Learning to crunch the numbers: Ways to teach children math through today's economy

March 18, 2011 12:40:23 PM PDT
Judy Brown, mathematics program manager at Slyvan Learning, offers advice on how parents can use the troubling economy to teach their children basic mathematical concepts that will enrich their understanding of how the world works:In my position as mathematics program manager at Sylvan Learning, I am asked constantly about the changing trends of teaching math and new ways to make it easier for children to learn. One of the most effective ways, and a personal favorite of mine, to teach children math is to show them how math relates to everyday life.

While the current global economy is a turbulent time for families, there are ways to turn some of the economic information shown on TV or online into learning experiences by helping children grasp basic math concepts, without causing them undue stress about the overall economy.

Helping children develop the habit of demonstrating their knowledge of basic math, be it addition and subtraction, or multiplication and percentages, will serve to create a more stress-free but relevant way for children to learn these real-life concepts and carry it with them.

Here are just a few tips and examples you can use as a guideline for explaining math concepts to your children:

  • Have your child track the closing number for the stock market each day and calculate the difference as a number and a percentage.
  • Ask your child to note how the cost of gas varies from station to station in your town. How much less would you pay at station No. 1versus station No. 2 for a full tank of gas?
  • Use the changes in interest rates to pose a math question about how much interest your child would pay if she needed a loan to buy a toy. How much interest would she earn if she placed her money in a savings account?
  • Use coupons to demonstrate subtractions skills. If a store doubles coupon values, have your child calculate the savings. Or, if you use a coupon that takes cents off an item, have him calculate the new price.