How to Teach Math to Children

Updated October 25, 2019
Little boy and girl learn to calculate numbers

Fun and math aren't always a winning combination. But did you know that teaching a child math can be fun? While it is important to tailor to their learning language, teach child math through making the basic math operations fun with games and activities.

How Does the Child Learn?

Just as each child has different talents and abilities, each child also has ways in which grasping and understanding concepts becomes easier. For example, some children are visual learners; learning is easier for the child when there are visual implements or illustrations. Other children learn best by listening, still others by example. Some children don't have any one method which consistently assists them in every situation; a combination of tactics works best. Assessing how a child learns best can make teaching a child math easier because the learning "language" the child uses can also be used by the parent, teacher, tutor, or other person when teaching new mathematical skills.

Teaching Children Mathematics at the Child's Pace

Teaching math to children is essential - they not only need mathematical skills for excelling in academic work, but also for a huge number of daily life activities. Learning these skills may take patience and time - and math is not always as simple as reading to children. The math skills a child learns will depend upon the child's age, ease with which he or she learns new concepts, whether the new math problems are built upon existing skills, and a number of other factors. Most maths taught to children build upon the foundations of basic mathematical skills such as:

  • Understanding of counting, numbers, and place values
  • Adding
  • Subtracting
  • Dividing
  • Multiplying
  • Problem solving
  • Logic
  • Geometric concepts
  • Measurement
  • Statistical concepts
  • Series and sequences
  • Estimation
  • Notions of value

It's important to allow a child to go his or her own pace when learning math. A child who has mastered basic concepts will be bored and unchallenged if not permitted to advance to higher levels. Alternately, a child who is pushed ahead in math without having fully comprehended the basic skill sets can easily become frustrated and upset when trying to learn new math lessons.

Teaching Math Basics

While there may not be one "right" way in teaching children mathematics, there are some basics that can assist in virtually any math-related skill, from learning to count to remembering proofs and theorems.

Repetition Builds Strength

Repetition is very important in math. Repeating basics in elementary school will strengthen them in the child's memory. Repeating various problems and lessons for a math skill will reinforce the concept and create a better segue for related skills. Easy ways to use repetition include:

  • Audio repetition: Verbally repeat and/or ask the child to repeat skills, fact groups, or problems.
  • Printables: Children can memorize numbers, addition and subtraction problems, multiplication tables, division facts, and more by assessing them and figuring them out visually through flashcards and printable activities.
  • Interactive inclusion: Include recent math concepts into a child's daily learning for reinforcement - for example, when learning about money, ask the child to count out the change when buying an item at the store.
  • Written problems: Consistent written practice in numbers and math-related areas will reinforce skills a child learned during a lesson. This will also show whether a child is comprehending or mastering that area of math.
Blonde boy concentrated in his math homework at home

The Right Environment

Math is difficult; teaching children this subject should always involve a quiet, comfortable setting. Make sure the desk, work area, or table is cleared of clutter and distractions such as TV and radio are minimal. Have necessary supplies, such as sharpened pencils and scrap paper available. Teaching math should also be done at a time when the child is rested and alert. A tired, hungry, or otherwise uncomfortable child will not be functioning optimally to learn these necessary skills.

Take Learning Into Real Life

Learning math isn't all about worksheets and flashcards. You can make a math lesson out of making brownies or planting a garden. Math even becomes fun when you are buying something at the grocery store. Teach a child math through daily activities, and they'll learn without even realizing it.


Cooking is a great place to add a math lesson where children won't even realize they are doing math. For example, have a child work on doubling a brownie recipe. This is a great way to have them work on adding fractions using the recipe ingredient measurements. When cutting the same brownies, have them work out the best way to divide the pan into 16 equal pieces. How many rows and columns do they need? Can you say multiplication? You can even work on subtraction by halving a recipe. Not only can this help them work on mental math, but they are measuring ingredients as well.

Father is assisting daughter baking in kitchen


Working in the garden is another great real-life math activity. Not only can students work on measuring distance for planting seeds but you can help them figure out how to get four plants in one row and make them equal distance apart. They can also work on their multiplication and division by figuring out how they could make three rows of plants if they have 12 plants total. When it comes time for picking vegetables, make adding and subtracting fun by having them work out how many tomatoes will be left if they pick one or adding the vegetables together they are adding to their basket.

Grocery Shopping

Not only is grocery shopping great for money addition and subtraction but working out sales and deals can add fractions and percentages to the mix. For instance, you might give them your budget and list. They can then work out how to get the best deals to save the most money. Not only are the children learning without studying but they begin to see how math works in real-life situations. Make it an extra challenge by having them set a savings goal and using that to buy a little something extra for themselves.

Mother and daughter using coupons at the grocery store

Playing With Toys

Not only can kids work through how many toys they would have if you took one, but you can create all kinds of math problems with blocks and building materials. For example, how many blocks would you need if you want to build the first row of a castle that is four blocks long by four blocks wide? With the physical blocks, they can count the number and not even realize they are doing multiplication. Other ways to add math to play is by making fun addition and math situations. For instance, if Barbie and five of her friends are hanging out but Ken and Monica leave, how many friends does that leave Barbie? Toys make an excellent opportunity to teach child math with all the learning and none of the stress.

Make It Fun

Leave emotions out of the picture when teaching math to kids - if you or the child becomes frustrated, take a break. Whenever possible, find a way to make it fun, and the learning will be easier on both you and the child.

How to Teach Math to Children