By Jan Udlock
Of the various subjects children take in school, math can be a challenge for some kids. It can cause your student to dodge her 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 him come to solutions on his own and it will encourage good thinking skills,” says Laura Laing, author of Math For Grown Ups.
Talk with your child about his 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 him the impression that he can give up before he even tries. 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 the Teacher
If your child is having trouble with math, go and talk with her teacher. You can discuss your concerns and evaluate different options for your child. Teachers often know helpful techniques that can help a student work on a concept. Your child may need to fully memorize his multiplication tables, and his teacher can offer you various ways to work on that task.
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 know 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 best for your child to just get some added math support you could hire college 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 college 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. It won’t go away. By providing a variety of support for him it shows that you have confidence that he can work hard and succeed.
7. Set up for Success
Set up 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 his math homework. Does setting a certain amount of time to sit at the table to work on his homework before he can get up work? Or give him the opportunity to think up a game to play to work on adding fractions. Keep it fun and low key by asking your child his 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 she does her 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 with 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 Udlock is a freelance writer, mom of five and can be contacted at [email protected].