Monday, August 24, 2009

Use Real Math

There have been a number of math programs marketed with the concept of “real world math” as the core selling point. Few were ever really that close to the real world most of us recognize. As families continue to struggle with the economy there has never been a better time to teach real life math skills. This is never about frightening or burdening children with adult problems but teaching them to understand how math works in the real world.

As children get old enough to spend money they are old enough to start learning how money works. The older they get the more they can understand about money and budgets. While it is important not to scare or burden children with the worries of adult employment issues, failing cars, or shaky jobs, it is important in good times and bad for children to understand finite resources and the cause and effects that come with spending and saving.

When you are creating a master budget do consider how to have your children work with you on handling issues that impact their lives. I’m not advocating allowances or arguing against them. I’m discussing the money you spend on clothes and other items. As your kids get older work with them to understand how budget choices do have long term effects. For instance the impulse buy for the “must have jeans” can mean no other clothes for a period of time. While you may not actually make the purchase try journaling it and the purchase you actually make and see if the child still agrees in a month that the jeans were a better buy than the purchase you decided on. Kids do need to be taught not just impulse control but the consequences of having no impulse control.

Work on savings with children. Habits are hard to teach but once established are much easier to keep going in adult lives. Children who have never developed the habit of going to the bank and watching their savings grow often do not have that skill established going into adult life. Make the habit a life one which balances savings and expenses. If children are taught that all money has a balance between expenses that must be paid, charitable giving that is a responsiblity, optional spending, and savings, they have something to build on for the future. Most children do not have many expenses but saving for something they wish to purchase can be considered an expense that is separate from the other savings that are putting away. This can prepare them for the day they have real expenses that have to be paid before spending.

Emphasize the math used at home. All too often I hear even adult friends who are trained, skilled people who own their own businesses tell me they were never very good in school and they can’t do …. Well in fact to be successful in the businesses I know they are in they are very good at the subjects they claim not to have been good at school in, but they were never taught in the manner that made sense naturally to them. Math is found in the home everywhere. Make sure your kids are aware of the math they are doing every day even though it isn’t in a math book. Cook with them, work on craft projects, teach them to use tools, and your kids will absorb an amazing amount of math. Now just make sure they know what they have learned.

While doing more writing research I came across this free education site I thought people might find interesting. I will put it in the math resources as well.

Math in Daily Life

Picture Credit woodleywonderworks

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