Five ways (count them) to get your children excited about math

If your middle school student is excited about his or her math homework today, be very thankful: By the time they’re in high school, the numbers show they could be far less interested.

According to data from the Business-Higher Education Forum, less than 20 percent of America’s high school students are math proficient and interested in pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and math. Yet the demand for engineers and advanced technology professionals in some key fields is expected to grow in the coming years. What can parents do to keep students enthused about math?

Start by thinking about ways that play time can also be learning time – without your child necessarily knowing it. Slipping math into family activities or favorite hobbies your child already enjoys, along with a little gaming flair, can make a positive difference in how he or she views and uses math for years to come.

Here are some fun and easy ways to incorporate math into your child’s day:

Food for thought. If your child likes helping in the kitchen, get cooking with math. Measuring ingredients is great practice with fractions and an easy way to show your child how important math is in everyday life. If a recipe calls for 1/2 cup of flour, use a 1/4 or 1/8 measuring cup for the ingredients; or try doubling the recipe when baking a batch of cookies for a delicious and rewarding experience.

Gaming + math = learning. Web-based experiences that fuse online games with learning expose children to math during screen time. Raytheon’s Sum of all Thrills enables students to design their own roller coaster ride, pilot a jet plane or race a bobsled, and see the math behind the action. At http://www.mathmovesu.com, students can build loops, turns and barrel rolls, and see many math and science principles come into play. The tangible reward is designing one’s personal “virtual ride,” which can then be shared with family and friends through Facebook, and the mathematical reward is a better understanding of equations.

Batter up. Children who like sports can hit a home run with math through sliding head first into sports statistics. Have your little leaguer track stats of their favorite baseball team and compare them to their biggest rivals. Pose small challenges such as how many more hits their favorite players need to raise their respective averages to .500.

Sale away. Money talks, and it also makes for great math practice for children. Consider holding a yard sale, which is not only a good way to clean out the garage, but also an opportunity to price objects, keep track of how many items are sold and make change. When out shopping, have your children calculate the final price once a discount, coupon and/or tax is factored.

Think outside the house. Get fresh air while brushing up on lessons in wind speed, geometry and physics. Basic toys such as kites, paper airplanes and pinewood derby cars are fun and active ways to learn not-so-basic math and science rules. It might even help your child earn a badge in his or her favorite scouting program.

Incorporating these types of activities into leisure time can make math a part of their everyday lives and, ideally, a more enjoyable subject at school. Once children connect math with something that excites them, they may just get hooked on it for a lifetime.

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