Is your child shying away from the prospect of doing basic maths equations in his exercise book? We tell you some interesting ways in which you can make addition and subtraction a fun activity.
By Sarika Chuni
Parents play an important part in their child’s mathematics education. This is especially true in early childhood education where simple mathematics skills such as addition and subtraction provide the foundation children need to succeed in elementary school and beyond. American scientist Josiah Willard Gibbs called mathematics 'a language'. Just like we help our children learn a language to help them communicate with the world, helping them learn the language of maths at an early age is pivotal to their development.
We do a great disservice to our children by assuming that they will learn basic maths such as addition and subtraction only after a certain age. According to a study ‘School Readiness And Later Achievement’ by Greg J Duncan et al, published in Developmental Psychology (2007), early maths skills are the strongest predictor of academic achievement in later life.
We often associate early mathematics learning with the drudgery of solving multiple addition and subtraction sums in exercise books, but the reality is that with the help of concrete tools, learning these skills can be interesting and fun. Mathematics learning for all ages, especially young learners, is about engagement and interest. Here are some interesting ways to encourage and stimulate your child’s natural understanding of mathematics:
1. Set the table: Tell your child that he needs to set the dinner table for X number of people. If they have learned counting, ask them to count loudly the numbers of spoons, forks and plates used to set the table and then ask them to calculate the total number of pieces of cutlery put on the table. If they are new at counting, you can count along with them.
2. Bring in the paper plates: Divide a paper plate into sections marking each with a different colour and place small objects like buttons or beads in each of the sections. Ask your child to count aloud the number of objects in each section. Then ask her to remove X number of objects from one section and count the remaining ones. Use terms like ‘remove’ or ‘subtract’ while asking her to do the maths. Write down the equation for her to see the connection between the activity and the mathematical symbols. Use terms like ‘add’, ‘increase’ or ‘add to’ for another coloured section to teach addition. Once she masters this, you can make the problems a little complicated by simultaneously removing from one section and adding to the another.
3. Go traditional: Ask your child to count the number that comes up when he rolls the dice. Use terms like ‘increase by’ or ‘add the number’ to get him to move his peg ahead on the board. If he gets to a snake and has to move down the board, ask him to calculate how many points he has to give away to reach his destination. You can motivate him to do so by giving him an extra turn if he gets it right.
4. Play with fingers: Ask your children to count how many fingers they have on one hand and then hold up four fingers. Now, ask them to use both hands to show only four fingers. Encourage them to do the same with other numbers. You can also add magnetic numbers to the mix. Place a magnetic number in front of your child and ask her to find different ways to show you that number on her fingers.
5. Try the Popsicle sticks: This game can be used to teach the often difficult-to-grasp concept of place value to the child. Draw two columns on a page, labelling it in ten’s and ones. Ask your child to tie 10 Popsicle sticks with a rubber band and place it in the ten’s column. Then, ask him to place one Popsicle stick in the one’s column. Ask him to count the total number of sticks including the ten’s and one’s columns. Repeat the activity by adding one more stick to the one’s column. Once the child masters adding tens with ones, you can add another bundle of 10 Popsicle sticks to the first column and ask him to add the total. Represent the physical addition with a written equation (Example 10+ 1 = 11 or 10+2 = 12) each time to link the concept to mathematical symbols.
6. Do human maths: Make a number line on the floor from 0 to 10 using duct tape and coloured paper. Give your child a written equation, for example 1+2. Ask him to read the equation out loud and guess the answer. Then he can walk up to the number, which he thinks is the right answer. Give him another turn, if he gets the correct answer. This can be a great party game as well.
7. Switch on the calculator: Press any number on a calculator. Ask your child to figure out different ways in which they can arrive at that number. For example, you could get 5 by either adding 1 and 4, or 2 and 3, or subtracting 1 from 6. You can turn this into a group game. The child who comes up with the maximum number of ways in which to get the same number within a set time, wins.
There are countless ways in which you can ignite your child’s passion for mathematics that will hold him in good stead later in life. Remember that mathematics education is not just about solving practice problems on worksheets but is a vital part of our existence. So, get going on the journey of mathematical discovery with your child.
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