Tips to Make Math Easier for Young Learners

By Dr. Ray Huntington

Math is a perpetually challenging subject that requires children to learn increasingly difficult concepts in order to keep up in the classroom and with homework. At a young age, the foundational “building block” math skills are simpler to learn—and simpler for parents to teach. As children grow older, however, math becomes more complex, which is when problems tend to arise (and when many parents seek the help of a math tutor for their child).

Parents might notice their children struggling with math when:

• Teachers move away from fun math activities and begin teaching more advanced material that relies upon students’ analytical skills, attention to detail, and critical thinking.
• Math starts to require more patience and persistence (e.g., with multi-step problems).
• Children don’t understand the relevance of math to their everyday lives.
• Children don’t have a strong foundation to problem solve effectively when math problems aren’t straightforward.
• Math requires more focus and attention to do correctly.

Whatever the reason, it’s not uncommon for children who enjoyed math when they were preschoolers or kindergarteners to find the subject frustrating as it gets more difficult in elementary school. If you’re the parent of an early elementary child, there are many things you can do to build a strong math foundation. Here are a few tips and math activities for young learners.

Play math games. Lots of children learn best by doing, so playing math games is a great way to teach while having fun.  Simple concepts are good for preschool and kindergarten children such as number identification, forming numbers, counting 1-10, basic shape recognition and drawing shapes.  Here are a few examples of games for preschool and kindergarten children:

• Counting game – Draw several trees on separate pieces of paper and write a number in the trunk of each tree. Buy a sheet of apple (or circle) stickers. Tell your child to put the matching number of apples on each tree and count aloud to you while doing so.
• Number recognition game – On separate pieces of paper, draw different quantities of objects—for example, three circles on one sheet, seven stars on another, and four smiley faces on another. Place note cards with numbers written on them (or number magnets if you have them) in a pile, and have your child count the objects on each sheet and choose the correct number note card or magnet to place in the drawing.
• Shape scavenger hunt – Draw a triangle, circle, square and rectangle on separate sheets of paper, and tape them up on a wall. Then, draw each shape on a few sticky notes—for example, you could draw three triangle sticky notes, eight circle sticky notes, four square sticky notes and two rectangle sticky notes (a total of 16). Hide all of the sticky notes around your home, and have your child find them and bring them back to stick to the correct shape on the wall. When they are done, have them count the number of each shape and write that number on the paper.

As your child moves through the early elementary grades (grades k-3) they can practice more complex concepts like addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division skills through games such as 7 ate 9, Uno, Left Center Right (dice game), Money bags, dominoes, and card games.

For older elementary school students (grades 3-6), search for board games that develop critical thinking, problem-solving, and reasoning skills. Good examples are Bananagrams, Yahtzee, Monopoly, Qwirkle, Chess, and Sudoku.

Pay attention to your child’s learning style(s). It might take a while for you to recognize your child’s learning style, but knowing what to look for will help you as you support your child’s math understanding at home. Here’s an overview of four common learning styles:

• Visual learners learn best using visual aids, diagrams, or other visual tools other than words. When learning math, using pictures, charts, and objects will help this type of learner understand the concept being taught.
• Auditory learners learn through listening, reading aloud and talking about ideas. If your child seems to prefer being read to and talking about what they learn, you can discuss math problems or ideas as they start bringing home math homework.
• Reading/writing learners like to read things themselves to learn -new math concepts and they tend to be skilled at articulating their knowledge and ideas in writing. Step-by-step instructions and activities that involve reading problems to themselves (or to you) will suit them best.
• Kinesthetic learners prefer to experience information for themselves, either by touching it, holding it or doing it themselves. Many preschool children learn this way, so hands-on activities that use tangible objects will reinforce their understanding of what numbers represent.

Engage a math tutor if problems arise. Math is a tough subject for many children, and problems that start small tend to grow bigger quickly if left uncorrected. Because math concepts build on one another, children who don’t grasp the very basics of math in kindergarten will find elementary school math confusing and frustrating. This will continue into later elementary school too, as math becomes more complex, and success depends on prior knowledge.

If you notice that your child doesn’t grasp math easily, don’t wait to seek help. Huntington’s individualized math tutoring programs unlock the world of math for elementary school students (and middle school and high school students as well). We start by conducting a comprehensive academic evaluation to assess your child’s strengths and weaknesses as well as their learning style and academic goals. We help children build foundational math skills for continued success and equip students with problem-solving skills from a young age.

Call Huntington at 1-800 CAN LEARN today to start your child down a new path to math success!