Fun and Useful Math– Part 1

Do you remember your dismay when first learning of the low percentage of elementary students who read at their grade level? For many students learning math skills is not a strength and by high school far too many are below their expected achievement level in math as well as reading.


Low math skills and fear of math do not begin in high school, but usually stem from shortfalls in a student’s early learning experience. An alarming number of students at the end of elementary school have not mastered addition and subtraction facts and do not know the multiplication tables. Of course, some students do experience a learning disability in math. Equally important is that many young people have had inadequate experiences that help them to make connections between numbers and the real world. With relatively little effort you can help your student build a more solid foundation for math success, even if he has a learning difficulty in this important basic academic skill.

Students may end up feeling that math is just busy work or when faced by a real-life problem may not know how to use math to solve it. As a parent, grandparent, volunteer tutor, mentor or family friend, some of the most fun activities you can do with children will lead to a better understanding of what math is all about. There are easy and free math concept builders you can do as part of your daily routine with the children in your life.

  • Bake cookies! (or a pie, banana nut bread or homemade granola) With a four-year-old, this is a fun job that gives him a chance to use counting in real life and introduces words and concepts like “½”. For a nine-year-old, it’s a great way to learn about fractions, whole numbers and measurement.
  • Teach your child to count money and make change. Explain what each coin is worth. For example, there are 4 quarters in a dollar so one quarter is ¼ of a dollar. Making up games like a “pretend” store or restaurant can make math much easier in school. Upper elementary and middle school students can help with planning the household food budget and shopping. Reading labels for nutritional values and calculating prices per serving require real-life use of math skills and begin to prepare him to be a wise consumer.
  • Involve your child with safe projects at home. Taking measurements for a new towel rack or mailbox present learning opportunities. Ask her for help in reading numbers at the fuel pump, counting change for the subway or deciding which recycled notebook paper costs less per sheet. Watch the weather news and compare your temperatures with the city where her favorite aunt lives.


Watch for more posts about fun family activities that help grow math concepts and skills. Making math part of the real and everyday world, rather than just a confusing jumble of numbers on a page, will help all students, including those who experience learning disabilities.