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The Numbers Game

The world is made up of all kinds of people. Some can divide, multiply, add and subtract any combination of numbers in the time it takes you to realize you need a calculator, and others can't add 5 plus 2 without a pen and paper. Sure, you don't need to calculate numbers at top speed to be successful, but being good with numbers doesn't hurt either. Being able to work with numbers rapidly is a skill that comes in handy while sitting for most standardized tests like the CAT, SAT, GMAT, GRE and other entrance exams. In fact most entrance exams have a very basic level of math. The emphasis is on speed, and calculators are not allowed. So, being quick at simple calculations can be a great advantage.

You may have noticed shopkeepers that operate out of non-computerised stores can calculate at rapid speed and place your change in your hand before you blink twice. This is not because they are more intelligent than you are, but because they have more practice of playing with numbers than you do. In the same manner you can boost your child's mathematical ability by constantly requiring him to calculate things mentally. Randomly asking him to add 2 and 4 won't help much though. Here's what you can do to keep his interest in numbers alive and his mind sharp and alert.

Playing Shop (ages 3 to 5)

Let your child set up a small 'stall' in one corner of the house. You will need food tins, toys, various other knick-knacks, and paper money. Ask questions regarding the product and pricing like any other customer would. Take turns being customer and shopkeeper. Every now and then give your child less change than you should, and see if he catches you.

Playing Shop (ages 6 to 8)

You could go a step further and start selling items according to weight. The pricing could be weight-wise, and your child should be required to weigh everything before selling it. In this manner your child will get familiar with weights and measures. You could also sell things like string, and require it to be sold according to length.

Shop could be a standing game amongst you. You could ask your child to fetch you anything from the refrigerator, and he can charge you a price for it, and you could pay him. After a while you could ask him to hurry up with the calculations or he doesn't get paid. This will keep the excitement going. Also, take your child shopping with you and let him do the calculations.

Height games (ages 6 to 8)

Let your child measure his height. Make him stand straight against the wall, and mark the wall at the top of his head. Your child can then measure the distance of the mark from the ground. He can measure it in centimeters and then convert the measurements to feet or metres. Let him measure his height every three months or so, and let him note down the difference between his heights from month to month. How much has he grown in three months? In a year?

A little interaction with numbers and mental calculations will go a long way in sharpening your child's mathematical ability.

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