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Two simple ways to teach young children to love math

“I’m terrible at math!” is a common refrain you'll hear from children who do not do well in the subject. Yet, math literacy (and the logic and reason that math cultivates) is as crucial a skill as reading or writing.

If you're bad at math, you are more likely to be scammed by investing money in dubious schemes. Or believe that you are more likely to die in a terrorist attack than a car accident.

Helping children to understand mathematics, therefore, is every bit as important as teaching them to read and write. But how can you make math easy, accessible and fun for them?

It's actually not that difficult. We use math all the time and once we are aware of the many ordinary math applications we engage in every day, we can begin pointing them out to our children and give them more opportunities to practice math in concrete ways.

Here are two simple suggestions:

Count real things

Just because your child can recite the multiplication tables like a pro doesn't mean she knows her numbers. Like walking and talking, math concepts come in stages. For younger children, you need to encourage them to count meaningfully. Your child may be able to tell you how many 50 cents there are in $10 (by using division, “guess and check” or other methods), but having her count out the real coins makes the process more concrete.

Introduce math-related words

More, less, half, quarter, a lot, a few – these are all important math concepts and language and children need to understand them concretely. Use these terms deliberately in everyday life and help your child notice the differences.

Cooking is one of the most rewarding math activities. For example, you can ask your child to help out in the kitchen by measuring and pouring ingredients. It’s fun, purposeful and ends with something good to eat.

Whatever you do, keep it light and don’t get frustrated when your child makes mistakes. Even when the right answer is totally obvious to you, your child may not yet have reached the stage of development required to understand a particular concept.

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