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How to Teach Math at Home

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“Mathematics is the language with which God created the world.” This quotation came from the Italian physicist and astronomer, Galileo (1564-1642). If you want to know how to teach math at home, it is helpful to realize that math is everywhere. The pattern of a flower, the shape of your house, and the recipe for dinner are simple examples of teaching/learning opportunities.

Children can learn math without even being aware of it, providing you “set the proper seed.” From the moment a child awakes, his day is full of fun mathematical learning potential. Children can calculate the hours, minutes, or even seconds they slept the night before, or estimate the weight, in grams, of their toothpaste.

An automobile trip provides an opportunity too. A one and a half hour trip is also 90 minutes, 5400 seconds. 1/16th, or .0625 of a day. At the end of the day a graph showing the approximate time that certain activities took place or estimations of how many steps they walked are some examples of math opportunities that surround our daily lives.

Remembering that math is everywhere you look, and involved in everything you do, will help you find the learning opportunities in your everyday lives. Experience will help you teach math at home and find appropriate examples for each child’s level of ability.

A major hurdle for many math students is problem solving. In an attempt to help students learn math, you can use the following 5 step plan:

1. What is the question

a) Decide what must be found
b) The problem usually states this in the form of a question

2. Find the facts

a) Key Facts that you need to solve the problem
b) Facts you do not need, extra information
c) Are additional facts needed

3. Select a strategy

a) Try a strategy
b) Estimate
c) Evaluate

4. Solve by selecting the proper operations

5. Does your answer make sense?

Step three is the hardest step to master. To achieve success selecting a strategy, you must know what strategies are available. Students can practice picking from a list of twelve overall problem strategies. Each is written in a log, examples of their use listed and practiced as often as time allows. A summary of these strategies is written below.

1. Organize your Information. If a student is asked to put in pictures what he sees in words and can do it accurately, he or she will succeed. Almost all world problems can be drawn to show the information in picture form.

a) Draw a picture. Charts and graphs are very similar to pictures. They take some work initially, but make problem solving much quicker in the end. Children usually need a push to get started, but if you lead by example, they will follow.

b) Make charts and graphs. Students need a way to organize multiple facts. Using a tally system to gather the information in a survey of favorite icecream flavors is a good experience

c) Sort the Data. Students must learn to group the data in a way that leads to the answer.

2. Use manipulatives. Manipulatives are tangible objects that students can use to explore number concepts. Students who have difficulty understanding fractions such as 3/4 or 1/4 in the abstract, may already be using these fractions in their lives, using a 3/4 inch wrench, or measuring 1/4 cup of flour. The symbolic realms of math are the hardest to understand and manipulatives provide a hands-on approach to understand them.

3. Estimation. In every lunch box there exists an opportunity to practice estimation. How many “skittles” are in your bag? The questions are endless. You can award prizes for groups that can come the closest to the number of peanuts in a jar, etc.

4. Substitute Simple Numbers. Many times grade five and six students are reluctant to attempt math problems because they are “fear struck.” It’s hard enough to solve world problems, let alone those involving fractions or mixed numbers. To ease the pressure, you can turn those bad problems into “baby problems.”

Replace the 7 3/4 bushels on the truck and the 2 1/4 bushels the farmer unloaded with the simple digits 7 and 2, then ask how many bushels remained on the truck? Everyone answers 5 and with a brief explanation of why this occurred, students soon apply substitution to more difficult problems.

Teaching math at home requires imagination and a willingness to experiment. Math is inherent in so many things and is relevant when students see it in their lives. Don’t drill and kill; make the experience gratifying for all.

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