Making Math Not Suck (page 2)

Making Math Not Suck

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Updated on Jul 9, 2013


The most basic skills in mathematics are counting and grouping (“seeing” numbers in groups). To develop counting skills, help children learn to count from any number, to any number, by any number. Do all counting forward and backward.

Basic: Count by 1s, starting at 0 (0, 1, 2, 3…250…), and starting at any number [e.g., 28 (28, 29, 30…40…)].

Intermediate: Count by 10s, starting at 0 (0, 10, 20…500…), starting at 5 (5, 15, 25…205…), and starting at any number [e.g., 37, 47, 57, 67…347…].

Advanced: Count by 3s, 4s, 6s, 7s, 8s, 9s, 11s, 12s, 15s, 20s, 25s, 50s, and 100s, starting at 0.

The pay-off: strong addition skills and the painless development of Times Tables.


As counting skills begin to develop, fractions can be introduced. Long before introducing words like numerator and denominator, teach children that half means “2 parts the same,” and have them use this knowledge to figure–out things like:

Basic: “How much is half of 6? …10? …20? …26? …30? …50? …100? …248? …4,628?”

Intermediate: “How much is half of 5? …11? …15? …21? …49? …99? …175? …999? …2,001?”

Advanced: “How much is 7 take away 21/2?” “How much is 11/2, four times?” “How much is a 1/2 + 1/4?”

Don’t be afraid to ask these questions of kindergarten and first graders. The ability to “see” a whole as being a collection of parts should be learned in the early grades.

Problem Solving

Children become good problem solvers when they are asked to solve a broad range of problems early on, at home and at school. Start with easy questions; let the level of difficulty increase as the child’s ability grows.

Basic: “I’m 40 years old and you are 7. How old will I be when you are 10?”

Intermediate: “If 3 pieces of candy cost 25 cents, how many pieces can you buy for a dollar?”

Advanced: “How can you share 2 candy bars evenly with 3 kids?” (Draw a picture of two rectangles.)

Questions like these cause a child’s thought processes to become animated. Try it. You’ll see!

Martinek says parents should help their children build these skills over time, starting with basic counting and progressing down the list as your child's abilities develop. This will make math more intuitive, and only then will the all-too-popular whine “math sucks” recede into the background.

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