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Math is everywhere and yet, we may not recognize it because it doesn't look like the math we did in school. Math in the world around us sometimes seems invisible. But math is present in our world all the time--in the workplace, in our homes, and in life in general. Therefore, as parents, we must help our children learn the concept of math from home. You may be asking yourself, "How is math everywhere in my life? I'm not an engineer or an accountant or a computer expert!" Math is in your life from the time you wake until the time you go to sleep.

You are using math each time you set your alarm, buy groceries, mix a baby's formula, keep score or time at an athletic event, wallpaper a room, decide what type of tennis shoe to buy, or wrap a present. Have you ever asked yourself, "Did I get the correct change?" or "Do I have enough gasoline to drive 20 miles?" or "Do I have enough juice to fill all my children's thermoses for lunch?" or "Do I have enough bread for the week?" Math is all this and much, much more.


It is highly likely that when you studied math, you were expected to complete lots of problems accurately and quickly.

There was only one way to arrive at your answers, and it was believed that the best way to improve math ability was to do more problems and to do them fast. Today, the focus is less on the quantity of memorized problems, and more on understanding the concepts and applying thinking skills to arrive at an answer.

Wrong Answers Can Help!

While accuracy is always important, a wrong answer may help you and your child discover what your child may not understand. You might find some of these thoughts helpful when thinking about wrong answers.

Above all be patient. All children want to succeed. They don't want red marks or incorrect answers. They want to be proud and to make you and the teacher proud. So, the wrong answer tells you to look further, to ask questions, and to see what the wrong answer is saying about the child's
understanding.

Sometimes, the wrong answer to a problem might be because the child thinks the problem is asking another question. For example, when children see the problem 4 + ___ = 9, they often respond with an answer of 13. That is because they think the problem is asking What is 4 + 9 ?", instead of "4 plus what missing amount equals 9?"

Ask your child to explain how the problem was solved. The response might help you discover if your child needs help with the procedures, the number facts, or the concepts involved.

You may have learned something the teacher might find helpful. A short note or call will alert the teacher to possible ways of helping your child.

Help your children be risk takers: help them see the value of examining a wrong answer; assure them that the right answers will come with proper understanding.


Problems Can Be Solved Different Ways

Through the years, we have learned that while problems in math may have only one solution, there may be many ways to get the right answer. When working on math problems with your child, ask, "Could you tell me how you got that answer?" Your child's way might be different than yours. If the answer is correct and the strategy or way of solving it has worked, it is a great alternative. By encouraging children to talk about what they are thinking, we help them to become stronger mathematicians and independent thinkers.


Doing Math in Your Head Is Important

Have you ever noticed that today very few people take their pencil and paper out to solve problems in the grocery, fast food, or department store or in the office? Instead, most people estimate in their heads.

Calculators and computers demand that people put in the correct information and that they know if the answers are reasonable. Usually people look at the answer to determine if it makes sense, applying the math in their heads to the
problem. This, then, is the reason why doing math in their heads is so important to our children as they enter the 21st
century.

You can help your child become a stronger mathematician by trying some of these ideas to foster mental math skills:

1. Help children do mental math with lots of small numbers in their heads until they develop quick and accurate responses. Questions such as, "If I have 4 cups, and I need 7, how many more do I need?" or "If I need 12 drinks for the class, how many packages of 3 drinks will I need to buy?"

2. Encourage your child to estimate the answer. When estimating, try to use numbers to make it easy to solve problems quickly in your head to determine a reasonable answer. For example, when figuring 18 plus 29, an easy way to get a "close" answer is to think about 20 + 30, or 50.

3. As explained earlier, allow your. children to use strategies that make sense to them.

4. Ask often, "Is your answer reasonable?" Is it reasonable that I added 17 and 35 and got 367? Why? Why not?

What Jobs Require Math?

All jobs need math in one way or another. From the simplest thought of how long it will take to get to work to determining how much weight a bridge can hold, all jobs require
math.

If you took a survey, you would find that everyone uses math: the school teacher, the fast food worker, the doctor, the gas station attendant, the lawyer, the housewife, the painter.


Math in the Home


* This is an opportunity for you and your child to "talk math," that is to communicate about math whileinvestigating relationships.

* If something is too difficult, choose an easier activity or skip it until your child is older.

* Have fun!

Try these excercises with your kids and invent new ones. The kids will love it!

1. Let your child think of a number between a stated range of numbers while you try to guess the number by asking questions. Here is a sample conversation.

Child: I am thinking of a number between 1 and 100.

Parent: Is it more than 50?

Child: No.

Parent: Is it an even number?

Child: No.

Parent: Is it more than 20 but less than 40?

Child: Yes.

Parent: Can you divide this number up into 3 equal parts?

And so on ...

2. After you have guessed your child's number, let your child guess a number from you by asking similar questions.