To solve basic math operations — and more complicated ones down the road — kids need problem-solving skills and number sense. Number sense is the ability to understand what numbers mean, how they relate to one another and how they can be used in real-world situations. Because six-year-olds can count to higher numbers, they can also be challenged to work on higher number operations. School-aged children focus on addition and subtraction at first, and then eventually reach multiplication (in the form of skip counting) and division (in the form of equal shares).
Encourage your child's problem-solving skills:
How Sharing Teaches Division
At this age, children can start to do basic division. Give your child 12 small crackers (or another snack) and have him share the pile equally between two people — and then three people. He may come up with his own method of distributing the food, so watch to see what he does. Ask him to explain his thought process.
Create Subtraction Stories
At this age, your child is starting to learn the symbols for subtraction, addition and equal. Create stories about subtraction with your child. You might want to model the concept first, with a story like this: "Once there were five apples who lived together on a tree branch. Then two fell down, and only three were left!" Have fun drawing a picture of the story and then adding the number sentence at the bottom — in this case, 5 - 2 = 3.
Practice Adding with Dominos
Playing with dominos is a great way to have your child practice subitizing and adding at the same time! Subitizing is the ability to look at a group of objects and instantly know how many there are. Have your child pick a domino and then ask for the sum of the two sides — in other words, ask her to add the two sides together. If one side has three dots and one side has five, she would say, 3 + 5 = 8." Then flip the domino around, creating the number sentence 5 + 3, instead. It still equals 8! Before long, your child will discover the commutative property of addition — that no matter what order the two numbers are in, they still add up to the same total.
Count on Your Fingers
This is a great age to introduce your child to using her fingers to figure out math problems. Pick a number between one and ten. Then ask your child how many more she would need to get to ten. Encourage her to use her fingers to hold up the initial number, then lift up fingers and count until she gets to ten.