Building Math Skills
Tips for Parents
Play tic-tac-toe, dots, checkers, dominoes, concentration, hangman, Scrabble, chess, and increasingly complex card games such as hearts, rummy, cribbage with your child. All involve problem solving and logic, and all are based on mathematics.
Skill in solving problems is one of the goals of mathematical study. Ask your child to show you how he or she goes about solving a word problem in math. (Steps in the process might include trying to understand the question, finding the pertinent information, deciding what to do, working out the answer, and checking the answer.)
Ask your child to determine the best way to solve the following problems, using a calculator, paper and pencil, mental calculation, or estimation:
We have 12 shelves and we have to put 40 cans on each shelf. How many cans will we need?
John works at a fast food restaurant and makes $6 an hour. If he works 28 hours each week, how much will he earn in eight weeks?
A jogger runs 10 kilometers each weekday and 15 kilometers each weekend day. How many kilometers did the jogger run during the past month? (Use your calendar to figure out the number of weekdays and weekend days.)
A sweatshirt store can print four designs A, B, X, and Y on sweatshirts. Each pattern can be printed alone or in combination with any or all of the other designs. If you wanted to own one of every possible design combination, how many sweatshirts would you have to buy? [4+4x4=4x4x4+4x4x4x4]
With a map of the United States, ask, "What is the shortest route from Princeton, New Jersey, to San Francisco, California?" Or from Boston, Massachusetts, to Madison, Wisconsin. Or have your child figure out how long it would take to get to the homes of relatives and friends around the country -- or the world -- by plane, train, automobile, or on foot. When you travel, make sure you involve your child in planning travel routes.
Ask, "How could we figure out how tall our house is?" What about a local church, or the school? Expect your child to come up with many suggestions for figuring out the height.
Make up problems. For example: "It takes us 5 hours and 15 minutes to get to Aunt Siobhan's house if we average 55 miles an hour. How long would it take if we went 60 miles an hour? How about 50, or 45?"
The calculator should be very familiar to your child. Using a calculator, pick a number such as 109, then take turns adding a number from 1 to 8 into the memory. The objective is to see who can get to 109 first. This is a good mental math task and also another way to use the calculator.
Multiplying three-digit numbers is common in the sixth grade. Children are taught to think of the problem 422 x 396 in this way: 6 x 422, 90 x 422, and 300 x 422. Another way to visualize it is: 422 396 2,532 (6x422) 37, 980 (90x422) 126,600 (300x422) 167,112.
Have your child work out the following problems (do them yourself at the same time and compare your solutions with your child's): 508 x 183; 759 x 341; 192 x 546.
Reprinted from 101 Educational Conversations with Your 6th Grader by Vito Perrone, published by Chelsea House Publishers.
Copyright 1994 by Chelsea House Publishers, a division of Main Line Book Co. All rights reserved.
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