how can I help my child at home?
Learning does not end in the classroom. Students who have supportive families who practice math at home do better in school. These students also feel that school is important.
Ways to help your child with kindergarten math
- Play board games that involve dice or playing cards to give your child practice recognizing dot patterns and counting. Games like this build strong number sense.
- Have your child count out objects of all kinds. Make collections of buttons or use paperclips or stones. Make different size groups of objects for him to count. Children usually learn the counting sequence (how to count out loud) before they can count groups of objects reliably.
- Another counting game starts with you saying a number within your child's counting range and then have her count up from there.
- Play the game "one more, one less, two more, two less". Put a small group of objects on the table, ask your child to count them, then ask "How much is one more? How much is two more? How much is one less? How much is two less?" When your child has mastered this with groups less than ten, increase the group size into the teens and twenties.
- You can also ask "How much is three more?" etc. as he builds his math knowledge. It's OK if he counts up to get the answer, although he might have other strategies. Ask him how he got his answer.
- Have your child practice reading and writing numbers. Read books to your child that have stories with numbers, like Greg Tang's Math-terpieces or Stuart J. Murphy's Ready, Set, HOP! Point to the numbers and have her say each one. There are many of these kinds of math books at any bookstore. Or you can make up a story with your child and have her write the numbers.
- A great set of number cards is available from Mixing in Math. The set comes with directions for many games.
- Simple games can be made that use dice and promote both counting and adding. One called Shut the Box is simple and fun.
- A simple pathway game board (Life or Candy Land) is helpful for counting. Roll a dice or turn over a card and move your piece (a dry bean, button, some other small object) that number of steps in the pathway. Children who count well can use two dice and try to determine the total number of steps before moving their piece. If two people play, the game is to see who gets to the end first.
- Another game that helps with the beginning of addition is "Hide the Buttons." Using five buttons at first, hold the buttons in one hand and have your child count them. Then without your child being able to see, move several of them to the other hand and show your child the ones that remain. Ask "How many did I hide in my other hand?" Let your child count what's in your open hand, and then work out how many are hidden. At first he may count up, or he may want to make a drawing with five and cross out the ones that are showing. Let him work it out any way he can. Then play again with a different number hidden. (You can use any small object for this game, not just buttons.)
- Make up simple story problems that require adding or subtracting. Ask your child to draw the situation, or let her use counters of some kind (buttons, dry beans, etc.) to solve the problem. Eventually, by the end of first grade, she should be able to solve problems that involve numbers that add to five or less in her head (like 3+2, 1+2, 1+4, 2+2). But don't push the math facts in kindergarten. Children build strong math sense as they solve problems by counting and using number strategies. Always ask your child how he solved the problem if it's not obvious.
- Have your child name the shapes of objects in your house, like picture frames, windows, glasses, etc. You can even write the names of the shapes on pieces of paper and tape them to the objects to practice learning words at the same time.
- Talk about the size of objects using familiar words like "That refrigerator is tall. That dog is short. That rock looks heavy. This pebble is not heavy." Cut strings of various sizes and ask your child to sort them from shortest to longest, or find objects and have your child sort them from lightest to heaviest.
- If you learn in a parent conference that your child is having a problem with a particular skill or concept in math, you can work with your child at home on that concept. Ask the teacher for ideas about how to help with that specific task.
Overall strategies for school success
- Meet your child's teacher as soon as the new school year starts.
- Ask the teacher about the process for regular communication between home and school.
- Read what comes home from school and keep in touch with your child's teacher, especially when you have concerns.
- Attend parent-teacher conferences.
- Establish a consistent routine to make sure your child gets homework done. Show an interest in your child's work.
- Always talk about school and the teacher in a positive way, even if you have concerns. It is important for children to see home and school as united.
- Establish regular routines for morning, after school, homework and bedtime.
- Make sure your child is getting enough sleep, so he can focus at school.
- Talk to your child daily about school and how she feels it is going. This shows the value of education.
- Monitor and limit your child's use of technology (TV, computer, internet, video-games, phone and social media).
- Encourage healthy eating and exercise habits.
- Celebrate your child's school success at home.