There are an infinite number of ways for you to be teaching math at home. But my favorites include ideas that you really don’t have to put much effort into at all! These ideas require minimal to zero setup from you and will make math an important part of your child’s life.
Math was never my best subject in school. In fact, it was probably my worst. I remember telling my mom that math didn’t matter to my life. After all, how could a worksheet full of problems teach me anything about the real world? It wasn’t until I was much older that I started understanding math more, seeing how it applied to my life and how it could actually be fun.
I think we set kids up to dislike math by presenting it only in it’s most rigid form and ignoring how prevalent it is in our everyday lives. So wherever you fall on the schooling spectrum– unschooling, traditional homeschooling, or the kids go to school– you can try implementing some of these ideas into your home to help your child understand math and how it relates to our world.
(Note: I’m vague about ages and learning on my blog. That’s because some kids will be ready for something at 3 while others aren’t until 5 or 6. All of these ideas are appropriate for preschool through elementary school understanding of math concepts.)
Add numbers to your home.
There are many ways to add numbers to your surroundings. Try a simple set of numbers 0-9. Small children will enjoy putting them in and out of a basket, attaching them to the refrigerator, hiding one and finding it– the only rule is that it should be play.
Another possibility is numbering your stairs. When we lived at our townhouse, I put little cards with numbers at each step. We would start with zero and count until we got to the top. Going down, we practiced counting back down. It was such a simple thing but my son learned so much from it. He would count out loud as he was coming down the stairs like a little countdown for his impending arrival!
If you don’t have stairs, you could try numbering another object in your house or simply putting up a number line in a noticeable spot. Older children can use a 100s chart (or several!) to play with larger numbers. Make counting part of your daily routine in a relaxed and non-stressful way.
Expand your vocabulary.
I think one of the most intimidating things about math is the terminology. Try adding some words and phrases to your natural conversation. For example, instead of saying “There are no cats outside.” try “There are zero cats outside.”
Other key vocabulary: plus, minus, equals, more/greater than, less than, equal to and of course geometric shapes like circle, oval, square, rectangle, triangle, rhombus (yes rhombus), octagon, etc.
Try slipping some math-y talk into your playtime. Ask about how many, who has more, and what’s the difference.
Don’t wait to talk about time.
Time is a very difficult concept for children to understand. When I was teaching third grade, I had so many students who really struggled with the clock and adding/subtracting time because it was not something they were ever taught to do in ordinary life.
That’s why I’m starting now with a basic understanding of time. Have clocks and/or watches that your child can read. Talk to them about the time of day it is. When you are going to do something. How much longer until you do it. Make a little chart that shows a what time you do things each day.
Using timers can also be a fun way to help them understand the length of a minute, or five or fifteen. (And yep, you all already have timers on your phones.)
I’ve always noticed how fascinating and mysterious money is to children. Maybe it’s because they aren’t normally allowed to play with real money. Maybe it’s the shiny, clingy coins. Whatever the reason, they want to know more. So let them look at your money. Show them the values of the coins and bills. Count. Count by five or ten. Older children can get an introduction to decimals through money.
And of course when you are out shopping, help your child read the price tags. This is a great place to bring in more than/less than! As they understand math more, you can introduce them to budgeting and teach them all the life lessons that come along with that.
Use a calendar
When my son was younger, I made him a calendar to learn about counting, days of the week and months of the year. This year I got him his own wall calendar so he can see how the months make up a year and be able to look ahead into the coming months.
The calendar is a great way to teach counting, time concepts and addition/subtraction. Also looking at the grid is actually a great introduction to graph reading.
Or baking! It’s the perfect way to teach counting, fractions– and there’s even time! There are a plethora of kid-friendly recipes on Pinterest. Getting my kids baking is something I’d really like to do more of! I’m not much of a baker, but I think it would be fun to do with them.
So as you can see, all of these ideas are naturally part of your everyday life. There’s nothing you have to prepare to teach your child this way. You simply need to be ready to talk and play with your kids!
As my son is turning four soon, I’m beginning to be more mindful of what he’s learning. I do plan to homeschool and I plan to share more about our learning on the blog, so get ready!
What are your favorite real-world ways to teach math?