Do you dread your child’s math homework? Are you frustrated because you want to help but the concepts have long since left your mind? The following tips can help you help your child even if you have forgotten everything you ever learned in math class.
Zip Your Lips
The worst thing you can do as a parent is share your negative view of math with your child. When your child hears you say, “I was never any good at math,” he or she internalizes that message and sees it as a reason to not do well either. Instead of sharing your defeatist perspective on math, share a success you had with the subject. Discuss how you use math in your job or daily life. You can help to ensure that your child has a positive attitude towards the subject and that is the first step to learning math.
The single most important skill in math is perseverance. Yes, math can be difficult but, as with anything, persistence and practice go a long way. When students give up in frustration, they cannot be successful. You can teach your child perseverance through any difficult task, from solving puzzles to learning a skill for a sport. Emphasize the process and the feeling of pride and accomplishment when they finally reach their goal.
Praise your child for his/her effort, which is changeable, instead of his/her intellect, which is seen as fixed. When you highlight their efforts, they are more likely to be willing to take academic risks, whereas when you praise their intelligence, they become afraid to try and potentially fail.
I am always amazed at how many algebra students still struggle with basic math facts, fluency and number sense. With younger children, make sure they know their multiplication facts. You can drill them or use apps that help them practice. Older students should be fluent with operations with positive and negative numbers. With all ages, practice number sense. For example, have them mentally estimate the tax on an item, the total in the shopping cart or the volume of a container.
If your child is struggling with a concept and you want to help him/her, teach the skill to yourself first. Textbooks are becoming obsolete but there are thousands of websites and videos that teach math lessons. You can ask your child’s teacher for a recommendation or just use a search engine. It’s okay (in fact, great) to let your child see you learning the concept first; your child, even if he/she is a teenager, learns for watching you.
If your child needs more help than you can provide and you are not willing or able to hire a tutor, get creative! Free tutoring is often available at the public library or through your church. Check in the neighborhood for older students who need volunteer hours or that you can barter with. You may not be able to help directly, but you can assist them with finding help and perhaps with scheduling and/or transportation.
Barbie may have said, “Math is hard,” but helping your child succeed in math need not be.