Chandra Weigand, Grade 2 teacher, and Junior School Math Specialist is passionate about all things related to numeracy and her infectious enthusiasm is contagious. Here she shares some top tips with parents on developing math skills and encouraging a young mathematician.

1. Build Her Vocabulary

Talking with your daughter is the best way to introduce her to the unique vocabulary and symbols related to mathematics. A trip to the grocery store is an ideal time to build vocabulary and practice various algorithms.

Talk about the cost of different items. For example, the box of 6 granola bars might cost $3.49. Ask her to estimate the cost; is it closer to $3 or $4? If she’s ready for a more complex problem, ask her how she could determine the cost of each granola bar if the box contains 6. Ask her to keep a running total of the bill. As you put items into the cart, tell her the estimated price. Ask her to keep an approximate running total on a piece of paper or in her mind. Tallying up several items will help her understand what the total should be. Once she arrives at the cash register, she can verify her calculation against the cashier’s total.

2. Cultivate Mathematical Concepts in the Kitchen

Filling teaspoons and cups and using a kitchen scale are opportunities for measuring and weighing. 

If your favourite cookie recipe calls for measuring two teaspoons of cinnamon, and she can easily do that, make the problem more complex by helping her determine how many ½ teaspoons are equivalent. While showing her the ½ teaspoon, explain that two of them are the same as a teaspoon. Ask her how many of the small spoons she would need for two teaspoons.

Many processes in mathematics are a set of steps to be followed. Early experiences in cooking provide opportunities for following instructions. Read through the steps, one by one, and help your daughter notice which ones have been completed and which remain. Simple questions, like “Did we add the sugar?” encourage her to recall what’s already been done. If your daughter is ready to follow the procedure on her own, take on the role of supervisor and let her read through and complete the sets on her own.

For a real challenge, explain to your daughter that you need her help to halve or double a recipe. Help her figure out the amount of each ingredient that will be needed. Halving a recipe is one of the few real-world experiences for multiplying fractions. 

3. Improve her Financial Literacy

Most children are naturally curious about money. Offering your daughter an allowance for completing additional responsibilities is a chance for her to earn her own money. Many six-year-olds can successfully set the table, sort laundry, or sweep a floor. When you pay her the allowance, pay her in coins. Pay her in quarters one week and dimes another. Help her recognize the names and values of each coin. Practice counting by 5s, 10s, and later by 25s. This is a skill expected of students in the early elementary years.

Once your daughter begins to earn money, it’s time to help her learn how to manage it. Saving money is hard work. Kids need to develop this skill early. A portion of the money she receives for her allowance, birthday, or jobs she’s done could be allocated to savings. Consider using two jars, one for saving and one for spending. Help her decide on an appropriate amount to save (perhaps 20%) and spend (the remaining 80%). Keep amounts in percentages so the calculation will be easy. Ready for the next step? Add a few more jars; quick cash (spending), charity, medium-term savings (for purchases that cost more than the weekly allowance), long-term savings (think university fund.)
Help your daughter understand how money works by providing chances to spend her money. Often children ask for items they see at stores. Encouraging your daughter to save up for an item will give her a better sense of the value of money and an appreciation for the items she chooses to buy.

When your daughter buys an item, further her independence by having her interact with the cashier. Help your daughter count out the correct amount to pay for items. Encourage her to wait for change and count the amount she received. 

4. Have Family Game Night and Help her Gain Numeracy Skills

Once students understand the concept of adding, subtracting, multiplying, or dividing, they will need plenty of opportunities to practice using the “fact families” in order to commit them to memory. A fact family is the group of numbers that create the number sentences for addition and subtraction or multiplication and division. For example, 3, 4, and 12 are considered a fact family as 3x4=12, 4x3=12, 12/4=3, and 12/3=4.  A deck of cards is often all you need to help your daughter gain fluency with these facts. Google “card games for basic facts” and a wealth of sites pop up. Each site outlines a variety of games that can be played with either cards or dice. 

When playing a board game, rolling dice is a chance to practice counting. If two dice are rolled and show a three and a six, young children will arbitrarily choose one die and begin counting (one, two, three) and then continue counting on with the second (four, five, etc.). Once your daughter knows the numbers associated with each side of the die, then this is when you can show her the strategy of counting on from the biggest number. Have her select the bigger of the two values (six) and count three more from there (seven, eight, nine.)

Games can be great tools for teaching math. A game like Battleship is an opportunity to introduce your daughter to coordinate geometry. To encourage her logical thinking, talk about strategies for the next guess. If she’s identified a hit on B1, what would be possible coordinates to try next? The game of chess teaches girls to think logically and evaluate the choices before them. In order to decide which piece to move, a player must analyze the possible outcomes. When playing chess, pose questions like What will happen if you move there? Or, is there a better option? 

5. Shape her Knowledge of Geometry 

Geometry and the understanding of spatial sense refer to the introduction of ideas like shape, size, space, position, direction, and movement. 

Origami is building designs and creations by folding paper into a variety of shapes. Your daughter may begin with a square, but how many ways can she fold it to make two identical pieces? Try unfolding a piece of origami. Pay attention to the crease lines; are there any lines of symmetry? Along with learning about geometry, origami requires following a sequence of instructions that necessitate logic and reasoning to follow correctly.

Opportunities to draw or paint are chances for your daughter to be creative with lines, shapes, colours, and patterns. Cartooning, creating scaled versions of an object, and learning to draw perspective are opportunities to play with lines, shapes, sizes, and ratios. Learning to draw a three-dimensional shape on a piece of paper is a complex task. Visualizing three dimensions and replicating the image well on a two-dimensional surface will assist her when she is plotting points on a three-dimensional coordinate system. 

Try printing off a map instead of connecting the GPS. Ask your daughter to help navigate the way using the map. Along with learning to read a map, she will further develop her vocabulary by providing you with the directions. 

For more information or to share ideas, feel free to speak with your daughter’s homeroom teacher.