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Make Math Easy!

Math ... Make it Easy!

What do you think of when you hear the word math? Is it a happy thought or does it create a feeling of anxiety?

Many people think that math is counting and recognizing numbers, but mathematics is much more! It is a way to understand quantity (how much), numbers, patterns, space, and shapes. Mathematics provides us with a sense of order, a way to predict outcomes, compare things, and solve problems. Mathematics is everywhere, and it is already a part of every child's world.

You can see children using math to make sense of the world. A 1-year-old asks for more crackers and cries when someone takes one away. A 2-year-old holds up two fingers to represent his age. A 3-year-old shows her understanding of shapes and space when she turns and stacks blocks to make a tower. A 4-year-old picks out patterns in the bathroom floor tiles. And a 5-year-old loves to tell how tall she is and how she keeps getting taller! These are all math concepts.

Math is a big part of our lives. When we sort laundry and match socks, we're identifying and matching. When we set the table for a meal and make sure each person has the proper utensils, we're counting. When we keep score or time at a basketball or football game, we're adding and comparing. No matter what the situation is we are always using math in our everyday life. Below are simple strategies for families to try to encourage math learning.

Talk with your child! - Listen to what your child says to you. Use math words to describe what you see, hear, and do and what your child sees, hears, and does. Encourage them to express their ideas with math words, pictures, and symbols. Let them describe shapes, sizes and colors of objects around them. The more "math talk" you share with them the more knowledge they develop.

Solve problems together! - It is important young children learn how to come to an answer, not just to get the right one. Letting them explore and question it allows them to obtain more answers for themselves. Over time and with practice, your child can become a great problem solver!

Ask WHY questions! - Ask your child questions, such as why they put all the little trucks in one box or paired the blue sock with the white one. Listen to their responses and respond back. Give them a chance to explain their reasoning; even if it does not make sense to you it does to them. Children don't always know how they get their answers, but that's okay. It's the thinking process that counts.

Draw and write about math! - Use drawings and objects such as blocks, counters, and fingers. Ask your children questions such as, "Can you draw a...?", "What can you do with these blocks...?"and "Tell me more about how....". Remember that children also love to copy what adults do, so make a structure with the blocks, draw some shapes or let them count and identify the numbers the next time you are in the grocery store.

So remember the next time your child shows interest in something use it as a teaching moment. That few minutes will be a stepping stone in your child's development and will give them a lifetime of knowledge to build on.

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