Grandparents Teach, too: Increasing math awareness pays off for children of any age

Sabin, Davis, Hetrick, Anderegg, Macalady, Walker, Darling, and Katers

We have heard: read, read, read every day. Perhaps families should also say do math, math, math every day. It’s just as fun. You can increase your child’s awareness of numbers by looking around the house to find examples: the kitchen clock, the calendar, a cereal box, a TV dial, a stamp or inside shoes. Children can write down the numbers they see.

Give them a number and ask them to look around the house for examples of the number. Boost your older children’s awareness of how numbers are used by pointing out weather forecasts and sports statistics in the newspaper or online.


Estimation is one way to increase children’s number sense. Before placing a stack of folded towels on a shelf or filling a bowl with apples, ask to estimate how many will fit. Then count afterward to compare the actual number to the estimate. Helping children learn to make appropriate predictions will help them see how numbers are used in everyday life. Learning to ask, “Is my answer reasonable?” will help them tackle math problems in the classroom.

Concept of one hundred

Understanding the concept of 100 is difficult for young children, even if they can count that far. Suggest that children start making collections of 100 things — rubber bands, watermelon seeds, pebbles or Legos. You can divide the objects in groups of 10 or 2 or 5 to see how these smaller groups add up to 100 in different ways.

Glue seeds onto a piece of colored construction paper for a math collage. Seeing 100 will help them conceptualize it.

Unlock the code

Help children recognize numbers and think critically by using mysteries. Write out all the letters in the alphabet on a sheet of paper, leaving room underneath each letter for a number. Under each letter, write the numbers from 1 to 26. In other words, a=1, b=2, etc. Practice writing coded messages using numbers rather than letters. You can use the code to leave simple messages.

How Tall?

Many families record the height of their children on a door or wall chart. If you do the same for everyone in the family, your children can join in the measuring and see how the heights compare. Measurement and understanding relationships between numbers are crucial to the development of mathematical thinking.

What’s on the menu?

At a restaurant ask children to find the least expensive item on the menu, then all the items that cost between $5 and $10 or three items whose total cost is between $9 and $20. This will not only fill the time while you’re waiting to eat, it will show your children how math is used every day.

For more see grandparentsteachtoo.blogspot.com and wnmufm.org/Learning Through the Seasons.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Grandparents Teach, Too is a non-profit organization of elementary and preschool teachers from Marquette, Michigan. The writers include: Jan Sabin, Mary Davis, Jean Hetrick, Cheryl Anderegg, Esther Macalady, Colleen Walker, Fran Darling, and Iris Katers. Their mission since 2009 is to help parents, grandparents, and other caregivers of young children provide fun activities to help prepare young children for school and a life long love of learning. They are supported by Great Start, Parent Awareness of Michigan, the U.P. Association for the Education of Young Children, Northern Michigan School of Education, the U.P. Children’s Museum and the Northern Michigan University Center for Economic Education.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)

Starting at $4.62/week.

Subscribe Today