Make It Count: 10 Simple Strategies for Teaching Kids Math

According to a Texas Instruments survey, 46 percent of kids love math. Only 24 percent hate it, and the rest are indifferent. On the other hand, those same kids have heard grownups say bad things about math, and 55 percent heard grownups say they hate it.

So, it seems kids tend to love math even with all the negativity. And that means if we encourage our kids, the sky is the limit.

Teaching Kids Math

But for most of us, just the word “math” conjures up images of nuclear physicists writing elaborate equations on chalkboards. Truth be told, we use basic math every day and it’s really not that difficult.

Just look around your home, world, and life and you have everything you need to teach your kids math. It’s as easy as one plus one. To help you encourage your kids’ love of math and boost their skills, take a look at 10 simple but effective strategies for teaching kids math.

1. Sneak in Math in Your Daily Life

We use math all the time. We use it when we cook, tell time, grocery shop, drive, and sort socks to name a few. Engage your little learner in these daily tasks and without them even knowing, they’ll be learning math.

Let your kid or kids:

  • Measure when you cook or bake
  • Figure out time frames (how much time until bed, how much sleep they will get, how many months and days until their birthday, etc)
  • Figure out drive distance and time using the odometer and a map
  • Add up cost when you shop
  • Figure out change when you shop
  • Read the totals of bills as you pay
  • Weigh themselves and measure their height regularly and figure out the   difference
  • Sort laundry and silverware

Math in your daily lives shows your kids the purpose of it, but you don’t need to explain that to them. They’ll just learn to like it and this helps them enjoy it in school too and be ready and excited to learn more.

2. Talk About Math

Teaching Kids Math

This goes hand in hand with math in your daily life as well as math at school. As you do math at home or out and about in your life, have your kid verbalize it.

Ask questions and model. For example, ask how many cups of water the recipe calls for and then how many they have put in. Narrate what you are adding.

Ask how they figured out how many days before their birthday or how many hours of sleep they are getting. Narrate what you put in the grocery cart and the cost and add it up out loud. They’ll surely want to jump in.

For school-age kids, ask them to show you what they are doing in math class and explain it to you. Show honest interest and they likely will enjoy explaining. It’s a nice way to bond as well.

3. Use Objects to Do Math

Active Learning for Kids

Instead of writing “2 + 2” on the page, grab two cups and then two more and put them together and have your kid describe how many there are. Then take one away to practice subtraction.

Using concrete objects solidifies the basic concepts of math so they can later do it on the page much easier.

4. Practice Recognition of Groups of Objects

Look at a pack of soda. You instantly know it’s six sodas. Why? You’re subtilizing.

This basic skill of instantly recognizing amounts of objects or images is a mental math skill that helps us understand the basic concept of numbers and helps us solve problems.

Make flash cards with dots in various amounts and practice recognition with your kid. You could turn this into a game of memory to make it more fun: make two of each, turn them over, mix them up, and take turns turning over two until you get pairs. The person with the most pairs at the end wins.

Play any board game with dice. The dots are already on the dice!

5. Practice Addition and Subtraction with Number Lines

A number line is another way to give kids a visual and spatial way to learn the idea of addition and subtraction. Talk through easy problems and have your kid move a marker or pen along the line.

You can also use a ruler or measuring tape. Try this in the kitchen when cutting a cucumber, for example. Measure the whole thing. Then cut off an inch and talk through the subtraction.

A fun version of this is to take a string and mark off meters. Let your kid walk the number line and you do addition and subtraction.

6. Do Daily Problem-Solving

Creative thinking and problem-solving are at the basis of math. Come up with questions as you go through your day that requires your kid or kids to problem solve.

Try questions like these:

  • How many ways can we cook pasta that everyone likes?
  • How many ways can we drive to the store?
  • How many ten minute shows can we watch in an hour? How many half-hour shows?

This is more about getting creative than numbers, but it’s still using math!

7. Break Up Problems with Mental Math Time

Make problem-solving and calculating easy on the page by teaching them to do the basics with mental math. If a problem involves 5s or 10s, for example, it’s easier to do it in your head.

Practice mental math as you go about your day. Ask your kid to count to 100 by 5s. Ask your kid to skip count by 10s. Model this if needed. You can also make it a physical game with clapping.

8. Play Guessing Games

Games where kids have to guess a number teach kids to estimate and make a hypothesis, or prediction. This strengthens number sense and can give it a spatial context.

Guess how many pennies in a jar. Estimate square footage of the living room and then the bedroom and a closet. Guess how many people are in a store and have your kid count.

9. Play Board Games and More

So many games use math. Anything, where you roll the dice and move a piece around a board, uses counting, number lines, and subtilizing, for example. Memory games use grouping. Games like Risk use strategy and prediction.

Blocks and building games use geometry. Playing store is another good one.

For older kids, there are puzzle books filled with mental math games.

10. Make Charts and Keep Track of Sports and Other Events

Have your kids chart things that they care about. They can chart their own sports team or a professional team or athlete. They can chart how many dance lessons per month they took and what was learned at each.

They can chart how many days they practiced something they love, like an instrument. Or they can chart their gaming scores!

Making charts can lead to learning statistics, especially for older kids and huge math enthusiasts. If it starts to get out of your league or want someone who knows all the tricks, you can do what plenty of parents do: grab an online tutor to help with tutoring tricks, catch up, or enrichment for kids that want more.

Teaching Kids Math Is a No Brainer

We hope that now you can see this simple truth: not all math is created equal. And not all math equals elaborate equations and astrophysics. Be positive and encouraging, and your kids will enjoy doing the math as much as you, especially if it feels like play.

Play, in fact, is under-rated when it comes to teaching kids math and learning in general. Think about it: keeping track of the score in a baseball game and you use a ton of math. Keep reading here to find out just how important play can be for your kid.

Amila Gamage Wickramarachchi

Amila Gamage Wickramarachchi

Amila Gamage Wickramarachchi is the founder of this blog which she shares her parenting and lifestyle experiences.She is a Contracts Engineer by profession and recently launched her own Engineering consultancy service Sihela Consultants.(

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