Tips on How Parents Can Help Their Kids in Mathematics

by Karen LoBello

Math is important to a child's success in school and in life. Children are more likely to be successful learners when their parents support their learning, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Get involved in your child's mathematics when he's young and then stay involved as he progresses through school. You can reinforce your child's mathematical skills and attitude at home in several ways.

Positive Outlook

Show your child that you think math is important and useful so he'll adopt that same attitude. Avoid phrases such as, “I was never good in math either.” Let him see how you use math at work and at home and point out the way others use math in their careers. He should think of herself as a mathematician. When you encourage your child to exercise persistence with difficult math problems, he'll begin to view them as interesting challenges. Get excited when he solves a problem.

Everyday Math

Incorporate math into your family's everyday life. Ask your child to sort laundry and match socks. When you take a walk, count the steps aloud. “Billy, let's climb these steps in two’s.” Your child can help with the baking by measuring a cup of sugar or a tablespoon of milk. Older children can figure out how to double a recipe. Let your child pay the clerk in the store and then count his money to ensure it's the correct change. He can help you when you use math tools, such as a calculator, measuring tape or balance scale. Estimate everything. “How wide is that picture?” “How many quarts of milk do we use in a week?” Then let him test the estimates.


Encourage your child to be a problem-solver. She can help you figure out how many tile squares you'll need for the entryway or what size picture would fit best on a wall. Ask her to weigh produce at the grocery store and estimate the cost. Give her time to think through problems and tell her you like the way she's thinking. When a child has a vested interest in a problem, she makes a connection to it. If you're planning a family vacation to a theme park, let her research the cost and figure out how much money the family needs to save each week to pay for admission. Ask questions as she solves problems, such as “What information do you already have?” or “Where can you find that information?”

Mathematical Thinking

Communicate with your child about mathematics. Give him opportunities to think out loud. Ask a younger child to tell you the shapes of his crackers or to count the number of eggs in the refrigerator. Converse with an older child about what he's thinking as he solves a problem. Encourage him to act out the problem, manipulate objects or draw pictures or diagrams to aid in his explanation. He can “act like a teacher” and explain to you what he learned in math class that day. If he has trouble with a particular concept, ask which part is the stumbling block. He should hear you talking aloud about math, too. “I need to go over the figures in my checkbook to find my error.”

Basic Concepts

Math is made up of building blocks, and it's important for your child to have a solid foundation. Ensure that she knows basic math facts so she'll have a smoother transition to multiplying by two numbers. Help her understand how to find a common denominator, so she won't be stumped by the addition of fractions. Emphasize concepts when you help your child. Cut a doughnut into four pieces to show her one-fourth. If your child consistently has trouble with math concepts, enlist the help of her teacher. Sometimes it's necessary to hire a tutor or use the services of a learning center so your child can progress at a steady pace.

Math Games

Family games are an effective way to sneak in a little math. Choose board games that require strategic thinking. Let your child be the banker for the game. Grab a pair of dice and take turns rolling the dice to see who can reach 50 first. Then reverse the process, so he has to subtract. When you're driving in the car, ask him to think of a number and then try to guess it. “Is it an odd number?” “Is it a multiple of 5?” Play a tossing game with the family. Let each member estimate how far he can throw a cotton ball, and then measure the actual distances.

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