Teaching Math Skills

Teaching Math Skills
We want to encourage children to learn the math skills that will help them throughout life and teach them how to enjoy those skills as they grow up.

There are many types of teaching strategies for math as for other subjects - often children who have difficulty understanding math concepts at school are quite adept at figuring out what they need to know at home and in the community. Using pie to explain fractions is especially helpful when siblings, cousins, or neighborhood friends are involved - every piece must be exactly equal to be one of six or one of eight slices! Of course, in sharing anything that is coveted, children understand that the 'big half' is better.

Telling time is more important to a child when a favorite television show is scheduled in the newspaper television guide. Drawing what an analog or digital clock will look like when the time arrives helps establish the memory. Programming a VCR by having children use a start time of two minutes earlier than the desired program helps them learn by 'fast forwarding' to the start time. They may also learn that they like the 'tease' that precedes the program. A few shows start a minute past the hour, some run for 90 minutes, half an hour, or two hours.

Allowing children to use real money is a great teaching tool - spending pennies to buy nickels, dimes and quarters that convert to dollar bills can be a delightful pastime for some children. Coins do present a choking hazard and wind up in unusual places so always supervise money play. We wash coins for games in mild soapy water and dry them between towels to reduce noise for those sensitive, and run dollar bills through laundry cycles with blue jeans (not always on purpose). Dollar coins can easily be confused with quarters and nickles and are excellent for I Spy games.

Shopping during very slow times at stores allows children a less stressful experience when they are spending their nickels and dimes on items. The concept of taxes can be explained by practicing counting out pennies for each dollar at home. Some children and teens enjoy carrying a tax card around with them showing how much an items of each price will be with the tax included. Of course if a child is carrying a calculator to keep track of prices and tax, it is very helpful for the adults in charge, too.

Some children who despise addition practice will spend hours 'checking' their results with adding machines using rolls of paper tape that can still be found at many office supply stores. Having a record of calculations helps many children who don't feel comfortable trusting calculators. That is true for adults, too. Having your child 'double check' your debit card/checkbook entry calculations can also be enjoyable.

As in all learning and practice situations, spending time with someone patient who enjoys spending time with us helps instill the love of learning. Many people lose track of their debit card expenses or are otherwise shocked when studying bank statements, and even children who have articulation challenges seem to pick up colorful language they repeat with true precision when they have heard it expressed with strong feelings. There may be a great deal of emotion invested in other math problems, including measurements practiced while helping with recipes or 'home improvement' projects.

Old fashioned family traditions like keeping track of height while children grow, and other physical milestones like how far they jump or throw a ball may delight your child. Too often our children are measured by how far they fall short rather than how far they do go. Some children are motivated by competition or ambition to emulate the success of their siblings or classmates, but it is much more practical to learn measuring and math skills than to achieve meaningless goals at the expense of their perceptions of themselves and others.

Science 'experiments' growing sprouts from seeds can be all about measuring height and recording date and time. Often, children's informal science experiments use math in ways that are not intimidating or confusing. Science is all about learning about the world, and math helps children keep track of their scientific observations.

Making real tools available for children, including measuring spoons and cups, rulers and tape measurers, teaches them the real units we use in life. Cloth tape measures are of course choking hazards, and metal ones that automatically rewind into a box can cause cuts and other injuries. Even paper ones from IKEA stores can cause paper cuts, so supervision of younger children helps them remember safety lessons and avoid injury as well as providing someone to be there when a new 'owie' results from their real life investigations.

If your older child is having difficulty with math because it is poorly explained in specific school text books, parents can go to the library, an internet resource, or bookstore to find another source of explanation. Sometimes well-educated and unintimidated parents can't understand certain school texts when they are explaining concepts learned a long, long time ago. A textbook available at a school library or a different school in the same district might provide clear instruction for students and parents. Sometimes teachers are not comfortable teaching math, or an unfortunate choice of textbook or training can be an obstacle for them in accommodating students.

Browse at your local bookstore, public library or online retailer for books about teaching children numbers, counting, math facts, time and money, like Teaching Math to People With Down Syndrome and Other Hands-On Learners: Book One - Basic Survival Skills and Book 2 - Advanced Survival Skills (Topics in Down Syndrome) or Math Instruction for Students with Learning Problems


Riverbend DS Website Math Articles:
Developing Number and Maths Skills
Learning Elementary Maths: Case Study of a Dutch Boy
Teenagers with Down Syndrome Study Algebra in High School
Algebra and Problem Solving in Down Syndrome - A Study with 15 Teenagers
Mathematics & Down Syndrome Abstracts

Power of 10 Math/Numeracy Program
Free resources and products like:
Making Math Meaningful
Mentioned on the Down Syndrome Discussion Group

Everyday Mathematics
University of Chicago Everyday Mathematics
Resource and Information Center

Frequently Asked Questions
Mentioned on the Down Syndrome Discussion Group
You might find used books at Amazon; read customer reviews

Teaching math to students with Down syndrome

Number skills development for children and teens with Down syndrome

Numicon math system kits through the DSE-US Foundation store:

Down Syndrome Foundation of Orange County's Learning Program:

What I learned about learning maths while watching TV ads

Teaching Children about Money

NBC Nightly News: Free Help with math for kids
Khan Academy
There's an App for that:

You Should Also Read:
Teaching Home Addresses to Children
Teaching Children About Money
Recess Skills for Children with Special Needs

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