# Symmetry: Looking Left and Right

Many children with dyscalculia (or with dyslexia) have at some stage trouble with visuo-spatial skills and tasks that involve right-left discrimination or eye-hand coordination.

An easy method that makes practicing these tasks enjoyable is completing a number of ‘line of symmetry drawings’.

# Learning to Count on Kitchen Tiles

Here’s a great opportunity to connect with numbers when you are in the kitchen with your child. This learning by doing activity will help your child to understand the meaning of counting and provide the basic concept of addition and subtraction, all while helping to lay the table.

• Counting forward, only verbal

Walking to the table one step on a tile, while counting the steps out loud.

Take a plate/cup and model walking to the table one step on a tile, while counting the steps out loud. Ask your child to do that too. Make it a fun activity: hop, tiptoe,  sing, whisper, etc.

No Tiles? You can redo your kitchen floor or try large colored stickies (plain) in a straight line on similar distances from each other.

Hand out plates, cups, cutlery one by one to your child, who is standing on the very tile in front of the cupboard or dishwasher and ask her to count the steps to the table. Maybe one setting is further than another: hurrah, more counting possible!

• Counting backward, only verbal

Count out loud backwards with each step walking back to the cupboard to get the next plate/cup.

After doing this for several days (weeks for a younger kid), model to count out loud backwards with each step when she walks back to the cupboard to get the next plate/cup.

Usually a lot of help is needed at this stage, so don’t rush. Some younger kids will start counting up from one, arrive a number too far and recite the previous number from their auditory memory, this is fine. Obviously you praise the effort to do this difficult new task!

What does she say for the last step back to the starting tile?  Anything like: “I’m back” or “back to start”, or “back at base” indicates that she ‘gets it’, and later on you can introduce the word zero for this tile.

• Counting with written numbers

When simple counting out steps forward and backward for each table setting item is getting boring, it’s time for something new: give each tile a number on a sticky and after counting out loud the steps like before, model saying “I went … steps forward to the table and now I am on tile …” and “I went  … steps back and now I am on start” and you are already laying the ground for understanding addition (going forward on the number line) and subtraction (back on the number line).

And yes, even this is going to get boring, meaning it is ingrained in long term memory and your child’s brain is ready for the next concept. So far we have only counted steps from the start to the destination, and mentioned what the total number of steps forward or backward was.

• Counting by adding steps to arrive at a total

Now we are going to explore every possible combination: you are stepping and counting and your child will call STOP anywhere between cupboard and table.  Make it fun: act surprised or jump, before you show how many steps you did (point at the number on the sticky, let’s say it’s 2) and ask your child to guess how many steps she thinks you still need to go to arrive at the table (let’s say 3). Now count these steps saying: “one more”, “two more”, etc.  because you want to stress that the number on the sticky you stand on is not the same as the number you count out loud.  When you arrive at the table you say: “I went to 2 first, stopped, than 3 more steps, and now I am at 5.  It’s your child’s turn, take turns calling stop and guessing and throw in the extra praise.

• Counting backward to arrive back at start

Model stepping and counting out loud backward, have your child call STOP and guess how many more steps are needed to arrive at start/base/zero (choose the word that works for your child).

When you count say: “one back”, “two back” or when your youngster shines with the blank staring look of feeling lost, help her out by mentioning the stopping point: “one back from …”, “two back from …”.  When you arrive at the starting tile, say: “First, I went 2 steps back, stopped, than 3 steps back, and now I am back at start.

Like with counting up, when you encouraged your child to explore all possible combinations of steps in the forward direction, you are now going to try out all possible combinations to get back to start.

Take turns and do some silly guessing like 10 more steps back to get the laughing bones in action.

• Make it a fun activity

Make obvious mistakes in guessing the number of steps, ask her why that guess could never be right and laugh together about the silly numbers. Go back often to a previous bulleted activity to help memorization. The ‘Rule of Thumb’ in teaching something new is to have your child combine four easy with one hard/new one. Remember not to expect her to be right all the times from the beginning and make it safe to err. You even want her to make mistakes, so you can show her that that is OK.  This way you help her being comfortable to ‘stick with it’ when it gets difficult (needed for later success in STEM).

Try it outside on the pavement tiles and stay on the lookout for any other tiled opportunities.

• Praise the effort not the result.

# Number Walk and Bedtime Book

Teach your child the numbers in less than 10 minutes a day.

1. Number Walk

There’s a reason kids like to touch everything. And as much as it can be annoying at times, it fits right in with their development: soaking up new experiences as a sponge. The brain can memorize best when the input is multi-sensorial and involves some sort of movement. Real 3D objects that can be touched and manipulated are essential for learning and those that are meaningful in a personal way stick best. Fun is the educational ‘glue’ that will tie it all together and will easy the way into longterm memory and will help your child ‘stick’ with the activity!

After your child is able to count out loud to ten and has shown an interest in written numbers you can do the next activity (usually around 4 years). You will be surprised how eager she is to learn the numerals, memorizing them through words combined with movements in less then 10 minutes a day..

Start with finding out what is important for your child to show the numbers from one to ten. The emotional attachment to the object is the crucial aspect. Ask what her favorite one is. It might be a doll, the bedtime stuffed animal, or another special toy. Ask her to tell you why that is the best ‘one’. The answer for two might even be her new mittens; three might be tied to the wheels of the tricycle, etc. You get the gist: anything she is coming up with. This is the great advantage you have at home over any group learning: it ties in with the individual preferences of your child.

# Conquer the Multiplication Tables 2

On the double or the two times table

Your child’s brain is hardwired to recognize doubles: even before she has counted or added together the number on the two dices she will shout out “it’s a double!”

Using this innate ability will greatly help your child’s confidence in learning the multiplication tables. Find as many objects that you have two of: shoes and socks come in doubles, so do ear rings, pepper and salt shakers, etc.

Counting Doubles

Count out mentioning the doubles while you move each item you are talking about: “here is one shoe” and “it is doubled with this shoe”. Explain: “so now we see that two times one shoe is two shoes.”

Do the same with two, three, or four objects, like pencils or table ware and have your child providing the ‘doubles’. Does she see that two times 3 spoons is 6 spoons? Draw attention to any doubles you may see in traffic, the shop, at school. Ask your child if she can find more doubles and make a drawing to be displayed on your refrigerator and keep mentioning it.

The Doubles Game 1: Toys only

Bring out the good old Lego’s or any other small colored objects you may have lying around: two of each color. One of each color is for you and the other one of that color is for your child. Take turns in starting with putting a number of items on the table and ask the other player to provide the ‘doubles’. The items need to be placed on the table neatly next to each other in rows of two similar ones, to make it clear there are 2 of each.

Say the number sentences out loud. Just complete the number sentences when your child stops halfway without commenting it is not complete. Always provide the correct number sentence immediately after your child makes a mistake, without commenting it is a mistake. Come back to that hard one only a few minutes later.

Do this until your child is totally confident to say the number sentences independently. Go on to bigger numbers of items.

The Doubles Game 2: Add the grid

Fold a piece of paper into two columns and make horizontal folds or lines large enough to fit the items you are using. Consider tasty math manipulatives like smarties or cereal.  The number sentences to go with each round of doubles are only verbal and no numerals are written.

The Doubles game 3: Here are the numbers

The same as Doubles Game 2, only add the numbers in the side line while you are saying the number lines. Do this till your child can say and write (always together) all the doubles till 10.

The Learning

These activities might look childish at first, but please do not skip them. Visual memory helps conceptual understanding, which is the base for all math. Never go to the next stage before your child is really sure in a previous one. This might take several days to a few weeks, depending on her previous math level. It is better to err on the slow side: it will prove to be time well spent.

Happy doubling!!

# Conquer the Multiplication Tables 3

Minimal cost Manipulatives to illustrate Multiplication

The previous postings on learning multiplication facts talked about making the connection with the real world and the importance of using actual objects and pictures. Those that are directly related to YOUR CHILD’s interest are the best.
When you have an elementary school child in the family, you highly likely have some brightly colored blocks, Lego’s, dice, coins, tiles, or other disjointed objects lying around the house. They are all worth their weight in gold when it comes to illustrate simple multiplication facts. How many wheels do you see on three toy cars? How many dots do you see on two dice each showing 5 dots?  Have your child count it out first and tell you the answer (use any mistake as an opportunity to improve understanding), after that you can model writing the multiplication statement on regular squared paper, using one square for each numeral and character ( x, =) arriving at the same answer!

When your child shows to have grasped the concept using objects and pictures, you can go on to the next step on the way towards a more abstract representation.
It is now time to print or invest in graph paper with large squares and have some coins, counters, stickers, or rubber stamps ready to fit in these squares.

Examples:
• How do you multiply 6 by 3?
• In other words what is 3 times 6?
• Or 3 times 6 equals what number?

1. Using Lego’s or other connecting blocks.

2. Using a paper model.
First ask your child to fill a row of 6 squares with a marker of her choice, say she is using smiley face stickers, and cut it out. Glue them on card stock for better durability.
This row shows the initial number: 6 and is used for the same sequence as with the Lego’s or connecting blocks described above, so you will need several of them.
Keep them in the horizontal position. Remember these are the rows representing the number to be multiplied and the columns represent how many times the initial number is multiplied. Your child is using this to make the verbal and the numerical multiplication statement.
Check for understanding:
• Does your child see that multiplication is only repeated addition? So, now we know multiplication is only a big word for ‘adding several times’, it must be easy!
• Ask your child to glue 3 rows of 6 smiley’s neatly together on a piece of paper and write the two multiplication statements on another piece of paper. Turn the paper with the smiley’s 90 degrees and ask her to write two other multiplication statements. What does she see comparing the first and second two statements? How come?