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Talking to Your Fifth-Grader about Math

  • The more concrete the learning and the more children are encouraged to see mathematics in use all around them, the better. You can help by using math and the language of math around the house. Have your child help you with measuring tasks such as placing a picture on the wall, cutting out a pattern, building shelves, or papering a wall.
  • Get your child to make estimates and judgments about distance and time, and play a lot of number-oriented games. Math is a natural area of learning that should always be interesting to children.
  • Ask your child, "How might we go about estimating how fast an ant moves?"
  • Together make a graph of the colors and makes of cars in a parking lot. Try it at several different times. Based on the data shown in your graphs, make a generalization about what you might find if you continued your observations at a later time.
  • Play tic-tac-toe, dots, checkers, dominoes, concentration, hangman, Scrabble, chess, and increasingly complex card games such as hearts, rummy, and cribbage with your child. All involve problem solving and logic, and all are based on mathematics.
  • With a map of the United States, ask, "What is the shortest route from Nutley, New Jersey, to Rochester, Minnesota?" Or have your child figure out how long it would take to get to the homes of relatives and friends around the country -- or the world -- by plane, train, automobile, or on foot.
  • Ask, "How could we figure out how tall our house it? What about a tree, or a telephone pole?"
  • Try out problems such as, "If you ran 40 yards in 12 seconds, how many feet did you cover per second?" Or "If you continued to run at the same speed, how long would it take you to run 70 yards? Or 240 yards? How about 800 yards?"
  • Make up problems. For example: "It takes us 2 hours and 10 minutes to get to Aunt Maryann's house if we average 50 miles an hour. How long would it take if we went 35 miles an hour?"
  • The calculator should be very familiar to your child. Using a calculator, pick a number such as 39, then take turns adding a number from 1 to 5 into the memory. The objective is to see who can get to 39 first. This is a good mental math task and also another way to use the calculator.
Reprinted from 101 Educational Conversations with Your 5th Grader by Vito Perrone, published by Chelsea House Publishers.
Copyright 1994 by Chelsea House Publishers, a division of Main Line Book Co. All rights reserved.

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