You may feel that as a parent, you are at the mercy of your child’s teacher to make sure he or she is mastering the math concepts that are necessary to succeed in school. The truth is that you have a lot of power when it comes to giving your child the math tools they need. If you use all of the resources at your disposal and pay attention to the area your child needs help with the most, you can contribute significantly to your child’s math education.
The first thing you need to do is to stay aware of your student’s progress in math. Help make sure they are able to communicate clearly with their teacher about what they are expected to know for upcoming quizzes and tests, when the next test is scheduled, what the homework assignment is and when it is due. You can teach your child how to use a planner or calendar to write in what is expected of them, and check it with them daily until they develop the consistency that will enable them to keep track on their own. Once you are aware of their assignments, you will be in a better position to help them.
Homework is a necessary evil, possibly more so in math than other subjects. This is because math works to build skills that are reinforced through repetition. Because of this, the more your child is able to practice, the better chance he or she has to master the information. Many teachers assign only a portion of the problems in a section for homework. You can help your child complete the remaining problems in a section, or rewrite the problems using different numbers so that your student has extra opportunities to practice. Don’t forget to check to see if answers are available in the back so that you can check your child’s work. You may also be able to find extra practice pages, practice tests and review sections.
Once you have identified a weak area in your child’s math skills, you can write exercises that are designed specifically to work on a single skill. Isolate the smallest step that you can find and help your child practice that specific task until he or she has mastered it before moving on. You can find worksheets and other resources online. Check out sites like MathBuddyOnline that offer exercises designed by educators to help your child improve math skills on any grade level.
While you are helping your child, foster their independence by encouraging them to think through the answer. Encourage them to talk out loud as they work to solve a problem so you can see where they are getting stuck. If you aren’t sure how to help them solve a problem, talk with them about how they could ask the teacher for help. If they are very young, you may consider writing a note (or email) to the teacher, or calling the school during their conference period to discuss the problem with them. Older students may feel embarrassed to ask questions during class, so suggest other times they could come back for help, like before or after school.
If you can see what they are doing wrong, try offering help in the form of a series of hints so that you don’t give more help than they need to figure the problem out. Praise is an important part of this process. Make sure that your child feels successful during every homework session, and if you notice that they are beginning to reach a level of frustration, suggest taking a break, or back up a step to problems that are not so difficult. With a little patience and persistence, you can make a significant difference in your child’s math homework experience.
Check out the new Math Buddy “Question of the Day” app in facebook. You can access it from http://apps.facebook.com/mathbuddy/. You will need to log on to your facebook account to access it.
Math concepts can be some of the most difficult for young students to master. This is a result of the abstract concepts that comprise most of mathematics. Fortunately, as a parent, you are in a great position to be able to help your student make the most of their math education. Staying tuned in to the curriculum of your student can help you to assist them with the most challenging parts of the skills they are being asked to learn.
The term manipulatives is used frequently amongst teachers of mathematics to refer to objects that are used in the classroom to help reinforce the learning of more abstract concepts. For example, when learning about units in math, such as the ones, tens, and hundreds units, objects are often used to represent a grouping of ten or a hundred. Being able to see how the larger units “break” down into smaller pieces is helpful in showing a child how to master this abstract concept.
Manipulatives can be used to illustrate almost any math concept, from time to multiplication. Cutting up a paper plate is a great way to talk about fractions and practice division. Small objects can be used as manipulatives to learn about patterns and grouping. There are lots of cheap, easy-to-use manipulatives that you can find easily:
- Poker chips
- Craft sticks
- Playing cards
- Bottle tops or soda can tabs
- Pasta shells (can be dyed different colors with food coloring)
When your child encounters a math concept that is giving them problems, take a moment to analyze whether there may be a way for you to help your student by making the concept more concrete for them through the use of manipulatives. Any time that they are able to touch, hold, and move objects to represent the numbers they are working with, they improve their chances of mastery.
To begin determining how a manipulative might be helpful for your student, stop to ask questions and isolate exactly where the problem is occurring. Is the child missing an important step in setting the problem up? Does your child know which math operation is necessary to solve the problem? Is the issue a lack of understanding of more basic concepts that build on one another to enable the student to solve the problem? When you narrow down which step in the process is causing trouble, you know which step could benefit from the use of manipulatives.
Once you have decided what aspect of the math lesson needs reinforcement, choose a manipulative that makes sense. If you need many of them to represent a large number, choose very small items. Make sure you have a plan for working with objects that may roll. Take your child’s interests into consideration. You are more likely to be successful in engaging your child in practice math activities if they are interested in handling the manipulatives. Ask them for ideas about things that they can use to help illustrate a problem that they are trying to solve. Let them be a part of the learning process, and you will hold their attention for longer!
Above all, approach the use of manipulatives with a low-key enthusiasm. Show your student that using manipulatives can make learning math easier and more fun. Once they have an appreciation for these tools, they will look forward to working with them, and begin to understand how they are used in solving problems. Math manipulatives can be a great way to make abstract math concepts seem more concrete.