2nd grade math tips: Here's how to help your student

Here's how you can help your second-grader master the basics of math outside of the classroom.

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By Aisha Labi

Hoping to help your second-grader with math skills? Here are some basic tips that experts suggest.

Make math “hands on”

Helping your second-grader with math means helping him understand the meaning of mathematics concepts, not just the procedures of doing a written problem. Making math as "hands on" as possible is the best way to ensure that they develop an understanding of concepts and number sense. To help your child really grasp the math they need to master, keep the learning simple, use real tools and everyday objects, and make it fun. Just call your learning activity a "game" and you can guarantee you will have your second-grader's attention!

Speak positively about math

Speak positively about math and reward effort rather than grades or ability. Think about how important reading is and how we are told to model this behavior for our children. We need to place math in the same category. Don't discount the importance of math by saying, "I'm not a math person, I was never good at math." Help your child read books that incorporate math, such as "Millions of Cats," by Wanda Gag, or "On Beyond a Million: An Amazing Math Journey," by David Schwartz.

Cement addition and subtraction relationships

To help your child build number sense, have him take several small objects (beans, pennies, etc.) and count out a specific number, starting with a smaller number. Then take your hand (or a cup or small bowl) and quickly cover some of the objects. Ask: "How many are under my hand?" They should be able to figure it out by counting those remaining. So if there are five objects and you cover three, they should see the two remaining objects and determine that three are covered. Do a variety of different combinations of objects covered using the same number of items. Then try it with more items, up to 20. Your child will get practice seeing the addition and subtraction relationships between numbers.

Use food to demonstrate fractions

Your child is beginning to use unit fractions, like 1/8, 1/4 and 1/2 in second grade. Cutting up sandwiches, fruit, or pastries into equal pieces and counting the fractional parts is one way to reinforce fraction identification.

Use real money

Children become so accustomed to seeing adults pay with credit and debit cards that counting actual money can be an unfamiliar practice. Engage your child in the transaction of buying things at the store, allowing him to pay with cash and to count the change. This will help not only with their math skills but will foster an understanding of the concepts of saving and spending.

Combine analog and digital clocks

To practice telling time, have your child draw an analog clock and a digital clock and put the same time on both. You want to help your second-grader count time in five-minute increments. Give her a specific time on a clock and ask questions such as "What time was it two hours ago? What time will it be in a half hour?" Take a look at a calendar. Ask them questions about the days and dates, such as "What day is the fifth of this month? How many Tuesdays are in the month? What date is the third Friday of this month?"

Use cooking to explain time

When cooking or baking, think about the time required for your recipe. Ask your child to help you figure out if a meatloaf takes about 45 minutes to bake and the vegetables you'll be having with it take 30 minutes to cook, how many more or fewer minutes than the meatloaf do the vegetables need? Which do you need to start cooking first?

Work on sequencing and patterns

You can build sequencing skills by asking your child to try to name their classmates in the order in which they sit in their classroom. Or have him outline the steps required to make a particular dish or meal. your child can also put math information into patterns. Your child can learn the names of shapes with increasing numbers of sides by arranging sticks into a triangle, square, pentagon, hexagon, etc. in order and saying their names as your child points to them.

Explore fractions

Since children are most familiar with the fraction 1⁄2, as in, "can I have half a glass of milk?". The unit is a strong base from which to start exploring fractions. Comparing half a glass of water to a whole glass, half a cookie to a whole cookie, half a book (opening it to the middle) to a whole book. Encourage your child to show you when your child sees or hears fractions used in daily life.

Play family math games

Plenty of family games incorporate math. Tic-tac-toe, Connect Four, and dominoes are just some of the many games that help build strategic thinking and math skills.

To find out what your second-grader will be learning in math class, check out our second grade math skills page.

TODAY Parenting Guide resources were developed by NBC News Learn with the help of subject-matter experts, including Joyce Epstein, Director, Center on School, Family and Community Partnerships, Johns Hopkins University; Pamela Mason, Program Director/Lecturer on Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education; Denise Walston, Director of Mathematics, Council of the Great City Schools; Nell Duke, Professor, University of MichiganLeanna Baker, Retired Math Teacher; Bon Crowder, Math Teacher and Blogger, MathFour.com; Robin Schwartz, VP, Association of Teachers of Math of NYC; and Susan Kunze, Retired Teacher, Bishop Unified School District, and align with the Common Core State Standards.