For children who dislike math, video games offer an engaging opportunity to practice math reasoning and computational skills without tears. Making math practice into a game, or at least making it into an interactive digital experience, is all it takes for many children to put in the time necessary to master math facts.
Teaching math is an incremental experience where practice makes perfect. The more opportunities a student has for repetition of basic math facts, the more likely he is to make this knowledge automatic. Once he has established the automaticity of basic math facts, he will have more cognitive and mental resources available to apply to complex processing and problem solving. While this may sound awfully complex, all it means is that if you no longer need to figure out basic steps and problem solving applications, you’ll have more brain energy for further complex problem solving processes.
One of the best ways to establish automaticity of basic math facts and computational skills is through games and real world applications. Games such as the card games War, Darts, Go, Yahtzee, and various dice-based games require counting and numeracy. Board games such as Monopoly, where your child needs to learn to count his money, or football, where keeping score involves recognizing the different point values for touchdowns, field goals, safeties, and points after touchdowns, are also great practice opportunities for math.
Parents can also practice math skills in a variety of real life situations. Encouraging your child to save up his allowance will help him recognize how long it will take them to save up to buy a special toy. Playing games where you estimate how much it will cost to fill up your gas tank (a lot), or measuring out the ingredients appropriately for doubling your recipe for chocolate chip cookies are all great opportunities for practicing math skills together.
There are also a variety of ways to use digital technologies and media to practice math skills as well. These include:
- Playing geometry puzzle-based games with your child may be one of the few areas where you may have a chance to beat them. Games such as Tetris make you aware of geometry and relationships among shapes.
- Set up an online business together. Encourage your child to get rid of his old toys by selling some of them on ebay. Determining prices, recognizing the cost of setting up ebay, and considering the cost of postage are real-world tasks that involve mathematical calculations. If you want to take it further, encourage him to donate a certain percentage of his profits (and have him figure out the math) to charity.
- Learn the new math yourself. One great tool that you can use with your child is to go to Khan Academy and watch a few videos. You may wish to sharpen up on your own math skills as you work with your child to improve his.
- Playing non-educational video games that require math skills and concepts are an easy sell to children who normally shy away from numbers. Games like Slice It!, Add ‘Em Up, and Brain Age are good choices for kids of all ages.
- Let your kids use your smart phone or tablet to play a math app. For math aversive kids, this approach works best when they do not have their own gadgets to play with and are a captive audience, such as when they are in the car or accompanying you on an errand.