Saturday, January 4, 2014

Supplementing an Elementary Math Curriculum at Home from Afterschool for Smarty Pants

Why We Supplement Math at Home?

Both my husband and I come from countries with a big emphasis on math and science in education, and we both graduated from colleges back home with engineering degrees. Both of us ended up doing something else in our careers, but our jobs still require math and critical thinking. Math curriculum in public schools leaves us both frustrated. Our daughter has a strong aptitude for math, but she is “marching in place” in school while a lot of her classmates are already falling behind. This is why we do a lot to supplement math curriculum, and I want to share the ways that every parent can use to encourage and challenge their children with math activities at home.
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1. Practical Math

Cooking as a way to learn math
We believe strongly that the best way to encourage math is through activities that also build life skills. Even with our hectic schedules we try to engage our daughter in cooking and baking together, measuring ingredients, doubling and halving recipes, and figuring out how to divide food into portions. We also believe in teaching kids early about money and giving them some money of their own to handle.

2. Board Games

Favorite Math Games - Zeus on the Loose
We loved playing board games even BC (before children) and have quite a collection of board games at home. We extended this collection since our daughter was born starting with the simplest games of luck like Hi-Ho Cherry-O and progressing to games that require some strategy like Zeus on the Loose. We usually play at least once a week on one of weekend afternoons or more often, if schedule allows. One of my popular posts from 2013 Games for Brainy Kids has a section on our favorite math-related games.

3. Reading

Living Math Books
Another good way to supplement math at home is through books and math-literature connection. There is no shortage of wonderful books teaching math concepts. We discovered some titles on our own (for example, Loreen Leedy books) and read a lot of books from an excellent list of “living math” books at Love2Learn2Day blog. We especially love books that manage to tie literature, math or science, and social studies like The Warlord’s series by Virginia Pilegard.

4. Building and Creating

Kids learn a lot of math while tinkering and creating, especially when they don’t simply put together sets from instructions. Building with blocks or a set of Lego bricks allows them to learn symmetry, geometry and get a practical feeling for importance of measurements. Same can be said about making things out of cloth or paper – you are not likely to get pleasing results without considering measurements and proportions. We have a lot of building toys at home, and daughter keeps saying that she wants to become a mechanical engineer when she grows up. You are welcome to check out my post on gifts for future female engineers.

5. Online Learning

I don’t support any sort of electronics for kids under age of 3, but now our Silicon Valley child has computer time both at home and in school. Over time we discovered a lot of good sites for math – some more game oriented like Cool Math and some with more instructional approach like Khan Academy. When Smarty was younger, we had a subscription to Dreambox Math – I credit that program a lot for firming up her foundational knowledge in regrouping and understanding decimal system. We don’t use it any longer, because Smarty reached the level where DreamBox reward system changed to accommodate upper elementary and middle school students, and she hated the change.

6. Mental Math

We are big fans of mental math problems – think Bedtime Math type problems, but adjusted for a somewhat more advanced level of our child. The topics for our mental math usually come from the events happening in our household, from the things we are learning in history or geography, or from the world’s events. Here is an example of one mental math problem for New Year: In 2014 New Year’s Day falls on Wednesday. Why does New Year fall on different days of the week every year and when will it fall on Wednesday again?
I will be publishing our mental math problems on my Facebook page in 2014. You are welcome to like my page and choose to follow me to receive updates if you want to get these mental math problems for your family.

7. Enrichment Math Materials

June18_MathWhat about worksheets? This is the last on my list of suggestions, because my daughter is not a big fan of standard worksheets. She responds well to more challenging math books. We didn’t have a lot of time for those books lately, but here are the the books that we used in summer between the first and second grade (still using my favorite Challenge Math for Primary Grades occasionally now).
Math Detective Grades 3-4 Mind Benders Book 3 Summer Activities for the Gifted Student Challenge Math for Primary Grades

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