Families can teach young children that math is useful, everywhere, interesting, and fun. They can also help school age children progress rather than slide back during vacations. For more math fun see grandparentsteachtoo.org and "Learning Through the Seasons" pod casts at wnmufm.org.
What to do
Incorporate math in daily life. Remind yourself to include math in family conversations by putting a "THINK WITH MATH" sign on your refrigerator. It's a matter of getting in the habit during meals, riding in the car, and chats with children, just like reading.
ANDEREGG, MACALADY, FOX, HETRICK, KATERS
Increase awareness of numbers by looking around the house to find examples: read the kitchen clock, calendar, clothing tags and grocery ads. Include numbers even though they may not understand everything you are saying yet.
Explain what the numbers mean. Give children a number and ask them to look around the house for examples of the number. Have children clear their age from the table or put double their age of toys in the toy box.
Estimation or prediction is another way to increase children's number sense. Before you fill a bowl with strawberries, ask children about how many think will fit. Then check by counting. Teach children to ask, "Is my answer reasonable?" as part of any problem solving.
Make math collages. Past cereal or grocery ad pictures on paper labeled with a number. While on a walk spy 50 ant hills or collect 25 sticks.
Use measuring around the home. Record children's the height on a door frame or wall chart. If you do the same for everyone in the family including grandparents, children can see how the heights compare. Use their hands or Lego's, as well as standard feet and inches. Measurement and understanding relationships between numbers are crucial to the development of mathematical thinking.
At the grocery store weigh produce and show how to use a scale. Read the signs and compare prices.
The next time you go to a restaurant, hang on to the menu while you are waiting for your meal and play some math games with your menus. Ask them to find the least and most expensive item on the children's menu. Why do many prices end with .99? Teach children to round off to the higher dollar.
The kitchen is a great place to practice math. How many cups in 1 cups? How do you double a recipe? If you have 10 pepperonis on a pizza, how many will be on two pizzas? How many will be left if we eat two? Use fingers to count and teach. If there are three people in your family and 15 strawberries, how do you divide them up? Children who do well in math use it every day.
Editor's note: This column is penned by retired Marquette Area Public Schools teachers Iris Katers, Jean Hetrick, and Cheryl Anderegg. Esther Macalady is from Golden, Colorado. Tim Fox currently teaches at Superior Hills Elementary. It's supported by Northern Michigan University Center for Economic Education and Entrepreneurship, the School of Education, U.P. Children's Museum, U.P. Association for the Education of Young Children, and U.P. Parent Awareness of Michigan. Their book "Learning Through the Seasons" is available at area stores and www.grandparentsteachtoo.org. Their mission is to provide fun standards based activities that adults can do in the home to prepare children for school and a lifetime of learning and reduce the stress of child care.