One of the most difficult tasks you’ll have as a parent is coming up with math enrichment activities for your children.
Especially because you’re probably thinking, I don’t even know what that means.
And most people don’t know what that means (unless you’re a math teacher)! So as you’re child is growing up, you’ll need to break into some innovative ways of thinking. You’ll need support as a parent – and that’s why we’re here to help!
In this article, we’ll be going over exactly what math enrichment activities are and how you can use them to improve your child’s critical thinking skills.
So let’s go over everything you need to know about math enrichment!
What is Math Enrichment?
Math Enrichment is a type of learning process that encourages a creative, critical, and dedicated approach to thinking.
In other words – math enrichment is the exact opposite of repetitive worksheets. Because while worksheets have their time and place – they’re not fostering critical thinking skills, but rather memorization.
Math enrichment activities, on the other hand, develop your child’s ability to think critically and approach real-life problems with an analytical mind.
But to be fair – math enrichment activities are exhausting. They’re difficult. They require a LOT of mental strength to carry out.
And for parents, they usually require a lot of patience. So as a parent, you should remember that even though they are SO rewarding, they’ll also require a bit of hard work and dedication!
When to Incorporate Math Enrichment
These types of activities can truly be incorporated into your child’s learning process at any age.
However, in a traditional environment, your child should work on these activities a lot during their middle school years.
That’s because these are critical years for your child’s understanding of math. Up until middle school, your child is focusing primarily on arithmetic. But once they start to get older, they’ll be able to apply these simple techniques to the real world.
And that’s why this is the BEST time to use math enrichment activities so that they’ll be able to truly develop their critical thinking skills. Both inside their math class – and out!
Qualities of Math Enrichment
Before we move on to some common math enrichment activities that you can use yourself, it might be helpful to describe their qualities.
Who knows, maybe you’ll use your own creative thinking skills and whip up some revolutionary activities of your own!
One of the first qualities of math enrichment activities is that they should always be appropriately difficult.
What this means is that it’s not too easy that they don’t need to think, but it’s also not so difficult that they completely give up.
At the end of the day, they should be able to overcome the challenge and be proud of their ability to do so.
A good formula to stick to is the n+1 concept. Where n is what they already know. So in other words, they should be working on a problem using the knowledge they already have, but it’s slightly trickier than what they’re used to.
The next major quality of math enrichment activities is that they are diverse. You should be using a wide range of activities to keep your child interested and motivated.
Once these activities start to turn into repetitive tasks – they’re no longer enriching. So they should constantly be keeping your child on their toes!
Because if the ultimate goal is to have your child develop advanced, flexible thinking skills – they need to work on TONS of problems.
The next quality might apply more to the teacher (or parent) than to the activities themselves. True math enrichment activities require a very supportive mentor to help the child.
Supportive does not mean to answer the problem for them. And supportive also does not mean to release them into the wild to fend for themselves.
Supportive means to be there to guide them, to encourage them in the right direction, and to continue to motivate them when they do well.
Because ultimately – your child should be the one who completes these math enrichment activities. But they need you to be a warm, driving force to get them there.
Finally, the most important quality of math enrichment activities is that they are critical in nature.
In other words – they’re complex. They require a type of thinking that a calculator can’t compute. Your child is going to really need to work their brain and use their knowledge flexibly.The best part about this is that they’ll be able to use these skills outside of the classroom, as well. Because that’s the whole point!
Types of Math Enrichment Activities
Now it’s time to move on to some examples of math enrichment activities. You might find some of these activities to be a bit surprising, so let’s jump right in!
1. Problem Solving Journals
This is a great first start, especially for students who haven’t tried enrichment activities before.
The goal of a problem-solving journal is to have the student reflect on their own work progress.
This type of activity can be used in tandem with any other type of math enrichment activity – or just any math activity in general. You’ll have the student write down their entire process, including what they were thinking.
Have them write out, in their own words, the steps they had to take, as well as what they were thinking as they completed the activities.
Since most students aren’t used to really thinking in this way, it’s a great way to introduce reflective thinking that can help outside of the classroom, too.
2. Collaborative Problems
This next category of activity is a collaborative one. This is especially helpful if you’re a teacher or if you are a parent with multiple children.
In these puzzle-style problems, you’ll give each of the children a certain rule or piece of information, but they need to work together to solve the problem. You can use puzzles or other kinds of mysteries that involve math and arithmetic.
This is a great way to get children to start thinking about how they can use their critical thinking skills in groups and solve problems as a team.
3. Meta Talks
This is a perfect example of how math enrichment activities require a supportive role model.
In these activities, you’ll have the children explain verbally every step of a particular math problem. This is especially helpful for more complicated problems, where the student needs to be capable of explaining what they’re thinking.
Often, working through a problem this way is a great way for a student to develop a sense of clarity in their thinking process. By talking through their thoughts, it develops their ability clearly analyze a situation.
As the parent or teacher, you should also be constantly asking them questions as they go. For example, questions such as:
- Why did you choose this method?
- Why does that method work?
- Is there a different approach you could try?
- Is this the only way to solve the problem?
All of those questions are great because they force the student to really think about math at a meta-level – something they’re not used to doing.
Since they may be accustomed to a memorization approach to math, this might be a difficult – but necessary – activity to carry out.
4. Real-Life Math
This next type of math enrichment activity is one of the most motivating. When you take the time to stop and really see how math is applied in a student’s life, it makes them understand that the concepts aren’t so far off.
It helps take these foreign ideas and make them approachable and relevant.
You’re likely familiar with these “word problem” questions. But here, we’re not JUST talking about “If Johnny buys 47 watermelons…” because that’s not relevant to the child.
Instead, you can work on problems that are important to your child. For example, it could be:
- If you want to buy a new tablet for $560, how you could raise the money?
In a question like this, they would need to work out possible solutions, taking into account the expenses that are involved, as well.
Combining this activity with others, like the problem-solving journal or the meta-talks is a great way to make the most out of the class.
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There are many other types of math enrichment activities out there, these are just a few different categories!
Math is everywhere around us, and your child needs to be able to develop the thinking skills to tackle everyday issues. Because even if they don’t need to do advanced calculus every single day – the problem-solving skills involved are still relevant.
And as a parent, it’s okay to realize you need help teaching your child these critical skills! If you want your child to succeed, sign them up for our math enrichment classes!
We’ll work on these critical thinking skills that will truly help them master these mathematical concepts – and thrive!