As a family life and child development expert, JP has devoted years in nurturing students and strengthening family relations.

## The Challenge With Teaching Children Math

Mathematics is an abstract concept which befuddles children (and some adults) to grasp. You might be wondering why one plus one is difficult for children. Well, the idea of numbers to represent various items is perplexing. We understand that a chair is a chair and we sit on it. But a number like 1 can represent numerous objects. Unfortunately, the cognitive development of people go through stages and abstract reasoning does not manifest early in life. If you’re an educational psychologist, you’d be familiar with the work of Jean Piaget on cognitive development. Suffice to say, younger children need to interact and manipulate objects in order to fully grasp their essence. This is why we present mathematics in a way that children can appreciate and understand. For example, introducing numbers require turning this abstract concept into concrete principles. Can you remember your teacher adding all those apples and bananas in school. I’m one of those teachers who asks students to count fruits, pencils, pets, chairs and others I can’t remember. And slowly as you move up the grade levels, math became a little more confusing with equations, and graphs. But your misery was not over since your teachers eventually replaced numbers with letters and symbols to what is already a confusing subject. Believe me when I say that majority of my students move from enthusiasm to outright indignation when we reach this part.

In order to ensure children’s appreciation and enjoyment of math, we create learning experiences that are appropriate for their age.

## 1. Start Early When Teaching Math

When we start teaching our children math at an early age we cultivate the love for mathematics. Obviously, we don’t talk about permutations, irrational numbers and other cringe-worthy math topics. Instead, we focus on simple concepts like one-to-one correspondence. Simply put, we assign a number for every object in a set. We introduce them to counting even by letting them memorize the sequence of numbers.. Rote counting is a fundamental skill for young children thus skipping this may spell disaster. I’ve sung 10 Little Indians with gusto that my students fail to realize I am constantly out of tune.

Practical tips to start math early:

• Use decorations that reflect a mathematical theme
• Use songs, poems and stories that feature numbers and counting
• Include counting as part of your routines
• Choose toys that encourage math skills
• Allow the child to explore counting

## 2. Create Fun Memories With Numbers

When children equate math with fun, we can observe positive attitudes toward this infamous subject. Thus, having positive memories with math may lessen one’s aversion to numbers and their operations. This seems counter-intuitive but we can create wonderful memories with mathematics. For example, allow your child to experience successes with mathematics. Allow them the satisfaction of solving puzzles, mathematical teasers or just discovering how to complete a particular mathematical operation. Also, provide challenges that are appropriate for their skill level. To illustrate, you would not use perfect squares to demonstrate how multiplication works to a 1st grader. Instead, you may want to do skip counting. I usually include movement activities like actual skipping to my early-grade students. Just remember to provide adequate challenge based on what they’ve mastered. When we skip count by twos, they jump at the right numbered circle. When they skip count by threes, the task becomes increasingly challenging. Furthermore, we can create a positive attitude towards math if your child knows that there is someone whom they can turn to for assistance whenever they need one. This means you are there if they find themselves in a tight spot when solving something. There was even a time when I spoke to parents on how they can scaffold their children’s learning - including mathematics. I advocate the active involvement of the household in my students’ learning. Creating positive memories associated with math starts with helping your child at each stage of their discovery of math. Likewise, you should know how to provide them with the right motivation and encouragement.

Practical examples in creating positive memories with math:

• Choose experiences that are age appropriate and skill appropriate
• Choose puzzles and math brainteasers based on their skill level
• Provide incentives and motivation so they can accomplish their math tasks with gusto
• Learn to step back and allow your child to figure out the solution on their own. Give hints if needed.

## 3. Take Advantage of Teachable Moments

My brother and I improved our addition skills when we were young since our father taught us to play Black Jack. I know, it’s quite unusual but you can find a different game for your child. This card game requires its players to add quickly thus it was an interesting way to hone our skills. Of course, it did not start this way. We were just flipping cards and adding the next card. But it grew boring. Eventually, instead of adding we tried multiplying and it became exceedingly challenging. But that too became boring quickly. The next step was combining different operations and that was undoubtedly challenging. Often, I have a deck of cards in my pocket and I have my students do math drills. I usually flip cards I quick succession and they multiply the first two then add the last digit to the product. We do different kinds of combinations of the basic math operations.

Growing up, my father had other means to teach us operations in mathematics. One truly memorable technique was adding the plate numbers of the cars during road trips. He’d call out the make and model of a vehicle and we added the numbers on the plate number. Eventually we added the plate number of one car to the plate number of the second. It was super difficult but it kept us engaged during the trip. An alternative he did was he identified a vehicle then we multiply the first two digits and add the last one. Do take note that the plate numbers of cars in our country way back had 3 letters and 3 numbers. So adding 2 three-digit numbers was quite a challenge for kids. On the other hand, my mother would let us help cook or bake. She’d let us compute the recipe in different proportions. Of course, she’d check our calculations first otherwise we’d have unsavory food instead of her super delicious chocolate cake.

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Teachable moments are experiences that are never forced nor halfheartedly done. They are moments when you can infuse learning whether it is a tangential experience or a by product of the process. Whatever it may be, it has to be engaging and fun for the kids lest it will seem like another tedious activity at school. There are innumerable learning moments that you can capitalize throughout the day since math is part of our daily routines. It is just a matter of identifying them and tweaking them to suit the child’s temperament, age and skill level.

Parenting tips in creating teachable moments:

• Counting down to a certain special day is a wonderful way to encourage younger children on practicing subtraction.
• Keeping a tally of the child’s piggy bank is a great way to introduce addition and money.
• Packing away toys is a splendid way to teaching sets
• Cooking, measure height and weight help introduce units of measure, plotting chances in data points
• Cutting cake, pizza or sharing food teaches fractions and subtraction

## 4. Let Your Kids Think and Analyze

It is both funny and concerning that kids reach for their gadgets just to calculate simple addition problems. I can still remember the time when kids do not have any gadgets to turn to for simple mathematical operations. Surprisingly, even adults instinctively reach for a calculator for simple and basic math problems. What does this say about our math skills? Unfortunately, it’s not that appealing and we ensure the necessary change in habits to remedy this. Of course, people would argue that technology is there for convenience. However, you can actually multiply 11 pieces of notebooks by Php 25.00 each in your head faster than reaching for your phone, opening it, scrolling to look for you calculator app, then punching in the numbers. By the way, the answer is Php 275.00.

The simple solution to this is to let our children think first and acquire the habit of thinking instead of tapping on their gadgets for answers. I understand that is it tremendously more convenient and in numerous instances more efficient. However, our dependence on gadgets has left us unable to practice our brains.

My daughter felt bored during her grade 3 math class. I do not blame her teacher nor the curriculum of the school - well, perhaps a little. It’s just that I make sure my daughter receives enough practice at home. I started teaching her basic algebraic equation to keep her curiosity in mathematics. Solving for X was a challenge for her and this made her more determined to learn. A few months later, we were already graphing equations. She’s not a math genius. She’s an ordinary child with an appreciation for math. Right now, she’s in grade 5 and she’s following the curriculum of her school. But of course, her skills are above what they are learning. When she saw me checking students’ quizzes on expansion of binomial expressions, she became curious. What’s interesting is I do not force math on her. She finds herself enthralled at solving numbers. She just turned 10 and now she’s exploring math concepts for high school students while I was multiplying plate numbers at that age.

Math is always part of our lives. We compute our daily fare, the cost of our groceries, our monthly mortgage, our insurance premiums and other important aspects of our lives. Sure, we have calculators, apps, cheat sheets to simplify our lives. But math is more than just counting and numbers. It’s our mind’s ability to process information in a logical manner. Moreover, math helps us predict outcomes with a certain degree of accurateness. Likewise, it helps us decide between choices while minimizing risks. Math provides us with an objective perspective on a fairly subjective world. The skills needed in making a properly calculated decision requires adequate practice. To help our children enjoy math at an early age is to help our children succeed in life.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

JP Carlos (author) from Quezon CIty, Phlippines on September 12, 2021:

Hi E Randall, starting early does have its advantages. It's just important to remember to provide age-appropriate experiences. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the subject.

JP Carlos (author) from Quezon CIty, Phlippines on September 12, 2021:

Hello Umesh Chandra Bhatt, Thank you for taking the time to read my hub. I hope this was informative and useful for you.

E Randall from United States on September 12, 2021:

In order to have a child enjoy math I believe starting early is the key. Influence on the mind is best achieved as young as possible. Thank you for sharing this information.

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on September 12, 2021:

Very nice. Thanks.