Put away the flashcards and check your negative feelings about math at the door. Don't bother with worksheets — your child will have plenty of time to do those in the coming years. Right now, your goal is to introduce math concepts with as much enthusiasm and as little pressure as possible. The more you enjoy numbers, and the more you can show your child how math is a part of her everyday life, the more motivated she'll be to learn.
Here are six activities you can do at home to instill a love of math:
Don't let your own struggles with math influence how you introduce the world of numbers to your child. Since you were in school, our understanding of how to teach math has been completely overhauled; for example, teachers now emphasize making the connection between real world activities and math concepts. Children understand that math helps them develop good problem-solving skills. To them, learning math is actually fun.
Use math every day
Let your child see how important math skills are in your daily life and how frequently you use them. Ask for her help when you pay bills, measure a room for a new piece of furniture, or measure out ingredients for a recipe. Point out to her how doctors, pharmacists, builders, and astronauts all use math in their jobs. Each of these activities reinforces how useful math skills are in life.
Think out loud when you're calculating sums at home, or in the supermarket or furniture store. For example, if your child asks for some cookies during a playdate, you can say, "Let's see, there are 12 cookies left. If I give you four to you and four to your friend, how many will be left over for Dad and me?" Let your child figure out the answer on her own, but urge her to think out loud. Getting the right answer is less important than working through the steps to get there.
Let your child use a calculator
Children love gadgets, and adding and subtracting on a calculator is an exciting way for her to learn to manipulate numbers. You'll also introduce her to a tool she'll soon be expected to use in school. And it will probably occupy her longer than you think it will.
Try out math learning software
While not a substitute for real-world lessons, computer math programs reinforce skills being taught in the classroom. Plus, computer-savvy kids love the interactivity. Ask your child's teacher for recommendations.
Play math games around the house
Check out our list of fun math activities for second graders and fun math activities for third graders.