Fun With Math: Make It Memorable!

Keeping children abreast of math skills is something every parent seems to dread. Follow these tips to having fun with math.

Math. It's the most dreaded word in school. Every parent hates to see the word and hates to think their child isn't doing well in that class. And, yet, instead of embracing math to ensure their children understand the whole concept and are comfortable with it, most parents tend to avoid math like it's the plague. It's no wonder kids grow up with an unnatural dislike to math.

Unless your dad is a mathematician, chances are you hated math, too.

I hated math with a passion. I also didn't do well in math. But, when I had children of my own I wanted things to be easier for them, so I wholeheartedly embraced math. When my children were little bitty things, I introduced them to my fingers. We counted them every day. We counted baby's toes, too. Soon they were counting with me. One, two, three, was as common at our house as was Ma-Ma, Da-Da.

When they got older, we counted the number of people in the family, the number of chairs at the table, the number of windows in the house. We counted the towels in the linen closet, the plates in the plate rack, the amount of animal crackers he/she could have for snack. Soon they were counting out their own snacks. Sometimes I rewarded them with one more animal cracker for their diligence.

Soon they knew how many steps there were on our stairway, how many steps it took to travel from the front door to the sidewalk and given the probability of me letting them wander that far, they volunteered guesses at how many steps it would take to travel from our backdoor to the store for a Tootsie Roll sucker. One day we walked it-it was too many steps for any of us to count-and bought some of those suckers. The sucker has approximately three licks before you reach the Tootsie Roll center. (Scout's honor.)

Counting things in your own home is easy. It's usually predictable, and less confusing than counting only red cars on the expressway, or recycling bins only on recycling day. But, as luck would have it, eventually kids grow tired of constant repetition. When they do, it's time for a challenge. Take them out-of-doors and let the counting begin.

We counted daisies. I now know it takes a total of 24 daisies to braid a crown, unless you have long stems... too many long stems and the crown will be too big. Then you have to subtract six, bringing the number down to 18. Unless your head is extra small, or bigger than average.

In this manner, the kids learned easily that numbers are always changing, as is their world around them.

They understood that the normal amount of fingers on one hand is five, and the same number holds true for toes, however, the number of hairs on a person's head changes with the individual. We had one session of add and subtract in regards to hair, but, though educational, it also was painful. Hopefully, it won't be repeated.

Birth dates are important numbers, as are ages, the number of letters in the child's name, and the number of people in their family. Whenever my son lights a candle in church, he counts out 18, which is the day he was born. One of my daughters considers the number eight to be lucky, because it was her birth date. My other daughter still thinks of herself as number one, and since that was the day she was born on, she really is number one.

I still remember the number 10 very vividly. Ten was the magical number for me. I was born on March 10 and at the age of 10 things changed at our house. Ten-year-olds could walk to the store, two blocks away by themselves. I also remember that the 10th crack in the sidewalk is directly in front of the Blessed Virgin Mary statue at St. Dominick's Church, just past the half-way mark to where the store was.

Adding special items, such as two eggs in the birthday cake, two...or counting the chocolate chips in each cookie before eating it, will be the things your child will remember with delight.

If numbers are fun when your child is young, they won't be so scarey when they start associating them with the word math. Remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Give your child something beautiful to embrace...let it be math.

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