Math is frequently reported as the most difficult subject for alternative learners. Many children simply don’t see the usefulness of acquiring mathematical skills for their day to day activities. They think math is boring and tend to avoid doing math homework or any other projects that require mathematical skills. But if you can find a way to make math more exciting and interesting, including using some of the video games and apps that we describe at LearningWorks for Kids, you might actually find that your child can enjoy developing the mathematical expertise. In this edition of our Beyond Games series, we’re providing a set of tips and strategies to make math more interesting for your child.
A good grade doesn’t signify learning capability. It is imperative to distinguish between being an “A” student in school and being a capable learner in the real world. Do everything you can to help your child identify himself as a learner. Find those areas where he asks questions, expresses an interest, and appears to maintain and remember what he has observed. Helping him obtain more resources and nurture a particular interest can be very helpful for his self-esteem. Even if he struggles in school, assist him in identifying those things that he enjoys learning about and provide him with a multimodal method of accessing these materials. Children who do not enjoy reading but like cars could go to automobile dealerships with their parents and pick up brochures on their favorite cars, play racing video games, search the Internet for information about cars, and be put into a position to show off their knowledge with relatives and friends. Those who enjoy watching movies could watch historic movies, learn about the film industry, visit a movie or television studio, and make their own movies and post them on YouTube.
Playing video games can improve visuo-spatial skills. Good spatial skills are necessary for fully understanding and engaging with problems in geometry, such as manipulating and visualizing shapes, identifying points of symmetry, and comparing angles. The ability to rotate shapes in our minds is an important skill for complex mathematics, problem solving, and simple construction projects. Provide him with fun ways to develop his spatial skills through playing games such as Puzzlejuice and Tetris, which can be engaging activities that foster the development of improved spatial skills.
Make your own math problems. Individuals are more likely to enjoy a task when it pertains to things in which they are interested or when they feel a sense of ownership. Encourage your child to create her own math problems or come up with math activities that reflect her interests based on math skills she is currently learning. For example, she could write a word problem about her favorite animal: Four dogs were playing in the yard. Three more came to join in the fun. How many dogs were playing in all?
Create an online business. Have her think about something she wants to sell and start an Internet business with her by teaching about buying low and selling high. She could “buy low” by selling some of her old toys at a garage sale, but an Internet business using eBay, for example, does not involve individuals coming to the home and dealing directly with the child. Prompt her to think about the process of buying and selling, learn about shipping costs, product presentation, and so on. eBay selling is good practice for this, as it involves a great deal of planning and organizing what to sell, making the objects for sale look good, taking pictures, listing items, and keeping track of sales. Your child might want to adjust prices based upon what is selling, which is a great opportunity to practice math skills by looking at profit margins, revenues, and costs. Once she is older she might be encouraged to have other family members give her items to sell and “take a cut” for managing the business. She might also eventually consider setting aside a budget for purchasing things at yard sales or even the clearance racks at a local store for resale online. Budgeting, keeping track of what sells, and keeping an eye out for profitable items are all about planning and organization, mathematics, and creativity.
Here are some other ideas for analog math skill building:
Play darts and keep track of scores, or use a game of pool to prompt a talk about geometry.
Get an activity tracking wristband (like a Nike+ FuelBand or Adidas Fit Smart Band) and calculate progress.
Play a card game like cribbage, where many of the points come from combinations of 15 (you can even find some pretty cool cribbage boards to pique their interests).
Practice estimating; how many miles left to go before home, how many socks are in the laundry pile, how many minutes it will take to make the bed.
Talk about numbers at the grocery store by adding up prices, figuring tax, counting and weighing produce.
For more games like Tetris and Puzzlejuice, or to find and learn about other video games and apps that can help build academic skills, see our Playbooks and app reviews. To see why we mostly focus on children’s digital play, read about the science behind LearningWorks for Kids. Look for future posts that focus on bringing thinking and academic skills beyond video games.