4 Crucial Math Concepts
to help your child excel in math

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Your child's success in learning Math depends on mastering these five crucial concepts. They are essential for building a strong foundation in Math. They help your child understand and make sense of numbers and problem-solving; they strengthen his or her number sense.

The good news is that it is very easy to help your child understand these concepts. The key is to practice a few minutes several times a day. Make it a family affair so your child does not feel overly stressed. Your child or children will remember the lessons better if they had fun with it.

1.   Understanding Numbers

The first concept your child must master is knowing how to read, write and understand numbers. Print out 2 sets of the number chart here.  Use one set as a reference.  Cut out the individual numbers from the second set.

Some ideas for you:

-  read and write numbers

-  recite a list of numbers forwards and backwards

-  what number comes before or next

-  arrange numbers in order (start with consecutive numbers)

-  even and odd numbers

Print out this set of place numbers for older children.

2.   More, Less or Equal

The next important concept in Math is to know how 2 numbers compare; whether one  number is more, less or equal to another number.

Numbers represent quantity. Your child must first understand these types of questions.

  1. Amanda has 12 stickers.  Benjamin has 9 stickers.  Who has more stickers?

  2. Jack has 35 stamps.  Alan has 19 stamps.  Who has fewer stamps?

  3. Sam has 107 balloons.  Jodie has 90 balloons.  Who has more balloons?  How many more?

  4. Charlie is 30-years-old. Mary is 17-years-old.  Who is younger?  How many years younger?

Followed by these types of questions:

  1. Rodney has $3 more than Janice. How much money does Rodney have if Janice has $26?

  2. I have 7 fewer pencils than books.  How many books do I have if I have 20 pencils?

  3. John spent $11 less than Mark.  How much did they spend altogether if Mark spent $15?

And these types of questions:

  1. 5 pencils cost the same as 2 books.  Which is more expensive, the pen or the book?

  2. 6 apples cost the same as 10 oranges.  What is the cost of 1 apple if 1 orange costs $0.60?

  3. Mary and James have the same amount of money.  Mary spent half of her money.  James spent one-third of his money.  Who spent more money?

No matter how difficult the questions get, they can all be broken down into simple comparisons of more, less or equal.

3.  Knowing Which Operation to Use

In Basic Maths there are actually only 4 operations your child needs to know: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.  Here are some clues to help your child decide which of these to use.  Print the following graphic for your child to use as a guide.

4.   Different Ways to Get to the Answer

When it comes to Math, many children assume there is only one way or method to use to come up with the correct answer. If your child does not understand the teacher's method, he or she assumes that it is because he or she too stupid to understand.

You must help your child realize that there can be different ways of understanding a problem and different strategies can be used to find the answer. However, though the strategies may differ, the answer to the question must always be the same.

Play this family game: Write out simple word problems on cards. Read out a problem, then each person explains how he or she comes up with the answer.

Example

Mary has 9 sweets. She bought a few more sweets and now she has 13 sweets. How many sweets did Mary buy?

Some methods of solving:

  1. Say '9' then count '10, 11, 12, 13' on your fingers. Since you used 4 fingers to count, the answer is 4.

  2. Draw 9 circles in a row. Draw 13 circles in a second row below the first, making sure you line them up exactly. Compare the two rows and point out there are 4 extra circles in the second row. The answer is 4.

  3. Write the numbers 1 to 13 on a number line. Point out that after the number 9, there are 4 more numbers to reach the number 13.  The answer is 4.

Play this game often and your child will become more flexible and logical in his or her thinking. He or she will automatically look for different ways to solve a hard problem. This will surely help in tackling complicated Math problems later on in school. Teach your child to ask "Is there another way of solving?" when he or she cannot understand one explanation.

This will help them realize that failure to understand does not mean they are stupid.

After your child has mastered this Math concept, introduce deliberate mistakes in your reasoning to see if your child can spot and correct them.

But do this only after your child has thoroughly understood the different strategies or you'll only end up confusing your child.

For older children, you can help them understand the properties of the different operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

Sometimes the order that these operations are used does not matter.  Sometimes it does.  Discuss the different strategies to find out when order matters, and when it doesn't.

Example

Max bought 3 boxes of pencils.  Each box contains 12 pencils.  He gave 5 pencils to his brother and 8 pencils to his sister.  How many pencils does Max have left?

Methods of solving:

  1. To find the total number of pencils at first, you can multiple (3 x 12) or add (12 + 12 + 12).

  2. To find the number of pencils left, you can add first (5 + 8) and then subtract
    (36 - 13).

  3. Or you can subtract only (36 - 5 - 8).

I hope these strategies help your child excel in Maths.  Share them with other parents whose children struggle with Maths.