5 practical tips to get kids in a math mindset

If children are not yet old enough for arthimetic, it\'s never too early to teach the names and values of coins, says Larry Martinek. (Thinkstock)
Why time is important for more than fractions

Megan Cloherty | November 14, 2014 8:38 pm

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WASHINGTON – Whether school has started or it is still a few weeks away, there are easy ways to get kids into a math mindset and ready for class.

When back to school shopping, ask kids what 50 percent off the price of an item is, for example.

“Their mental engagement with math, in most cases, has slowed down a bit … just asking pointed questions like that can really cause kids to think a little bit can really give them a jump start into the school year,” says Larry Martinek, chief instructional officer of Mathnasium Learning Centers.

He has five practical back-to-school tips to get kids ready for math class. One of them is to have your child make change and interact with cashiers. Martinek used the example of handing his second grader the bill for brunch and a $20 bill.

“That’s a great little activity for parents right there, to let kids figure the change and go pay for it themselves. There is very nice empowerment that happens from that,” Martinek says.

If children are not yet old enough for arthimetic, it’s never too early to teach the names and values of coins, Martinek says.

5 practical math tips for kids:

  1. Change: Have the child calculate how much change they should receive when shopping at restaurants, retailers and grocery stores.
  2. Fair Trades: Have the child calculate how many dimes equal the value of six quarters, for example.
  3. Problem Solving: Ask how many months younger or older a child’s friend or sibling is than they are. Or how old they will be when their younger or older sibling is a certain age.
  4. Splitting in Half: If a pound of candy costs $6, ask your child how much a half-pound costs. If a half-pound is $1.50, ask how much a whole pound costs.
  5. Time: Ask the kids to figure out what time to leave by explaining when you’ll need to get there. Bonus points if they answer by using a fraction.

Telling time is an important skill for obvious reasons, but can also help kids with basic fractions and language comprehension, Martinek says.

“‘How long is it going to take?’ ‘Oh, three quarters of an hour.’ ‘What time is it now? ‘Quarter ’til.’ All of these expressions, adults kind of take for granted. Especially the phrases clockwise and counter-clockwise,” Martinek says.

Working beyond Martinek’s tips, as first reported in Bethesda-Chevy Chase Patch, he suggests asking kids to count in increments of 15 after they’ve mastered counting in fives and tens.

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