I am often asked for teaching advice from parents and grandparents, questions like, "Jason can count to 100 already! Does that mean he will be good at math?" or, "Kasha hates doing things with numbers. What can I do?" My number-one response is, simply, "Be math friendly at home." We all (even teachers) seem to have a general discomfort with things mathematical. When I do in-service training for elementary school educators, we spend much of the time playing with math manipulatives and talking about our own fears of failing at math. Lots of parents share our fears.
To help the parents of the children you teach, suggest ways they can create a "math-happy home." Here are a few ideas.
Talk numbers! How many hot dogs do you want for dinner? I see you are watching channel 85, can I just switch to channel 44 to see the news? I need to go back...hmmm...41 clicks. Let's count together.
Shut off the TV and read some good books about numbers, like 100 Days of School by Trudy Harris, The Man Who Counted by Malba Tahan, A Million Fish...More or Less by Patricia C. McKissack and City by Numbers by Stephen T. Johnson.
Take a math adventure outside and see how many things you can count. I see three birds on the tree. There are four tires on the car. The icicle fell and broke into three pieces.
Play with patterns. Take some colored blocks or Unifix® cubes and make pattern trains (red, blue, blue, etc.). See if your child can extend the pattern, then make it a bit more challenging as he or she develops skills. Let the child make a pattern for you to follow. Look for patterns and talk about them: There's a traffic signal every two blocks. That song repeats the same rhythm twice. Three cookies fit in one row of a cookie sheet. Any kind of repeating pattern is a wonderful activity. Math is simply patterns and being able to recognize them. The fun of it starts with play.