ~Do you think anyone can learn math?

             ~Do you think of math as useful in everyday life?

             ~Do you believe that most jobs today require math skills?


     If you feel uncomfortable about math, this page will give you some ideas and tips that you can use to change your attitude about math, and to help your child improve their math skills.



                                 YOU CAN DO IT!


     If you feel uncomfortable about math, here are some ideas to think about.  Math is a very important skill, one which we will all need for the future in our technological world.  It is important for you to encourage your children to think of themselves as mathematicians who can reason and solve problems.

     Math is a subject for all people.  Math is not a subject that men can do better than women.  Males and females have equally strong potential in math. 

     People in the fine arts also need math.  They need math not only to survive in the world, but each of their areas of specialty requires an in-depth understanding of some math, from something obvious as the size of a canvas, to the beats in music, to the number of seats in an audience, to computer generated artwork.

     Calculators and computers require us to be equally strong in math.  Their presence does not mean there is less need for knowing math.  Calculators demand that people have strong mental math skills that they can do math in their heads.  A calculator is only as accurate as the person putting in the numbers.  It can compute; it cannot think!  Therefore, we must be the thinkers.  We must know what answers are reasonable and what answers are outrageously large or small.

     Positive attitudes about math are important for our country.  The United States is the only advanced industrial nation where people are quick to admit that "I am not good in math."  We need to change this attitude, because mathematicians are a key to our future.  The workplace is rapidly changing.  No longer do people need only the computational skills they once needed in the 1940's.  Now workers need to be able to estimate, to communicate mathematically, and to reason within a mathematical context. 

Because our world is so technologically oriented, employees need to have quick reasoning and problem-solving skills and the capability to solve problems together.  The work force will need to be confident in math.



                        BUILD YOUR SELF-CONFIDENCE! 


     To be mathematically confident means to realize the importance of mathematics and feel capable of learning to:


             ~Use mathematics with ease;

             ~Solve problems and work with others to do so;

             ~Demonstrate strong reasoning ability;

             ~See more than one way to approach a problem;

             ~Apply mathematical ideas to other situations; and...

             ~Use technology.



                          IMPORTANT THINGS TO KNOW


     It is highly likely that when you studies math, you were expected to complete lots of problems accurately and quickly.  There was only one way to arrive at your answers, and it was believed that the best way to improve math ability was to do more problems and to do them fast.  Today, the focus is less on the quantity of memorized problems, and more on understanding the

concepts and applying thinking skills to arrive at an answer.



                          WRONG ANSWERS CAN HELP!


     While accuracy is always important, a wrong answer may help you and your child discover what your child may not understand.  You might find some of these thoughts helpful when thinking about wrong answers.

     Above all be patient!  All children want to succeed.  They don't want red marks or incorrect answers.  They want to be proud and to make you and the teacher proud.  (Especially second graders....)  So, the wrong answer tells you to look further, to ask questions, and to see what the wrong answer is saying about the child's understanding.

     Sometimes, the wrong answer to a problem might be because the child thinks the problem is asking another question.  For example, when children see the problem 4 + __ = 9, they often respond with an answer of 13.  That is because they think the problem is asking "What is 4 + 9?", instead of "4 plus what missing amount equals 9?"

     Ask your child to explain how the problem was solved.  The response might help with the procedures, the number facts, or the concepts involved.

     You may have learned something the teacher might find helpful.  A short note or call will alert the teacher to possible ways of helping your child.

     Help your children be risk takers.  Help them see the value of

examining a wrong answer.  Assure them that the right answers will come with proper understanding.





     Have you ever noticed that today very few people take their pencils and paper out to solve problems in the grocery, fast food, or department store or in the office?  Instead, most people estimate situations in their heads.

     Calculators and computers demand that people put in the correct information and that they know if the answers are reasonable.  Usually people look at the answers to determine if it makes sense, applying the math in their heads to the problem.  This, then, is the reason why doing math in their heads is so important to our children as they enter the 21st century.

     You can help your child become a stronger mathematician by trying some of these ideas to foster mental math skills.


             1.  Help children do mental math with lots of small numbers in their heads until they develop quick and accurate responses. Questions such as, "If I have 4 cups, and I need 7, how many more do I need?" or "If I need 12 drinks for the class, how

many packages of 3 drinks will I need to buy?"


             2.  Encourage your child to estimate the answer.  When estimating, try to use numbers to make it easy to solve problems quickly in your head to determine a reasonable answer.  For

example, when figuring 18 plus 29, an easy way to get a "close" answer is to think about 20 + 30, or 50.


             3.  As explained earlier, allow your children to use strategies that make sense to them.


             4.  Ask often, "Is your answer reasonable?"  Is it reasonable that I added 17 to 35 and got 367?  Why?  Why not?





      If you let your child know that you believe that everyone can be successful in math, your child will believe it too.  Your children

reflect your attitudes and aspirations.



      Math family games tend to be lots of fun.  Card games like "Go Fish, War, or Dominoes" teach children to count, sort, and use strategies. Many games use "play money" and teach how to make change.  Games played in the car that estimate distance or identify specific shapes along the road help build mathematical thinking.



      Avoid stereotypes that set limits on what any child can be.  Women can be engineers, and minorities can excel in advanced math.  Early success in mathematics makes anything possible.



      Help your child choose gifts for birthdays or holidays that are fun and develop problem solving skills.  Puzzles are great for young children, and games like Monopoly that require choices among options or uses strategy are fun for upper elementary children.



      Children may want to be doctors, nurses, or firefighters, but they also can be exposed to other exciting jobs like weather forecasters, astronomers, airline pilots or forest rangers.  Expose your children to the variety of careers that require a strong base in mathematics.



      Buy or borrow books that use math - counting books, or books on shapes and patterns.



      As you and your child go to the store, bank, restaurant, etc., point out ways people use math on bills, deposit slips, menus or tipping.



      By doing this often you can see what materials and resources they have that interest your child.



      Learn more about your child's studies and ask what you can do to help reinforce math skills.



      Ask helpful questions but let them find out how to do it.  Learning how to find answers is a lifetime skill.