Hoping to help your third-grader with math skills? Here are some basic tips that experts suggest.
Discuss math class at home
Encourage your third-grader to talk about the math concepts that they are learning at school. Don’t just ask, “How was math today?” Instead, ask them to tell you about something your child learned in math class today.
Model good math behavior
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.
Talk through math problems
If your child is struggling with math problems, have them read each problem out loud slowly and carefully so your child can hear the problem and think about what is being asked. This helps their break down the problem and come up with problem-solving strategies.
Highlight real-life math problems
Continue to find as many opportunities as possible to highlight math problems in real life. If you’re doubling a recipe and need to figure out measurements, enlist your third-grader’s help. Measuring cups provide an especially good opportunity for your child to familiarize themselves with the concept of fractions that they are leaning about in school. If a recipe calls for a cup and a half of something, ask them how many 1⁄2 or 1⁄4 cups they would need until there is enough.
Highlight real-life examples of fractions
Encourage your child to spot real-life uses of fractions, such as menus that describe burgers as quarter pounders or sports games that are divided into halves. Have them practice fractions by drawing a shape, such as a circle or a square, and asking them to color in 1⁄2 or 3⁄4 of it.
Play math games
Time spent commuting or waiting in a car is a great opportunity to play math games with your child. Multiplication is one of the key math concepts they are working on in school and you can help them practice by asking them simple multiplication problems that relate to real life. Ask them to figure out the number of days until an event three weeks from today. Or have your third-grader calculate how many weeks it would take to save their allowance to buy a toy or game they want.
Use money to practice math
Make combinations of bills and coins using money from your wallet or your child’s piggy bank. Have them write the amount for different groupings, using a dollar sign and decimal point.
Explore math with sports
Sports provide a fun and engaging way of exploring a host of mathematical concepts, starting with basic addition. The halves of a soccer game or the quarters of a football game offer an illustration of how fractions work in the real world. If your child enjoys a sport, encourage them to explore it through math.
Practice telling time
Have your child practice their time-telling skills as often as possible. Ask them to check the clock when you want to know what time it is, and to compare the time on a face clock to see if it’s displaying the same time as a digital clock. If you have an appointment and need to leave by a certain time, have them help count down the minutes until then.
TODAY's Parenting Guides 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 Michigan; Leanna Baker, Retired Math Teacher; Bon Crowder, Math Teacher and Blogger, MathFour.com; and Robin Schwartz, VP, Association of Teachers of Math of NYC, and align with the Common Core State Standards.