How to Teach Mathematics to Children

Amy Finley
Image of a child's addiction and subtraction worksheet

Teaching children mathematics can be difficult; here are some tips and considerations to help make this essential task easier and more beneficial for the child.

How Does the Child Learn?

Just as each child has different talents and abilities, each child also has ways in which grasping and understanding concepts becomes easier. For example, some children are visual learners; learning is easier for the child when there are visual implements or illustrations. Other children learn best by listening, still others by example. Some children don't have any one method which consistently assists them in every situation; a combination of tactics works best.

Assessing how a child learns best can making teaching mathematics easier because the learning "language" the child uses can also be used by the parent, teacher, tutor, or other person when teaching new mathematical skills.

Teaching Children Mathematics: The Child's Pace

Teaching math to children is essential - they not only need mathematical skills for excelling in academic work, but also for a huge number of daily life activities. Learning these skills may take patience and time - and math is not always as simple as reading to children. The math skills a child learns will depend upon the child's age, ease with which he or she learns new concepts, whether the new math problems are built upon existing skills, and a number of other factors. Most maths taught to children builds upon the foundations of basic mathematical skills such as:

  • Understanding of counting, numbers, and place values
  • Adding
  • Subtracting
  • Dividing
  • Multiplying
  • Problem solving
  • Logic
  • Geometric concepts
  • Measurement
  • Statistical concepts
  • Series and sequences
  • Estimation
  • Notions of value

It's important to allow a child to go his or her own pace when learning math. A child who has mastered basic concepts will be bored and unchallenged if not permitted to advance to higher levels. Alternately, a child who is pushed ahead in math without having fully comprehended the basic skill sets can easily become frustrated and upset when trying to learn new math lessons.

Teaching Math Basics

While there may not be one "right" way in teaching children mathematics, there are some basics that can assist in virtually any math-related skill, from learning to count to remembering proofs and theorems.

Repetition Builds Strength

Repetition is very important in math. Repeating basics in elementary school will strengthen them in the child's memory. Repeating various problems and lessons for a math skill will reinforce the concept and create a better segue for related skills. Easy ways to use repetition include:

  • Audio repetition: Verbally repeat and/or ask the child to repeat skills, fact groups, or problems.
  • Flash Cards: Children can memorize numbers, addition and subtraction problems, multiplication tables, division facts, and more by assessing them and figuring them out visually.
  • Interactive inclusion: Include recent math concepts into a child's daily learning for reinforcement - for example, when learning about money, ask the child to count out the change when buying an item at the store.
  • Written problems: Consistent written practice in number and math-related areas will reinforce skills a child learned during a lesson. This will also show whether or not a child is comprehending or mastering that area of math.

The Right Environment

Math is difficult; teaching children this subject should always involve a quiet, comfortable setting. Make sure the desk, work area, or table is cleared of clutter and distractions such as TV and radio or minimal. Have necessary supplies, such as sharpened pencils and scrap paper available. Teaching math should also be done at a time when the child is rested and alert. A tired, hungry, or otherwise uncomfortable child will not be functioning optimally to learn these necessary skills.

Make it Fun

Leave emotions out of the picture when teaching math to kids - if you or the child becomes frustrated, take a break. Whenever possible, find a way to make it fun, and the learning will be easier on both you and the child.

Math Resources

There are a wide number or resources for teaching children about math. The publication 'Teaching Children Mathematics offers articles, downloads, and activities to educators who become members of the National Council of Mathematics Teachers. Interested prospects can check out a back issue of the online magazine for more information.

There is a plethora of other resources for educators and parents in mathematic areas. The following are just a few of the available resources:

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How to Teach Mathematics to Children