Coming soon: AboutKidsHealth is getting a new look! Learn more Watch a video tour

Mathematics Problems: How to Help Your Child

Mom helping daughter with math
For all strands of the mathematics curriculum, workbooks are available that can be used to supplement school activities. When using workbooks, be sure to reward your child with stickers and/or praise after completing tasks and at the end of the session. Use the workbooks at the same time each day to build a routine.

There are also computer programs that can help your child learn different aspects of math. Many of these programs can be used by children of different ages and abilities. These programs teach key concepts and provide drills. Use the software with your child, and then have her use it by herself.

Number sense and numeration

Some children have difficulty learning automatic "number facts" like "3 plus 2 equals 5". You can facilitate the development of your child’s number sense, numeration, and math facts by engaging in the activities below:

  • Count objects around the house and outside, such as cars on the street or signs on the road.
  • Match groups of objects or dots to the appropriate numerals. Have your child put the appropriate number of stickers on one side of an index card, and the appropriate numeral on the other. Cut the cards in half using a unique shape. Have your child find the parts that match.
  • To improve number recognition, have your child trace sandpaper numbers (used in the Montessori math curriculum), and draw numerals in sand.
  • Hundreds Board
    Get Adobe Flash player
    To develop number sequences beyond 10 and to help recognize recurring number sequences, make a Hundreds Board. Make patterns using numbers.
  • Play “Shop” with your child. Make tags for toys. Buy and sell toys for pennies.
  • Cook or bake with your child. This exposes her to math terms, measuring, and beginning fractions.
  • Play card games. To improve number recognition, play Go Fish or Concentration. To improve number sequence and more or less than concepts, play War, Spit or Clock Solitaire. To improve matching and adding skills, play Casino, 21, Solitaire, and Cribbage. Deal me In by Margie Golick outlines many card games and the types of skills each game reinforces.
  • Play board games using dice that require counting such as Snakes and Ladders or Monopoly.
  • Make up simple addition and subtraction questions; solve these questions using candies, pennies, or buttons. Teach your child how to diagram the problem using sticks or circles like this: X X X + X X = 5.
  • Work on numerals and math facts such as addition and subtraction using flash cards.
  • For addition or subtraction, teach your child how to start with the biggest number and count up or down. For numbers up to 10, she can use her fingers. Teach how to use known facts to work out answers.
  • Use books of connect-the-dots puzzles to teach number sequences and help develop your child’s visuomotor skills.
  • Use workbooks with grade-appropriate number and word problems. Make copies of pages of examples of number problems, for example, addition and subtraction, so that your child can do them more than once. Over a period of days, begin to time her and reward her for completing the examples more quickly. This will help automate retrieval of math facts.


  • Teach math terms such as bigger/smaller, more/less, and so on. Start with which toys are bigger/smaller, then which group is bigger/ smaller. Introduce more/less as meaning the same as bigger/smaller.
  • Measure objects with a ruler, and place objects in order of size. Talk about which objects are bigger/longer and smaller/shorter.
  • Count piles of coins. Talk about which pile has more/less.
  • Play War with a regular deck of cards or try the Math War card game.

Geometry and spatial sense

  • Children with visuospatial difficulties may have trouble with the development of math skills in this strand. Teach her to develop verbal strategies for spatial problems. Have her say them aloud initially, and then have your child use self-talk, first speaking the instructions aloud, and then “speaking” the instructions mentally.
  • Teach spatial terms including above/below, behind/in front, and near/far. Play games using these terms to position toys.
  • Teach names of two-dimensional shapes, for example circle, square, rectangle, rhombus, pentagon.
  • Use books of mazes to help develop your child’s visual problem-solving, planning, and visuomotor skills.

Patterning and algebra

  • Look for and point out recurring patterns. Make up patterns using colour, size, shapes, rhythms, or actions. As your child improves in recognizing patterns, use sequences of numbers or letters.
  • Put objects in order by size, by height, and by weight.

Data management and probability

  • Teach equivalent amounts, beginning with pennies and nickels.
  • Give your child a weekly allowance. Have her count her money and divide it up into saving and spending piles. Each week, have her to graph how much she has in savings and for spending.

Virginia  Frisk, Ph.D., C. Psych