Be Math-smart!

Do you want your child to be good in Math, and for the subject to be easier and more enjoyable for him? Then you have to work on his number sense, advised educator Hysper Lapid during a recent talk sponsored by Scholastic at Holy Spirit School in Quezon City.

Number sense is defined by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) as “a person’s general understanding of number and operations along with the ability to use this understanding in flexible ways to make mathematical judgments and to develop useful strategies for solving complex problems.” We see number sense in action, for instance, when a student converts the mathematical problem 53,505 minus (-) 52,997 to 53,508 minus (-) 53,000 to be able to compute fast and mentally for the difference.

The components of number sense are:

o   Quantity or Magnitude

o   Numeration

o   Equality

o   Base Ten

o   Forms of a Number

o   Proportional Reasoning

o   Algebraic and Geometric Thinking

Unlike our five senses that are naturally functional, number sense develops gradually over time, which is why children need frequent and varied experiences with numbers to appreciate Math, and to really learn and improve.

Teacher Hysper, who is a Senior Program Consultant in Math for Scholastic, also said that good number sense is important because a great deal of our everyday activities involves arithmetic.  Tasks such as cooking, traveling, decorating, budgeting, shopping, and helping kids with their homework, to name a few, call for Math skills in varying degrees, so it would be highly advantageous if a child gains the familiarity and facility to deal with mathematics-related undertakings at an early age.

She mentioned that the characteristics of good number sense include:

§  fluency in estimating and judging magnitude

§  ability to recognize unreasonable results

§  flexibility when mentally computing, and

§  ability to move among different representations and to use the most appropriate representations.

To develop a child’s number sense and enhance his mathematical skills, Teacher Hysper recommended the following activities (which she also practices with her kids):

 · Estimate.  Ask your child questions like, “About how many jars or books would take up the entire shelf?” “How many times can you sing the Happy Birthday song in one minute?” “How many steps to the gate?” “How many Hershey’s Kisses are in the pack?”  You can also scatter some things such as paper clips, pens or crayons, and then ask your child to guess how many.  Count the items after both of you “guesstimate.”  When making an estimate, you have the opportunity to teach your youngster different ways to count the lot – make 10s, skip count by 2, or count by 5 – and show him that the way the objects are counted doesn’t change the total or how many in all.

· Arrange.  Let your son or daughter position or organize a specific number of objects in a variety of ways like the ones you see on dominoes.  The 3 there is arranged diagonally but 3 can also be arranged like a triangle.  When you arrange objects in a set, it shows you concretely that a number has many different parts or can be made or expressed in many different ways.  You see arrangements anywhere you go – in department stores, supermarkets, bookstores, etc. – and how many [items] in a stack is almost always the same number.

· Incorporate quantities in conversations.  Examples are, “It is your cousin’s birthday tomorrow.  She’ll be twice your age.” “If we watch the Disney Princesses show this December, the tickets just for the two of us would cost the same as buying 3 Pinypon vans because each ticket costs more than P2000.”  “This pizza costs as much as your Halloween costume.”

· Play card and board games rather than watch TV.  Some examples of fun games that promote counting and addition, understanding of patterns, numerical recognition, and appreciation of Math are 41, Uno, Dominoes, Monopoly Junior, and Chutes and Ladders (or Snakes and Ladders).

· Bake together.  This is a practical way to teach your child about fractions and portions.  You can ask him to measure and prepare simple ingredients like 3/4 cup of sugar and 2 tablespoons of butter.  Talk about the sweet treats you make, like how many chocolate chip cookies are in 1 ½ dozen, or how many brownie squares are left after you have eaten or given away some.