Building Math Skills: Ages 6 – 8

Just like reading and writing skills need to be nurtured at home, math skills shouldn’t be forgotten when you want to help your child with his development. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should dust off your old flash cards from when you were in school. Teaching math skills can (and should) be fun! And learning math can happen in the most unlikeliest of places.

Play Time
Math isn’t just about adding numbers; there are a variety of concepts involved when it comes to mathematics. Toys and games that teach problem solving skills, foster spatial skills, involve developing strategies, considering probabilities and use logical thinking all contribute towards your child’s math skills. And there are a number of toys on the market that can help with these talents.

Puzzles and Construction Toys
Puzzles and construction toys, like blocks and Lego, can contribute towards your daughter’s spatial skills. And when she builds something, whether it is a working drawbridge or a square house, she is able to better understand just how things work. Also, helping her identify the shapes of what she builds will come in handy later on when she starts learning geometry.

Board Games
Board games are another fun way for your child to learn a variety of math skills all without realizing he is learning. Board games that involve rolling dice will help him identify and add numbers. Games such as Monopoly or Life contribute towards your child’s understanding of money and budgeting, while other games like Risk, chess and Clue, will help your son learn how to use logical thinking, consider probabilities and develop strategies. After all, you can’t take over the world in Risk if don’t have a strategy!

Card games are an old-time favorite of many parents for learning math skills. Classic games like Go Fish, War and Uno involve adding, logical thinking and classifying and sorting items, a staple of mathematics.

Around the House
Here are some more great ways to build math skills when you are at home:

  • Get cooking! Every recipe involves math. And if you have to double, or even triple the recipe, then you can really test your child’s math skills when it comes to fractions, measuring and adding
  • Teach your child how to tell time and use a calendar. Once she has the basics down, you can help her advance by asking questions like "If we’re going to Grandma’s on Saturday and today is Tuesday, how many more days until we go?" and "If dinner is at 6 pm and it’s 5:15 pm, how much more time do you have to play before dinner?"
  • Pull out your bathroom scale and then go around the house with your son, guessing how much different objects weigh. Stick the item in question on the scale to see how close his guess was then ask him to figure out the difference between the weight he guessed and the actual weight
  • When you’re driving in the car, work on sorting and classifying objects along with other math skills by counting the number of different colored cars you pass. When you arrive at your destination, take a moment to ask your daughter "What color car did you see the most? What color car did you see the fewest of? Did you see more blue cars than red? How many more?"
  • When you go to the store, let your son help you with the budget by adding up the prices of the different items in your cart

A Few Pointers
To help your child get the most out of her learning, make sure you display a positive attitude towards the subject at hand. If you have a negative attitude towards math (or reading or any other skill), then it is likely that she will, too. And don’t avoid helping her just because you feel your math skills aren’t the best. You can always take a continuing education math refresher course. This will not only help you feel more confident about your own abilities in math but will also allow your child to see that learning is a life long process.

Make sure you spend equal amounts of time on developing all of your child’s skills. Don’t favor one skill over the other. The only exception to this is if your child is having difficulty in a particular subject, in which case extra tutoring may be necessary. If you intuit that your child has problems comprehending math, read about learning disabilities.

You may also want to talk with your child’s teacher about their approach to math. Unfortunately, some teachers and schools still subscribe to the out-dated view that boys are better at math than girls. This attitude is not at all constructive to learning and needs to be dealt with. Remember, any child can excel in a subject regardless of their sex.