"I can't do this. Why do I need to know this anyway? Can't we just use the computer to do this?"
We have all heard this from someone; ourselves, our spouses, friends and all too often we hear this from our children.
We have seen math as a difficult subject for our generation and now we are seeing math become even more "frustrating", "boring", and "intimidating" for many of our children. We have tried collaboration, individual tutoring and even extra home work as a means toward improvement. But many of our efforts are met with failure, anger and even tears. What is the key to overcoming the math "Mount Everest"? While there is no band aid for healing math confusion, there are tips and strategies that are fundamental in changing your child's view of math and developing "number sense".
Math Must Make Sense
The most important thing is to remember that math must make sense. Leading students to make connections between mathematics and how they will use it in their world is the starting point in engaging the mind. Using circumstances like dividing an odd number of cookies in half for siblings to share illustrates "fraction sense". Using dice, playing cards or poker chips are fun ways for practicing addition, subtraction, multiplication or division.
Next assess your child's ability to work with the four basic operations of math. Having a sound foundation with addition and subtraction is invaluable for the child's understanding of multiplication and division. Focusing on double facts, adding to 10, counting by any number to any number and understanding "how far apart" numbers are with subtraction are tools you can use to help your child understand how numbers relate to each other.
A basic tenant of working with fractions is that you can only add and subtract things that have the same name. For example, 1 apple + 1 apple = 2 apples, 1 banana + 1 banana = 2 bananas, and if I add 1 apple + 1 banana do I get 2 banapples or 2 fruit? If I have 2 quarters and 4 nickles, do I have 6 quarkles or 6 coins? The Law of Sameness tells us that we must create a common denominator, or name, to add and subtract items. This becomes especially important as sameness is continually revisited throughout every level of mathematics, including algebra.
When a parent, mentor or teacher can show their child why things happen in math and how they relate to their world, the child can begin to enhance their "number sense". The fear and intimidation of math melts away because they understand the magic that took place between the problem and the solution. They will see how it relates to things they are interested in and that it's not really magical or mysterious. It's just math, it happened, and it makes complete sense.