Don’t touch a hot stove. Home is two bus stops away from here. Having experienced it ourselves daily, the knowledge is almost automatic. It can be the same when it comes to learning math. Ditch the million-page assessment books and bring your kids out to see how maths can be applied in everyday life to allow them to absorb the concepts naturally.
Take your child with you to the store and let them assist with the groceries. Look at the prices and let them keep a running tally while you shop. Why? They learn their numbers. They get valuable practice at adding and subtracting (should you take something out of the cart). And they are busy while you shop.
Identify the prices and practice reading them properly. Compare the prices of different brands, so that they will learn the differing values. $4.20 is more than $4.10 and less than $4.50. Seeing decimals for the first time, it can be confusing. Don’t expect them to completely grasp the idea of numerical values. Ask basic questions. How much are the chips? Which brand of cereal is the cheapest?
As they get more familiarised with the numbers, then start adding a few items. The milk is $4.35 and the juice is $2.20. Together, they are?
Once they get the hang of adding and subtracting money, you could even give them a budget and see if they can purchase a list of items. This is a good activity for any age because it gives a value amount to the dollars and cents.
Set up a store
Yes, a make-believe store. Have a jar of coins for purchase uses and have a certain number of items available for purchase. A glass of juice is $1 and an eraser is $0.20. How about TV time? Watch that show for $3.20. All they need to do is whip out the correct amount from the jar to make the purchase. You can put it back later. Keep a list ready so that they can look up the amount themselves and associate the prices with the money on-hand. At first, keep all the prices to the exact coin value ($0.10, $0.20, $0.50, $1) After they learn to recognise the coins and their value, then change the prices so they learn to add the coins.
Initially, work on identifying the amounts using the dollars and cents vocabulary. $4.20 is four dollars and twenty cents. Saying the words is important. Don’t just say four twenty. The language can be tricky for preschoolers and using the specific words can help to improve and hasten their learning.
Always start small so that they are enjoying the game. Make sure they succeed at working out the numbers. It builds their confidence and would look forward to using numbers again.
Make it fun. No-one likes anything too tedious. We all love to play. If it is a game of purchasing, there is a high chance that they will want to play it over and over again.
Originally published in “Improve His Maths With Everyday Things”, written by Katerina Tiapula, in Singapore’s Child January 2013.