Number awareness
         How many times have you caught yourself saying, “I was never any good
in math”? Don’t pass on this negative attitude to your children!

         Comfort with numbers at an early age can help to build confidence in
math and lead to an enthusiasm that will stay with children throughout their
lives. It is also a precursor to a successful job!

         Start with very young children by noticing numbers wherever your go
together. Look at all the vehicles on the road for license plates and telephone
numbers. Billboards, buses, street signs, and houses also have plenty of numbers.

         In the grocery store, take the focus off of the items that your children want
to buy (all that stuff you don’t want!) and put them on a treasure hunt. The same
trip can fulfill needs of different ages of children in the same family.

         For the youngest, who are becoming aware of numbers, show what a
particular number looks like and have her find it on the prices on the shelves. A
first-grader who has a better grasp of what numbers mean will be able to
compare numbers and answer, “Which one costs more?” when shown two
items with different prices.

         For the child in the intermediate (third-fifth) grades, give a greater
challenge such as asking, “If this costs 79 cents, how many of them would I be
able to buy with two dollars? Three dollars? Four dollars? Children of this age
can learn to estimate, calculate without pencil and paper, and do math
problems like this with the use of a calculator. With your encouragement, they
now have countless possibilities of things to do in the grocery store. Older
children can help the younger ones on their treasure hunts, thereby reinforcing
their own knowledge of numbers and what they represent.

         In spending time with your children this way, you are showing them that
there are learning opportunities wherever you go, that you are interested in their
learning, that math can be fun, and that they can work together to find solutions
to real-life math problems.

 This column has been incorporated into Teach Your Children Well: A Teacher’s Advice for Parents.

 
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