Happy back to school! I wish you a magnificent return full of friendly classmates, excellent teachers, awesome games at recess and cupcakes in your lunchbox!
As we head back into the swing of things, many parents realize that they want to help their kid with math, but aren’t quite sure where to start.
Here are five tips you can use throughout the entire coming year — no matter what you’re working on or how old your kid is.
Here we go…
When your kid gets stuck, help them try something different. Math is cumulative; today’s most challenging questions are on material that eventually your kid will need to have down cold. So if they’re hitting some math turbulence, help them address the issue now instead of hoping it will just blow over. Read the book together. Go over their notes from class. Look up a YouTube tutorial. Encourage them to ask their teacher to explain it again. If what their teacher says doesn’t make sense, try explaining it to them yourself in different ways.
Experiment: does your kid effortlessly memorize song lyrics? Download Rockin’ the Standards’ math songs together or make up some new ones. Does your kid freeze up when faced with times tables flashcards, but love to build things? Try building multiplication facts using Legos or math blocks.
Slow can be fast. Sometimes kids need more time to digest or absorb information than is planned for in their classroom curriculum. Maybe their teacher expects them to memorize all of their times tables from 2s through the 12s by the end of the grade, and but they’re panicky and spotty about their 4s.
It’s okay. If your kid needs more time, just keep working on it together and be patient. It’s better to thoroughly learn one new multiplication fact a day than to try to cram stuff in their brain that’s not sticking because the pace is too fast.
Normalize error. Getting an answer wrong is just part of the natural learning process. So is getting an answer right. Neither situation calls for high drama. If a kid makes a mistake, say, “Okay, try again,” and ask them what’s the first thing they have to do. This tip comes from Doug Lemov’s great book, Teach Like a Champion.
If you notice your son or daughter beating themselves up over their mistakes, saying things like, “I’m such a bad kid since I got that answer wrong,” “I’m really not good at this,” or “I guess I’m just not a math person,” explain that everyone makes mistakes while they’re learning.
Systematic review helps. Incorporating review into your kid’s math routine will really help them retain what they’ve already learned. If your book includes mixed review that’s not assigned, encourage them to do a few review problems after they finish their homework. If their book doesn’t include review problems, do a “time capsule challenge” and quiz your kid on two or three random questions from previous chapters.
Make word problems routine. The reason why our kids study math is so they can solve real world problems. Yet word problems sometimes get a bad rap. While translating English into math is a separate skill that goes above and beyond simple computation, everyone can develop this ability.
If your kid’s math book includes word problems, invite them to do one a day just for fun, even if it’s not assigned for homework. You can get free word problem worksheets at teachnology.
You can also make up your own word problems together while running errands or at mealtimes. A lot of kids like to make up their own math problems, and it helps them feel like math is something that is part of them, that they can create, instead of something arbitrary that comes from a textbook.
Practicing this can be empowering and fun at the same time. When the math happiness bubbles up, be sure to enjoy it together.
If you have your own tips for a happy math year that you’d like to share, please leave a comment!
*If you’re visiting from the Math Teachers at Play Carnival hosted by Caroline Mukisa at Maths Insider, welcome! Here are some other posts you might find interesting: