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Helping Your Child Learn Mathematics with Activities in Preschool thru Age 5

During summer vacations, on rainy days, while waiting at the doctor's office or on a stroll through the neighborhood, learning never ends. Children can explore some fascinating mathematical possibilities in the world around them every day. For instance, math can be found outdoors in nature: Look for symmetry in leaves; count the number, sizes and kinds of trees on your street; and look at the various shapes and patterns of blooming flowers. Children will be learning math and enjoying it, too! The activities in this section can be done anytime and anywhere.

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Although parents can be a positive force in helping children learn math, they also can undermine their children's math ability and attitudes by saying things such as: "Math is hard," or "I'm not surprised you don't do well in math, I didn't like math either when I was in school," or "I wasn't very good in math and I'm a success, so don't worry about doing well." Although you can't make your child like math, you can encourage her to do so, and you can take steps to ensure that she learns to appreciate its value both in her everyday life and in preparing for her future. You might point out to her how fortunate she is to have the opportunity to learn mathematics today-when mathematics knowledge can open the door to so many interesting and exciting possibilities.

In everyday interactions with children, there are many things that parents can do-and do without lecturing or applying pressure-to help children learn to solve problems, to communicate mathematically and to demonstrate reasoning abilities. These skills are fundamental to learning mathematics. Let's look closely at what it means to be a problem solver, to communicate mathematically and to demonstrate mathematical reasoning ability.

A problem solver is someone who questions, finds, investigates and explores solutions to problems; demonstrates the ability to stick with a problem to find a solution; understands that there may be different ways to arrive at an answer; and applies math successfully to everyday situations. You can encourage your child to be a good problem solver by including him in routine activities that involve math-for example, measuring, weighing, figuring costs and comparing prices of things he wants to buy.

To communicate mathematically means to use mathematical language, numbers, charts or symbols to explain things and to explain the reasoning for solving a problem in a certain way, rather than just giving the answer. It also means careful listening to understand others' ways of thinking and reasoning. You can help your child learn to communicate mathematically by asking her to explain what she must do to solve a math problem or how she arrived at her answer. You could ask your child to draw a picture or diagram to show how she arrived at the answer

Mathematical reasoning ability means thinking logically, being able to see similarities and differences in objects or problems, making choices based on those differences and thinking about relationships among things. You can encourage your child's mathematical reasoning ability by talking frequently with him about these thought processes.

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