How can we support our learners at home? So many parents struggle with this question, especially when it comes to math. There are many different concepts and strategies being taught in schools that are very different than the ones we learned growing up. Many times our children get frustrated if we try to show them a short cut or different way to solve a problem. Regardless of how our children are being taught, there are essential ideas about math that aren’t new and should be practiced at all times when young children are learning mathematics.
Below are some tips and beliefs to keep in mind when working with your little learners. Focusing on these ideas will help alleviate some of the stress and emphasize the overall importance in each child’s learning.
1. Everyone is capable of learning math. Every child has the power to become a great math student. Focus on the positive aspects of your child’s learning. Remind him daily what a strong math thinker he is. If you believe in your child, he will believe in himself too. Support his math understanding by playing simple number games and looking for numbers all around.
2. Mistakes are essential to learning. I always tell my students that mistakes are the pathways to knowledge. It's important to allow your child the opportunity to not only make his own mistakes but also learn from them. Instead of telling your child which number is wrong on her homework, try saying, “I see two problems that could use some corrections.” Having her find and correct her own mistakes will make a great impact on her understanding.
3. Always persevere. Always thinking math is fast and quick is not helpful to your child's understanding. It’s more important for him to see that math should be thoughtful and take time. Setting a timer can help children who tend to rush through their work — they can’t put their pencil down until the timer has gone off. Also giving thoughtful problems or brain teasers will help to never give up!
4. Ask lots of questions. Asking questions is imperative in math. I never want to see a student do something without asking a question. I encourage my students to ask questions constantly! If they’re not asking questions, then they aren’t thinking for themselves. Ask your child questions about his work: “Why did you solve that problem that way?” or “Is there another way you could get the same answer?” If he hears you asking questions, he will start to ask questions himself.
5. The best way to learn math is to do math! Children will not learn by watching or listening — they actually need to do the work themselves. Have hands on tools for your child to use when doing homework (hundreds charts, number lines, counting items, etc.). If your child asks you a question, steer her toward using a manipulative before giving her help to find the answer. Having her struggle and “do” the math will have lasting impact on her learning.
Encourage your child to ask questions and take risks in math — it’s the best way to learn!
Featured Photo Credit: © acilo/iStockphoto