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What parents can do if a school falls short

If your child’s school falls short in effectively teaching your child math and science or providing the resources necessary to engage him, there is much you can do to help.

Volunteer at the school

  • Start a chess or robotics club after school or during lunch. Shewonia Bowman, an engineer and the mother of two girls, started an early morning math club with interactive games at PS 199 in Manhattan.
  • Help children plant a school vegetable garden to teach them about nutrition and the environment.
  • Chaperone or extend other help on a relevant field trip; excursions to area museums are good ways to bolster science in the school curriculum, for example.

Repeat after me

  • If your child’s school is good at teaching the concepts of math but doesn’t teach quick recall of facts, you may want to supplement at home with more timed drills, a computer program or flash cards.
  • If your child doesn’t respond to old- fashioned memorization drills, look for songs or other ways to memorize facts using pictures or objects. For example, you can teach your child to “skip count” by the dreaded 7s by 
setting the numbers to the tune of “Happy Birthday”: 7, 14, 21 / 28, 35 / 42, 49 / 56, 63...
  • Visit, a free website loaded with drills, to help with memorization of multiplication tables.

Get creative

  • Introduce games such as Yahtzee or Scrabble at home and let the kids keep score.
  • Engage kids in studies when they’re actively doing something else they love. One parent got her son a mini-trampoline, and he was much more open to practicing facts when paired with jumping up and down.
  • Help your children conduct real research: Citizen Science enlists ordinary citizens to count pigeons in cooperation with Cornell University; scientists use the data in their published work. In Project Bud Burst kids find a bush and watch it during the season when the bush opens a bud; it’s a sensitive measure for global climate.
  • If the teaching leans too much in the direction of “drill and kill,” give your kids the opportunity to try tangrams, mazes, 2-D puzzles, shapes, origami and visual puzzles.
  • Take a free workshop offered by NYU’s Courant Institute, where you can pick up ideas such as making shapes out of toothpicks and gumdrops to talk about vertices, faces and edges. Courant will suggest you Google “DAT = Dental Admissions Test” to find puzzles that help kids ‘see’ math concepts.

 Go on educational family outings

  • Visit the Museum of Mathematics in Manhattan. This dynamic and interactive museum, which focuses on enhancing public understanding and perception of math in daily life, is the first of its kind in the country.
  • Take your kids to the annual Maker Faire, a technology and science extravaganza with lots of free hands-on activities, held every September at the New York Hall of Science in Queens. Stop by NYSCI any time of year for the wide array of programs for kids, featuring more than 450 interactive exhibits. The center’s most popular exhibition, Sports Challenge, combines the fields of physics, physiology and material science to explain the science behind your child’s favorite sport, including baseball, surfing, and drag racing.
  • Make a wish-list of places—opportunities to engage with science 
at cultural institutions in our area abound!—that includes the following suggestions, then head out with the kids on slow weekends or evenings when after-school activities are light:
  • American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan; the Bronx Zoo; Liberty Science Center across the Hudson in nearby New Jersey; the Greenburgh Nature Center, a short train ride away in Scarsdale; the New York Aquarium in Brooklyn’s Coney Island; the Town of Ramapo Challenger Center in Rockland County, where kids can be astronauts for a day; the Science Museum of Long Island in Manhasset; the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk, CT; and the Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem.
  • Find free after-school activities that provide science and math enrichment throughout New York City on our free programs page.

 

Find the beauty

We want our children to think of math and science as beautiful, not merely useful. Pamela Liebeck, author of How Children Learn Mathematics, says math appeals to kids in much the same way art and music do—based on their intellectual or aesthetic response. Math and science should be appealing—because if it is, kids will want to do more of it.

Read and download our colorful PDF version here.