Youth need to understand math concepts early

As youth begin to get jobs at an earlier age, they need to start understanding the concept of math and numbers in order to make decisions later on.

Michigan 4-H youth programs work with youth and incorporate financial literacy in certain areas. There are many different ideas to teach youth math and numbers.  It is never too early to start teaching these concepts to young children.  Michigan State University Extension uses many resources to help youth understand financial concepts.

There are some fun ways to bring math into everyday experiences.  According to PBS you can use the following in working with younger kids.

  • As you start to bake or cook, have kids use the measuring cups or spoons.  To learn fractions, ask them for one cup using  the 1/3 or 1/4 cup measure
  • Use different colored candies and make a game out of it
  • Use estimation – ask kids how far they think they have gone or how far to their favorite restaurant or Grandma’s house – use the odometer to keep track of the distance
  • While at the restaurant, ask kids what they think the total bill is or have them help figure out the tip
  • When traveling, talk about the shapes they see such as stop signs, mileage markers, objects or buildings

When having children try some of the examples listed above, ask them how they would come up with the answer in each situation or what ways they could solve them to get an answer, if any.  Having kids involved in the conversation and having them give feedback is also a part of learning.

Everyday, math is incorporated or experienced in someway. This is a perfect activity to have your children participate in with you. 

  • When you as a parent balance your checkbook, let the kids see you work with numbers, and how working with numbers helps you manage the things you have to get done or purchase.  
  • Do not give them a negative attitude toward math – saying you did not do well in math or did not get it at their age, instead give them compliments when they accomplish something.  Or say you do not remember, but lets figure this out together. 
  • Do your mathematics out loud –for example,  let your child hear you say questions like how many teaspoons in a tablespoon when cooking or  count your change out loud
  • Play math games, get puzzle books, work together and let your child have fun with it!

Being in a 4-H club helps strengthen a child’s math skills. The many 4-H projects that kids can choose to learn about have some type of math skill they will learn.  Projects may include working with their livestock  to keep records and monitor feed costs. If a craft project is involved, there will be a cost for the materials to make it.  If youth decide to sell some of their products such as gardening, math is very important part of skill development; the number of products sold, for how much and then chosing what to do with the money whether it is savings, re-investment or additional purchases. 

For more information abou using math skills while working with young children, visit the Michigan 4-H website.

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