Math! Arrrgh! Relax. There are toys that can help your child grasp the fundamental concepts in math.

We all remember having to take math in school. For the few lucky among us who were gifted in math, it loomed over our heads like a formidable mountain that we could not conquer.

Here are some good and bad news.

It seems that problems or difficulties in learning math largely has to do with our learning styles. The visual learners tend to best with math. The auditory learners come in second. Then the kinesthetic learners.

Kinesthetic learners have the most difficult time because they learn best by physically interacting with things in the real world. This group contains a large number of those athletically gifted people that we all know from our school years.

Another bad news is that we seem to be born with a dominant learning style. And if you or your child is a kinesthetic learner, this could mean a lot of trouble at school, especially in math class.

The good news is that many schools are now trying to accommodate this group of learners, realizing that they are not "behind in math", but rather they have different needs when it comes to understanding certain concepts.

One of the ways this is being addressed is the use of manipulatives. Manipulatives are physical things that the students can touch and use to represent numbers. In simple terms, if you put two marbles in front of a child and ask him or her to take one away, the child gets to physically move the object out of the group, therefore reinforcing his/her learning style.

If you are thinking that this reinforces the visual learners, that is also correct. Seeing the marbles helps the visual learners as well. However, when a child is able to physically touch and move the objects with their own hands, it crosses over to kinesthetic learning.

Keep in mind that no child has just one learning style. Everyone has aspects of all three, but usually with one or two dominant styles. You can get more detailed information on learning styles by clicking on the nav button called Learning Styles on the left.

Of course, as it is the case with all children learning, it is ideal if you can turn learning math into a game. Such as guessing how many marbles are in your hand by calling out "even" or "odd", "more than 5" or "less than 5", you get the idea.

You can make the game more advanced by adding different rules. One way is to have the child first guess the number of marbles in your hand as described above. Then as a second step, you can verbally take away some of the marbles (don't show it, just say it) and have the child come up with the answer as to how many are now left in your hand. You can make this more kinesthetic learner friendly too by letting the child use their hands to figure out the answer at first.

Though rote method has been looked down upon in the recent years, it can't be argued that it has its use and is important in learning the basics.

It would benefit the child a lot more to have them understand the concept. But after that, they need to know the answers to simple questions "off the top of his/her head". Wouldn't it be very frustrating for years if they never learned that 5-2=3 by rote and had to figure it out every single time?

As you probably experienced the benefits of rote method of memorizing, you should know that certain things are better to be memorized, as long as the underlying knowledge behind that memorized bits of information is understood.

Knowing that 5-2=3 without understanding it is useless. It's like a very young child telling you that the answer is "3" when he has no idea why. Therefore, if someone asked him the question of 3+2=? he wouldn't know what to say.

But the person who understands the concept behind the answer "3" in the first question will be able to work out the answer to the second question based on his understanding.

So when you are trying to help your child memorize certain useful facts by the rote method, please keep in mind that the understanding is more important. Don't assume that your child grasps the concept because s/he gets the answers right.

What is the best way? I don't think there's a definitive 'best way', but asking them to explain the answer usually is a good way to see if they understood or not. As long as they can show you how they come to the answer from the question, it is a good start (in their own words of course).

Have patience with them and they will build new layers of understanding and develop a fuller and more dynamic grasp of the subject.

"education at play"

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