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Instill a Love of Math

muslim_familyParents are bombarded with messages to read with their children, but it’s rare to hear about the importance of doing math with them. Here are some helpful tips on why and how to instill a love of math in your children.

Early Math Matters
We may take for granted that our children will inevitably learn how to add, subtract, multiply and divide, but early math lessons establish the base for the rest of their thinking lives. “Mathematics that kids are doing in kindergarten, first, second and third grades lays the foundation for the work they are going to do beyond that,” says Mdm Siti, main trainer at MathsExCEL. “They are learning beyond just counting and numbers.” That’s why it’s so important to help children love math while they are still young. Parents can build on those first preschool lessons by counting with their children, asking them to look for patterns and recognize shapes, then moving on to numbers.

The goal should be to make math “real” and meaningful by pointing it out in the world around you. That could include checking and comparing prices at the grocery store, driving down the street counting mailboxes, reading recipes, calculating coupons, or even measuring food or drink at the dinner table. When Mdm Siti child is little, she kept a small measuring tape in her pocketbook. While they were waiting for their order at a restaurant, the child would measure different items on the table.

Just as you encourage your early reader to look for familiar letters, ask your child to watch for math, regarding math as highly as you do reading. “Every parent knows that it’s a good idea to read to your child every night, but they should also realize the importance of talking about mathematical situations with children every day,” says Mdm Siti.

So What If It’s Hard?
What if you hated math as a child? Parents should try to set aside their distaste for math and encourage their children as much as possible. Young children are eager to learn. “It’s hard to learn to talk or walk. But they don’t care,” says Sue, a community college math teacher in MathsExCEL. “They just push themselves over their limits. They are going to come at math with that same attitude.”

Avoid talking negatively about math, even if you have no need for trigonometry in your daily life. “A lot of people will only joke that they cannot do math or announce publicly, ‘I’m not a math person.’ When a parent does that in front of a child, it suggests that math’s not important,” says Char Forsten, education consultant and writer, who urges parents to create that desire to learn by constantly screening the environment for math. “Have you seen any good math lately?” she likes to ask students.

If your child believes that math doesn’t really matter, he’s not going to be as open to learn. “Attitude has everything to do with learning. You can’t make anyone learn. If a child has learned not to love math, if they don’t love math, and aren’t willing to learn, you have to deal with that first,” Forsten says.

If you are stuck on how to foster math enthusiasm, talk to your child’s teacher about some ways to support math learning at home. There may be a new game that you have never heard of, which both you and your child will love.

Play Games
With so many facts and figures to memorize and apply to math problems, children learn early that math is something that requires work. That doesn’t mean that it can’t be fun; keep the pleasure in math by playing games with your children. Many games, even the ones adults play, rely on math. With countless websites, computer games and phone apps, parents have endless options, but don’t forget about the nondigital games you loved as a child. The classics that require manipulating cards and game pieces, calculating along the way, may have the same appeal for your kids as they did for you. One game worth considering is Chutes and Ladders. A 2009 study conducted by Carnegie Mellon and the University of Maryland found that preschoolers who played the game improved math skills significantly compared to those in the study who played a different board game or did nonmath tasks.

As you play with your kids, try to tap into your own love for math. When you play Trivial Pursuit, you are using math to determine how many spaces you need to get to the next wedge or predict which category you can answer best. The game doesn’t have to be about math, but should involve it. If you have a good game store in your area, stop by and ask the salespeople for help. Some of Mdm Siti’s favorite games really push logic, which is the basis of math, and get children thinking visually. Check out Link, SET, Rush Hour, Blokus and Spot It, to name a few.

“Playing games is a great family activity,” Mdm Siti says. “The more you have a tradition of playing games, the easier it is to bring in other games you like.” So while you may not be passionate about your child’s latest board game, you can work up to another game you like. Try to make the game personal to your family by playing it in your own special way. “Mathematicians make up their own rules,” Mdm Siti says. “It’s really important to be open to making up your own games. Change the rules. ‘In our family, we play the game this way.’”

Flexing Math Muscles
Riding a bike, swimming in the deep end, and playing an instrument are just examples of our favorite childhood activities that require practice to master. So does math.

“Math is an intellectual muscle building; it’s crucial for fully developing a child’s potential,” Mahoney says. “Those muscles can atrophy. If school is the only place you do math, then it becomes something you only do at school. Then you don’t even think about using it in real life.” So brush off those negative feelings about math and instill enthusiasm. Math will play a role in your child’s life forever.

“It’s important to remember that those basics are essential for later learning. A lot of the stuff we learn in math we apply in different ways later,” says Mary, who emphasizes the thinking skills that math provides. “I might not have to worry about what an isosceles triangle is, but it’s still an important part of education.”

As they grow, kids will learn that they are willing to work hard at something they love. It may just be math. Either way, remember that your child does not have to excel at math to enjoy it. “It doesn’t matter if they’re good, it matters whether they like it,” Mdm Siti says.

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New Bar Modeling iPad Apps!

For many years, I’ve highly recommended to my students who hone their bar modeling skills while playing really fun games. These flash-based programs work great on a desktop or laptop, but required third-party solutions to work on mobile devices.

Tired of using Rover to run on your iPad?

Well, hop on over to the iTunes app store because Math Playground has just published  four new iPad apps based on the popular website that work perfectly, provide tracked progress and are FREE for a limited time:

Addition and Subtraction:

Thinking Blocks Addition and Subtraction

Multiplication and Division:

Thinking Blocks Multiplication & Division


Thinking Blocks Fractions

Ratios and Proportion:

Thinking Blocks Ratio & Proportion

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10 Top Tips for Trying the Singapore Model Method with your Kids


Count things with objects

Try counting familiar things together like the number of people in the room, kids’ ages, or goals in football matches, using concrete objects like counters, buttons or small stones, lining them up one by one. If nothing’s to hand use fingers.

Get some interlocking cubes

Interlocking cubes are great and can be bought for a few pounds, or your child’s nursery or school may be able to lend you some. Try carrying round a few to count things when you’re out and about. They are also good for kids to play with to keep them occupied.

Use cut-out pictures

Draw pictures on paper and cut them out to use as counters with your kids. Or print out our handy Singapore Model Cutout Pictures and use them at home with your kids, to count people, ages, goals, coins or fruit.

Do basic arithmetic with objects

You can talk about most basic arithmetic using concrete objects, adding objects to the line, taking them away. ‘Multiply’ literally means ‘many layers’ and you can show times tables by layering rows one on top of the other.

Use interactive blocks

If you have an iphone or Android mobile why not try BBC Skillswise’s interactive blocks: text SKILLSWISE to 81010 or if you are reading this on your mobile device preview the interactive times tables blocksPlease note texts to the BBC cost 12-15p, interactive not compatible with all phones.

Draw pictures

Give kids pens and paper to draw things they count, lined up in a row. Encourage them to draw boxes around the pictures. The fact they have drawn the pictures gives them a sense of ownership and means they’ll probably be more confident in talking about them.

Don’t rush to use figures

Hold off from using number symbols until your child is really confident with concrete and pictorial representations and can make the link. So they will always have a ready way of picturing what the symbol means as a fall-back.

Start with figures 1 to 9

When you do start using symbols to label drawn boxes, stick to 1 to 9 at first to build confidence, so one figure relates to one quantity. The leap from the figure 9 to the figure 10 involves concepts of place value and zero which can take time to understand.

Brush up your own maths to help your kids

Most of us feel a bit rusty with maths, especially the new methods used in schools these days. Why not be a learning role model to your kids by joining a local maths class for adults? You can find out more about local courses/workshops from MathsExCEL programmes. Or brush up your maths skills online with maths websites for adults like BBC Skillswise.

Go slowly to build confidence

It takes time for children to get really confident with the basics. The Singapore curriculum actually covers less than the UK national curriculum in the first few years, instead taking more time to build confidence in the basics. But this pays off in spades later on.

TOP TIP: Be positive

Above all be positive. Enjoy playing with and counting objects together, celebrate effort and praise often. Real learning involves making lots of mistakes. Try to see mistakes as positive things that highlight deeper misunderstandings. Why did I think that? Kids have years of maths lessons ahead of them and every ounce of self-confidence helps them to succeed. Boosting children’s understanding with objects and pictures is key.

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Top 5 Brain Boosting Maths Websites

You thought that the internet was good for nothing when it comes to your kids, right? Check out these 5 brain boosting maths websites that will turn your child into a mathematical genius in no time!

Boy Typing on Laptop

We always blame the internet for being such a nuisance in our children’s lives, but what if we told you that the very same internet can help your kids with maths? In fact, come to think of it, the internet actually has a plethora of free and easily available resources for any maths newbie. We combed through several websites to bring you some of the best go-to maths sites, which are sure to help you raise the genius your child was meant to be!

1. Yummy Math

This site is a great resource for both students and teachers to learn and understand the relevance of maths in everyday life. The examples are current and interesting from calculating the cost of owning an iPhone to deciphering the ‘greatness’ or value of sports players through simple equations. The real-life examples provided in this maths website will engage students to think about how they can use and incorporate maths in their daily lives.

hamburger qn Top 5 brain boosting maths websites

2. A+ Click
A+ Click is a great maths website that offers thousands of illustrated mathematical problems, which range from kindergarten level to the more advanced algebraic equations. This site is especially useful for visual-spatial learners, since a visual model accompanies each equation. The tests adapt to each student’s ability depending on how fast they can correctly answer five questions consecutively.

Check out what A+ Click looks like!

Check out what A+ Click looks like! >>

3. SuperKids Math
Sometimes looking at the computer screen for too long can tire your children’s eyes. This maths website site is great because it provides printables of worksheets that can be customised. Whatever level your child may be at, you can just input the subject as well as the minimum and maximum numbers to be used and a custom worksheet will be created. All with a click of a button — no need for expensive assessment books anymore. Definitely a site to be bookmarked!

Screen Shot 2013 05 01 at 12.14.26 PM Top 5 brain boosting maths websites

4. Math Playground
A playground is for kids to get a workout and have tons of fun, which is exactly what Math Playground’s motto is too. With interactive games, fun puzzles and visual problems, Math Playground definitely gives your child’s brain a robust workout! Kids and parents can choose from a wide array of topics that feature problem sums, flashcards and printables. The graphics on this maths website are very colourful, and feature graphic games reminiscent of video games. We are sure that your kid will not be bored!

Screen Shot 2013 05 01 at 12.10.25 PM Top 5 brain boosting maths websites

5. Fun Brain
Can brainy stuff be fun? Of course, it can! And this ‘fun’ that we speak of is certainly the centre of attraction when it comes to Fun Brain. This maths website is a chock full of fun games that encourage children to pick up and practice maths skills. Topics such as fractions, multiplication as well as algebra, are weaved into racing and soccer games, which will engage and excite your child. Best part is they may not even be aware that they are studying a subject like maths!

fun brain Top 5 brain boosting maths websites

RELATED: Math Drills app: ‘techy’ teacher’s delight

Tell us if you’ve tried any of these top 5 brain-boosting sites! Is there a specific maths website that your child preferred more?

Check out this video of a child reviewing the Math Playground website: