Mathematics is not about numbers, equations, computations, or algorithms: it is about understanding. William Paul Thurston, American mathematician
If you open your child’s math book, view their online instruction, or step into today’s classroom, you most likely will see that you learned to do math a different way when you were in middle school. The instructional methods, processes, expectations, terminology used, and a pedagogical shift to incorporate more mental math and technology are just some of the noticeable differences. There is a movement toward more complex cognitive mathematics and higher level thinking skills instead of passively taking in math and strict rote memorization among the trends in 21st-century math instruction.
Add in the simple fact that you most likely don’t remember many of the math skills you learned in 6th-8th grade or that you may have even struggled with math yourself. Then it’s no wonder that you feel that you won’t be much help to your child when they ask you to help with math.
But have no worries. Rest assured that you can help boost your child’s math achievement and confidence in learning math with these simple tips.
- Keep a positive attitude – This will impact your child’s learning. So instead of telling them over and over again how you really don’t like math (even if you don’t), keep that to yourself. The middle schoolers may just surprise themselves and really enjoy it! What’s more? They mind find that math is much easier than they thought.
- Monitor homework – Without being too overbearing (I know that’s hard at times), it’s important to help instill consistent work habits and ensure daily homework is completed. Encourage a consistent homework time and place to study. Math is a subject that is built on sequential skills so your child needs to master the basic skills that form a strong foundation before proceeding onto more difficult skills. Homework has been proven to provide many additional benefits for the student as well.
- Show a genuine interest in learning – Ask them what topics they are studying in math and what material has been covered. Engage in meaningful conversation to show that math, learning, and school are important as well as that you care about their time spent at school and their individual academic and emotional growth.
- Bring in everyday math activities to your daily life – For example, when at the store, have them estimate the cost of an item on sale or with added tax; talk out loud about how you arrived at a given answer when comparison shopping or when estimating how long it will take to get to a certain destination. You can use mental math and then check with a calculator about your educated guess. Likewise, allow them to see you using math in daily living situations at home like budgeting, paying bills, measuring, weighing, etc. There are many creative fun ideas to incorporate math in real life that will help show that math is utilized in life!
- Communicate with the math teacher – See if there is anything specific that you should be doing to reinforce math skills and concepts at home. If the teacher has a math website or newsletter, take time to read it over and implement any suggestions that would help boost your individual child’s learning and your interactions with them.
- Have your child teach you – Learning is reinforced when you explain something to someone else. Research has shown this to be true over and over again. Be open to having your child teach you a special math topic or skill. Encourage using math-related language, numbers, hand-drawn pictures, etc. to discuss their thinking and reasoning out loud so you can fully understand what they are teaching.
- Access math terminology, practice activities, and tutorials online – If you don’t fully understand a math word, concept, or skill, there are plenty of quality resources at your fingertips. These are four recommended comprehensive sites to do just that.
- IXL Learning – Hundreds of topics are covered per grade level with lessons and interactive practice exercises to help you understand the math concepts and skills
- The EDVOCATE – A list of math terms and explanations that middle and high school students should know are explained in simple language
- Math is Fun – Besides targeted math skills, related worksheets, and a math dictionary, this site has numerous engaging number, strategy, and logic puzzles and activities to invite kids of all ages to play with numbers
- MathFLIX – Organized by the National Council for Teachers of Math (NCTM), there are 1,000 free, kid-friendly 4-7 minute movies to develop math skills regarding assorted math topics (number and operations, geometry, algebra, data analysis and probability, measurement, connections and technology); 400 downloadable worksheets reinforce concepts and provide additional practice
Hopefully, these tips will help your child become more interested and successful in math. Remember, you don’t have to have majored in math, done well in math yourself as a child, or even enjoy math. You can help strengthen your child’s math skills and build a stronger and more positive attitude toward math by giving your time, attention, and interest to your child. When working directly with your child, be patient (I know that’s hard, too). Parental involvement goes a long way to understanding math for you and your child. And it is, undoubtedly, an integral component of school achievement!