Math Madness Tips to Help Kids Improve Math Skills

Math, it‰Ûªs a four letter word that makes sweat break out on the palms of students in every grade level. I am lucky, I have one daughter that loves math. It is her favorite subject, but my other daughter considers it a cruel form of torture. Getting your child motivated to do their math homework is a difficult challenge. They will do Social Studies, English, Government, and even Science, but Math is like pulling teeth. However, there are ways to get your child motivated to do their math homework, do better on tests, and to master these important skills that they will need for the rest of their lives.

We all like to do things that we are good at and that give us a feeling of success. We are attracted to things that give us a sense of instant gratification. Think about a video game. These devices that steal our children‰Ûªs minds and their study time use this same principle. When kids perform a task they get immediate gratification. They perform all of the tasks and they immediately move up a level, not so with math. They must not only learn a new principle, they must demonstrate that they can apply this principle again and again, in the mean time, being greeted with bad grades and chastising by well-meaning, but misdirected parents. The first rule of thumb is to celebrate the success, immediately, even if it is a small success. Make a big deal about the small successes, this will go much farther than threats and negative feedback. If this is the one principle that parents can learn from video games.

The second lesson that we can learn is that kids and adults alike are drawn to things that are fun. When anything falls into the category of chore, or work, we immediately do not like to do it. However, if it falls into the category of playtime, we will drop the work and chores immediately and run to it with great enthusiasm. What does not work is to offer some reward for doing the math ‰ÛÏwork‰Û. This psychology might work some of the time, but it still frames Math in the undesirable category. The goal is to recategorize math so that it is in the play category.

So the question that we all must ask ourselves is how to make math fall into the category of play instead of a task to be dreaded and procrastinated until the last possible moment. This might take some creativity on your part as a parent. Luckily, we now have help in this department. Many games have been developed that focus on teaching kids math, while using a game atmosphere. Some of these are available as board games that one or more children can participate in together. This is great if you have two or more children that are around the same level. Learning is much more fun when it is more like playing games with a friend or sibling. If you have children that are on a different level, it becomes more challenging, unless you can bribe the older one to help the younger one.

Aside from board games, educational gurus have developed a concept that combines what we need (math skills) with something they want (video games). Many free resources are available online that provide games to help with many different skills and on many different levels. These games provide the instant gratification of the video game, with the need to build math skills to advance. It is a match made in heaven and I have seen their magic work in my own home. We never thought that we would get my daughter to learn her multiplication tables until we discovered these games. She played for hours and soon, before she knew it, 9 X 12 was no longer a problem. They can really be a great motivation for learning and one that is often overlooked by parents and teachers alike. Here are some sites with a wealth of free, fun math games to suit almost any need.
Math Cats
PBS Kids
Cool Math Games
Math Playground
Cool Math 4 Kids
Fun Brain
Play Kids Games
Hooda Math
Math Arcade on Fun Brain
This list of websites that have games to help children of all ages improve their math skills is much larger, but these will get you and your child started on the right path. Many of these games are not only designed to help with memorization of math facts and practice applying the principles; they also help the child to build recall speed as they fight to beat the aliens or defend the city.

How many times have you heard the advice that routine is the key to success in developing good study skills? This sagely advice has stood the test of time. We, as humans, are creatures of habit. Setting aside a certain time every day to focus on math will help your child to perform better. Routine does not mean that it has to be boring though. As a matter of fact, that can kill a math score quicker than anything. Even if the time is set every day, the routine and activities that are done should be fun, engaging and varied. This will make this time of day something that children will look forward to instead of dread. This is the real key to helping your child with math.

Helping your child develop better math skills is not as difficult as it would seem. The key is to remember the three most important principles, celebrate small successes, make it fun, and mix up the routine with different activities. There is nothing wrong with 10 minutes of flash cards, but make sure that this is followed by a round of skill building games from one of the websites above. You might find that dragging them away from their math studies becomes as hard as dragging them away from any other video game.


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