Reinforcing Math Outside The Classroom

By Carl Giordano, Owner and Center Director of Mathnasium on Atlantic Ave.

It is no secret that developing a good mathematical foundation is critical to many important life skills including data analysis, the ability to identify patterns, logic, critical thinking and problem solving. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, only 1 out of 5 eighth graders are proficient in math. Parents often ask me what can be done at home to reinforce elementary school math. Below are a few suggestions from Mathnasium, The Math Learning Center.

The most basic skills in mathematics are counting and grouping. During long subway or car rides or perhaps after dinner, help children learn to count from any number, to any number, by any number.
– Count by 1s, starting at 0 (0,1,2,3…250…) Then, starting at any number (28, 29, 30…)
– Count by 2s, starting at 0 (0,2,4,6…24…) Then starting at 1 (1,3,5…25…)
– Count by 10s, starting at 0 (0,10,20…500) Then starting at 5 (5, 15, 25…205…)
– Count by 1/2s starting at 0 (0,1/2, 1, 1 1/2…5…)

The benefits of this type of counting practice are strong addition skills and the painless development of multiplication tables.

To expand children’s thinking processes and help them “see” groups, ask questions like:

“7 and how much more make 10?”
“70 and how much more make 100?”
“10 and how much more make 15?”
“87 and how much more make 100?”

“How many 10s are there in 70? …100? …200? …340?”

Notice how these questions focus on the number 10, multiples of 10, and powers of 10.

As counting skills begin to develop, fractions can be introduced. Long before introducing words like numerator and denominator, teach children that half means “2 parts the same,” and have them use this knowledge to figure out things like:

“How much is half of 6? …10? …20? …30 …50? …100?
“How much is half of 3? …11? …15? …21? …49? …99?
Don’t be afraid to ask these questions to kindergarteners and first graders. The ability to “see” a whole as being a collection of parts should be learned in the early grades.

As the ability to split numbers in half develops, add questions like:
“How do you know when you have half of something?”
“How many half sandwiches can you make out of three whole sandwiches?

By the end of second grade, children should know the names and values of U.S. coins. Preschool and kindergarten are appropriate times to begin this training.
By the end of the third grade, children should have learned the basic equivalents:
20 nickels = 10 dimes = 4 quarters = 1 dollar
1 dime = 2 nickels
1 quarter = 5 nickels
5 dimes = 10 nickels
Counting a piggy-bank full of coins is an excellent way to develop these skills.
In addition, “making change” is a skill that can be introduced in late first grade or early second grade, and can be mastered by the fourth grade. Children should learn to make change from a dime, a quarter, a dollar, two dollars…five, ten, twenty and one hundred dollars.

For more tips on how to reinforce math outside the classroom, visit Mathnasium at 392 Atlantic Ave (btwn Bond and Hoyt) or email Carl Giordano at Mathnasium offers after school math enrichment programs for K-12.