One of the most difficult tasks for both teachers and parents is to help kids understand the skills they learn in school on some real level. This idea is as old as Aristotle and Socrates, when the philosophers suggested that learning was not learning unless it was applied to something real and tangible. Otherwise, it was only theory. Other scholars who came after them also presented the importance of application in learning.
Can teachers and parents work together to achieve this on any real level?
Here are a few ways parents can help with this at home:
- Implement lessons at home. Apply science and math lessons to things around the house. For example, if your child’s science class is completing a unit on temperature, ask your child to check the temperature outside on an outside thermometer and apply the Fahrenheit and Celsius formula to convert it.
- Practice fractions. Think of tasks that can apply the use of fractions or parts, such as cooking or checking the oil gauge in your car so they will better understand this concept in the real world.
- Use current events. Prompt kids to read the newspaper then write a creative story from the headlines. This teaches them to convert expository text into real world creative ideas while improving their thinking and writing abilities.
- Budget together. Ask kids to make a household budget for a month. Subtract common expenses such rent, utilities and car payments. Make it a game to apply what they learn in math. Hold friendly competitions between siblings to see who has the most money left at the end of each month after expenses.
- Create word problems. Make up every day situational math problems (word problems) that involve multiple operations and mathematical skills. Using this type of problem to illustrate real world use of math skills is perhaps the best way to get them to see that math skills ARE important.
- Go shopping. Take kids to the store with you and ask them to help you pick out items from a list. Instruct them to stay within the budget allotted and to estimate the amount of the purchase while shopping. This activity incorporates several math skills into real world applications including budgeting, subtraction, addition and estimation as well as critical thinking.
- Publish a book. Writing skills can be made more fun with digital technology. Encourage kids to create a digital online book with their own stories. Ask them to illustrate their books with pictures and use attractive fonts. Several programs online do this for them without expertise required. The use of technology appeals to kids of all ages and they will be proud to share their creations with friends on social media.
- Put on a show. Have kids put on a puppet show or play with neighborhood friends, acting out a story. Most state standards now require some knowledge of poetry, dramatic arts, acting and playwriting. This is a fun way to fulfill this standard and a good social activity too.
- Make math a game. Create estimation games by placing several hundred jellybeans in a jar and practice figuring out the probability of certain colors. Make it extra exciting by allowing kids to eat some as they figure out the probability problems.
- Learn from movie night. Teach inference and other thinking skills when watching a movie. Let them see the first five minutes of a movie or television show then turn off the TV and ask them to write or act out their own ending. The ending must make sense, but does not have to be what actually occurs in the show. Allow kids to explore their imaginations while exploring viable creation options to storylines.
The key to helping kids understand the importance and applications of real world math, science, reading and writing skills is to communicate how they will use them in everyday life. If they actually have hands-on experience with practical applications, they will start to see the benefits over time and perhaps increase their motivation to learn them.
Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/qwrrty/
Resources for Further Study
This post is part of the series: Helping Your Child Succeed in School
From standardized testing to overcrowded classrooms, kids experience a number of common struggles in school. As a parent, you want to provide an environment that fosters success, learning and security. These articles from a former educator provide tools to help you help your child.