Of the various subjects children learn in school, math can be a challenge for some kids. It can cause your student to dodge their homework or ask for too much of your help with it. Is your child bound to have problems in math forever? Not necessarily. However, if this sounds too familiar to you, here are a few tips for you to keep in mind and use to help your child.
Common math problem areas
Math is one subject that is built on concept upon concept, and each concept has to be mastered before a student can go on to the next one. If your child didn’t fully learn a certain component, it will be more difficult to learn the next step. Unfortunately, as children progress in school, the difficulty can snowball unless you and your child take constructive action.
With each child being different, the most common stumbling areas that kids can run into include multiplication tables, fractions and being messy with their work while working on math.
1. Listen and observe. One of the biggest keys that a parent can use is to observe and listen to your child’s actions and words. Statements like, “I hate math” or continually hearing, “I don’t want to do my math today” is a perfect opportunity to ask your child questions. “What does it feel like when you can’t answer a math question?” Allow your child to think through their answer. “Ask probing questions that will help them come to solutions on their own and it will encourage good thinking skills,” says Laura Laing, author of Math For Grownups.
Talk with your child about their frustrations. “Studies have shown that when children can express their frustrations verbally, they can overcome their math anxiety,” says Laing.
2. Make mistakes. Make sure your kids see you make mistakes and see that it’s not the end of the world. They need to see that it’s okay to try and make mistakes in your daily living. Children need to see that working on math is a process.
Laing explains that children are too focused on getting the right answer. “When we allow our children to follow a process that leads to the incorrect answer, we’re helping them understand the process behind math, not just the final answer,” says Laing.
3. Keep it to yourself. If you stress about math, be very careful to not pass it on to your child. When you give your child the impression that math is a struggle to learn or it’s okay to not be good at it, you’re giving them the impression that they can give up before they even try. You can discuss the fact that math was not your favorite subject but you know that you use math often in everyday life and so it’s important to have math skills.
4. Talk to your home school advisers and support group. If your child is having trouble with math, ask for help from your home school support group. You can discuss your concerns and evaluate different options for your child. Others may know helpful techniques that can help your child work out a concept.
5. Check out a tutor. As a parent, it’s hard to see your child struggle with any subject. And depending on the age of your child and on both of your temperaments, a tutor can be an option because a tutor is an outside objective party that doesn’t have the emotional ties to your child as you do.
A trained math tutor knows the areas where kids have academic problems and can help your child with specific problems or use hands-on math manipulatives.
If you think it is best for your child to just get some added math support, you could hire a university student as a math tutor. Many times your older student will respond differently to you than the tutor so your student can see that math is important to other people and not just mom or dad. As always, make sure the university student comes with recommendations that you can trust.
6. Don’t ignore it. Don’t ignore the fact if your child has trouble in math, the problem won’t go away. By providing a variety of support for them, it shows that you have confidence that they can work hard and succeed.
7. Set up for success. Set up a regular time for your child to work on their homework. And since each child is different, find what works as a motivator to work on their math homework. Does setting a certain amount of time to sit at the table to work on their homework before they can get up work? Or give them the opportunity to think up a game to play to work on adding fractions. Keep it fun and low key by asking your child their opinion.
Keep in mind that studies show that positive reinforcement has far more benefits than criticism or punishment.
Don’t support bad habits like allowing the television to be on while they do their homework. Eliminate any electronic distractions also, if necessary.
Show your kids that math is part of life. With younger kids, talk to them about budgets and how you have to shop for the family’s food with only a certain amount of money. With older kids, they need to know about percentages when it comes to a sale of the latest DVD. How do you add fractions to double a cookie recipe?
Math doesn’t have to be your child’s favorite subject but there are various ways you can help your child strengthen their math skills to gain more confidence.
Jan is a freelance writer, mom of five and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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