Question: We need some tips on how to help our young children in elementary and middle school return to their math classes with strong skills. -- Skill Sharpeners

Answer: To keep math skills sharp, children need to use math every day. Their work does not need to be doing worksheets or online exercises -- though they can be helpful. Using math should just be part of their daily lives. Why don't you involve them in some of the following activities?

1. Money Trading: Give your children quite a bit of change. Then have them find different ways to make up the following sums: 25 cents, 50 cents, 75 cents and 1 dollar.
2. Time Zone: Tell your children what time you need to be someplace. Then have them calculate what time you should leave home to get there in 15, 30 or 45 minutes.
3. Right Change: Have your children pay for small items or food in a store with exact change.
4. Budget: When it is time to buy school supplies for the coming year, have the children create a budget for the amount you wish to spend.
5. Play Time: Games keep skills sharp, especially adding and subtracting. So play Monopoly, Twenty-One and Dominoes.

There is nothing quite like mental math to enhance your children's ability to work with numbers and to be fascinated by them. You'll find easy and impressive ways to do calculations and math tricks in the book "Secrets of Mental Math" by Arthur Benjamin and Michael Shermer.

Here's one that is fun to do. Ask your children to write down a three-digit number where the digits are decreasing, like 541 or 873. Then have them reverse that number and subtract it from the first number. Take that answer and add it to the reverse of itself. The answer will always be the same no matter which numbers are chosen. Try it!.

Your children will also have fun with the math activities in the Activities and Skill Builders sections of our website (DearTeacher.com). Our math riddles and puzzles are very challenging.

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