Here’s an educational statistic that might make you question the Christian education resources used for math in your child’s school. According to a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) March 2008, CRS Report for Congress, the U.S. currently ranks 28th internationally in math literacy among 15-year-old students. Once considered a leader in education, America now faces the startling truth that a large majority of its secondary school students are failing to reach proficiency in mathematics.
With so many Christian education resources at our disposal, it seems mind boggling that America’s math students rank poorly compared to children living in Japan, China, or India. Obviously, in order to compete on a global scale, today’s math curriculum requires students to learn algebra, geometry, measurements, and statistic problems even in the elementary grades. In fact, by the time a child is in eighth grade, he should have mastered the basics of algebra and geometry to be ready for advanced mathematics in high school. To instill a love for math, develop problem-solving skills, and prepare a child for future success in math, both educators and parents need to be involved in teaching children. So, what Christian education resources and activities can parents use to improve their elementary child’s math skills and overall performance? Consider the following ideas:
Grab the apron and teach fractional concepts by asking your child to compare, estimate, and think about measurements when cooking. Ask thought provoking questions such as, “How many whole cups will this container hold? How many ½ cups or S cups? How many ½ cups equal a cup? How many ¼ cups would equal ½ cup or a whole cup? How much would we need to use if we doubled this recipe?
Discover relationships between money values as you pay your child for chores or give him an allowance. Instead of using math worksheets, have your child gather coins in his hand without showing you what they are. Start with small amounts, and ask your child to tell you the number of coins and their total value. Then, you have to guess how many and which coins your child has in his hand. Another variation would include having your child count the different ways he could use coins to make 10¢, 20¢, or 50¢.
Set up your own weather station or use the newspaper to graph and chart daily temperatures and rainfall amounts. After a few weeks, teach your child basic arithmetic by finding the average temperature (mean), the temperature that occurred most often (mode), and the temperature that was in the middle of all the amounts (median).
Clean out the kitchen junk drawer and use the “treasures” to teach your child how to sort and classify. Plus, you can practice using addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division to solve story problems. For example, “If we share 13 screws among three friends, how many will each get? Will they all get equal amounts?” If Dad has three broken doors that need to be fixed using four screws each, will we have enough screws?”
At the Grocery Store
Make shopping for groceries another math learning experience. Use the sale advertisements sent in the mail as one of your Christian education resources, and have your child practice budgeting by preparing a shopping list that doesn’t exceed your daily or weekly food budget.
Have your child learn estimation by comparison shopping. Ask him to mentally divide and multiply as he calculates the best buy by determining pricing per unit verses pricing per pound. You can also estimate the total value of the items in the cart before checking out and then compare the estimate to the actual price.
Encourage your child to count and weigh fruits and vegetables. You might even want to illustrate the difference between English and metric units. How does a kilogram of potatoes compare to a pound? How many grams does a banana weigh?
Teach your child how to sort and group similar objects. When bagging groceries, have your child sort items according to boxes, cans, or plastic bottles, and put them into different sacks.
In the Car
Teach your child how to “read” math. Instead of playing the regular state license plate game while traveling, have your child read only the numbers of the license plates. For example, if the license plate was 398M129, the number would be read “three hundred ninety-eight thousand one hundred twenty-nine.” You can also encourage mental math by having your child add the value of the digits in the license plate number. Talk about how numbers can be added more quickly by combining them into groups that equal ten, such as 1 + 9, 3 + 7, or 4 + 6.
“Talk math” by practicing the words and language of mathematics. Have your child make a chart on long trips for one of your Christian education resources and track the number words “one” through “fifty” that he sees on cars, signs, or buildings.
Illustrate time, rate, and distance story problems when traveling to Grandma’s house. If you leave home at 7:00 a.m. and it takes eight hours to get there, what time will it be when you can give Grandma a big hug? If the speed limit is 55 mph instead of 75 mph, how far can you go in one hour or two hours?
Teach estimation and rounding by using the cost of gas. For instance, if we only have $100 to spend on gasoline and gas costs $1.78 per gallon, how many gallons can we purchase? A quick way to find the answer would be to round up to $2.00 per gallon and divide into $100.
Math is everywhere, and while there are countless opportunities to help children experience it, only the parents who are actively involved in their child’s learning will change the alarming decline in America’s math abilities. Don’t undermine your child’s interest in math with statements like “math is hard” or “I wasn’t good at math either.” Instead, reinforce your child’s academic success with a positive attitude, high expectations, and a belief that your child can learn any challenging math lesson.