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Math Strategies

Some of the following math strategies and suggestions may help children who are experiencing problems with mathematics. Identify strategies that you think will help your child and, if appropriate, talk to your child’s teacher about using some of the strategies in school.

• Maintain consistency and communication across school and home settings.
• Parents, tutors, and classroom teachers should coordinate and use the same instructional approach.

• Teach basic concepts using concrete objects.
• For example, let children explore number concepts by counting the legs of a chair to find the number four or by subtracting crayons from a box. The progression from understanding concrete materials, pictorial representations, and abstract number representations may take some children longer than others.

• Provide specialized materials.
• To help children organize their calculations, have them use graph paper (or lined paper turned sideways) to keep numbers in columns. Encourage the use of scrap paper to keep work neat, highlighters to underline key words and numbers, and manipulatives such as base-ten blocks or fraction bars.

• Tell children the procedures you would like them to use when solving a problem, model each procedure for them, then have them tell you what they are expected to do. Some students benefit by having a math notebook filled with examples of completed problems to which they can refer if they become overwhelmed or confused.

• Provide time for checking work.
• Emphasizing that completing math assignments is a process, encourage children to become comfortable reviewing their work, making changes, or asking questions when they are unsure of their answers.

• Give children opportunities to connect mathematical concepts to familiar situations.
• For example, when introducing measurement concepts, have children estimate their measurements before measuring classmates’ and family members’ heights or weighing their book bags’ when empty and when full.

• Help children apply math concepts to new situations.
• For example, show them how to use percentages to understand the price of a pair of shoes on sale at the mall or the amount of their allowance they spend on snacks.

• Provide access to programs or tutors that can help a child improve his or her math skills.
• Tutors can assist children with weak math sub-skills, such as multiplication and division. Provide tutors during summer months or after school to boost performance and ensure that the child retains his or her skills.

• Help children keep track of problematic areas.
• When doing math homework, children may benefit from having their most common errors listed on flashcards. They can then refer to the cards while completing their assignments.

• Play math games.
• To encourage automaticity with math facts, students may benefit from playing math games (i.e. dice, playing cards) and listening to commercially available audiotapes that provide a fun way of learning math facts. The PBS Parents Activity Search can help you find great games from PBS Children’s television series.

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