4 tips to fix the math problems your children face every day
Katrina Schwartz is a writer and parenting coach with over 12 years of experience offering solutions to school-age children and parents who have difficulty learning math and beyond. She helps parents and teachers alike develop greater comprehension for and understanding of math, which ultimately helps children become successful learners. Katrina is a freelance writer who teaches composition workshops at universities and in schools across the US. Visit her website www.KatrinaSchwartz.com or Facebook page www.facebook.com/katrina.sc…. …
Why do so many children in America struggle with school work in areas of math and literacy? According to a new study, far too many children have a different idea of the importance of math as it relates to different aspects of life.
The National Dropout Survey reports that more than 40 percent of non-traditional education graduates will find themselves with a math-related job, but many will struggle to put it into action. In order to improve these results, according to Catherine Raglan, co-author of Conquering Math: The Complete Guide to Mathematics Learning, parents and teachers need to put more focus on children’s perceptions of math and to develop a blueprint for help them navigate the mathematics-related situations they will face.
The word “math” itself is deeply ingrained in our culture, and we don’t usually think of it as something that is potentially useful. But the sooner we understand that math is useful, the sooner we can begin the transition to a mindset that helps children and adults receive what they need to be successful.
Parents and teachers should think of mathematics as a tool: a tool for success, a tool for leadership, a tool for decision-making and, ultimately, a tool for real life. Most times, it isn’t at first glance a troubling subject that may limit children’s ability to read or write or speak. Most children’s math skills are overlooked because they can focus on, to use Raglan’s words, their “curiosity” as opposed to their math-related skills. In that way, kids can get stuck, but we can free them through careful decision-making on what math can be used to help them grow as a person.
Here are three tips to promote our children’s notion of math:
1 Teach 3D skills
Raglan suggests putting a 3D concept into practice (such as mathematics for geometry) as often as possible. Every child has both different and similar interests. Arrange activities where children can explore new and different skills. Too often, children opt for softball, soccer, gymnastics or ballet (which include regular upper-body movements), even when they are just exploring the benefits of using math in an everyday situation. Teach kids the importance of using mathematics in these three tasks.
2 To memorize, or not to memorize?
Raglan says memorization isn’t a bad idea — in fact, children should be actively learning it. Using mathematics, however, takes some forethought, and for every learner, the right idea for how to best apply mathematics is a case-by-case basis. Are the skills and content of math applicable to a situation? If so, tell the student that you’ll explain it the next time he/she comes into the class. With the right activities and guidance, children can embrace mathematical skills and use them to their advantage throughout their educational career. However, some children choose a different method for memorization. “At some point, kids just go with the flow,” Raglan says. “I usually ask them how long they remember a certain concept, and their answer is 15 seconds on the side of their head. If they’re studying four years of algebra, memorization is fine, but it’s better if you explain the concept to the kid.”
3 Ask hard questions
In the primary grades, students should be asked to solve a math problem before they can go on to use it in another grade. There’s no need to label it a problem. Most math problems serve the same purpose, just for different grades.
Raglan encourages parents to make a language (writing skills, for example) out of math and then keep track of the progress of what a child is doing. This can help parents gauge their child’s understanding of math and build a blueprint for help.