It's no secret that Canadian students are underperforming in Math. Getting your child to improve their math performance is tough, however, especially when school has been interrupted so often by pandemic related shut-downs. Gone - at least for now - are the days where your kids could do math activities in class with a teacher right in front of them, checking their work for understanding. In the virtual learning environment, your child’s math lesson is often taught through a teacher screen sharing content: addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, geometry, and algebra are learned without an educator there to see if they are completing their work or problem-solving properly. Math manipulatives and group games, used frequently to help kids visualize their math learning and practice mental math concepts, are simply not the same in a virtual environment.
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If your child is a reluctant math learner, not having regular practice and review can result in significant numeracy gaps, especially as your child gets older. When kids aren’t confident in their math skills, they may develop math anxiety or a desire to shut down when it’s time for math learning. The reality is that math skills are built on the ones that were acquired the year before: if your child doesn’t understand place value or what a fraction or decimal is by a certain grade, they will fall even more behind as teachers instruct with the assumption that they have developed an understanding of those concepts. Falling behind in math can be extremely detrimental for kids as they enter the junior and intermediate grades, where understanding how to problem solve with multiple operations and memorizing multiplication tables can be critical to success.
Numeracy Skills are Essential
Math skills are essential for your child to be successful in life, as numbers are everywhere in our lives. Your kids need strong math skills to manage money effectively, from calculating budgets to running a business or simply buying things. We make math computations every day when we measure distances, add up a grocery bill, time our arrival at a destination, and cook or bake recipes. Math skills are also fundamental to so many jobs, such as construction, finance, accounting, entrepreneurship, medicine, engineering, and the culinary arts. When your child develops a love and appreciation for math, they open so many education and career options.
It’s tough to watch your child struggle in their math learning, especially when you are also juggling a job and responsibilities of maintaining your home and getting dinner on the table. Finding math resources, printable math worksheets, and math games to play can be a challenging thing to do on a regular basis, as is getting your reluctant math learner to do additional practice. So what can busy parents and guardians do to support the reluctant math learner in their home? Why not consider math apps?
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Why Math Apps are Effective
In a world where an entire school day takes place online, learning has become a matter of engagement. There are so many distractions on the internet, from video games to videos and messages from friends - if what your child is learning doesn’t capture their attention, it’s likely to go somewhere else. It also doesn't help that math instruction has changed so much in recent years: educators are opting for modern, 'discovery' style methods of teaching using strategies like visuals, manipulatives and collaborative problem solving. While new methods have their advantages, the memorization of math facts or 'rote learning' has become less prominent in class.
Math apps are effective because they provide kids with the repetitive practice it takes to develop core math skills like mental math, and word problem solving. As a child, you probably memorized your addition and subtraction facts and multiplication tables through ‘kill-and-drill’ style activities. Math apps operate the same way, but with fun and engaging technology that makes kids want to practice.
Math apps gamify the learning, rewarding a job well done with points and even make live competition with other kids possible at any time. With eye-catching graphics, easy to use interfaces, and exciting worlds and scenarios, they help your child actually get enthusiastic about learning math. Math apps are also generally affordable, can be played on a desktop, laptop, or tablet, and can be conveniently played anywhere there is internet.
Let’s take a closer look at what the best apps are for learning math.
The Top Math Apps for Kids
This is a math app that makes learning fun with visual tools and a self-paced program. While this app actually serves students up to grade 5, it has a great program for little ones that focuses on basic math skills like shape identification and counting. You’ll be able to see your child’s progress through its dashboard, and kids will love the virtual rewards they receive after achieving math goals.
2. Elmo Loves 1,2,3’s
Do you remember when you had to wait for Sesame Street to show on TV at a scheduled time? Kids today can find Elmo whenever they want using different apps. Preschoolers will love Elmo’s number app, where they can listen to all of your favourite Sesame Street songs about numbers, trace numbers with your finger, or complete different number activities like puzzles and counting games. Add the app to your child’s iPad or tablet and they will have endless hours of fun!
3. Khan Academy and Khan Academy Kids
Khan Academy has been producing high quality, multilingual math videos and courses for years, and their kids app is a great addition. Khan Academy Kids was designed by Education experts at Stanford, and teaches math with animals. Older kids can access Khan Academy whenever they are struggling with a math concept, like long division or multiplication. Their videos are organized to scaffold learning from one level to the next - parents and teachers can even sign students up for courses and track their progress.
IXL is a popular app - you may have noticed its advertisements if you’ve ever done a Google search for a Math app! Popular in schools, IXL provides focused practice on operations, word problems, and algebra. IXL is aligned with Canadian curriculum standards, which is perfect for keeping your child’s practice in step with what they are learning in school. The app also offers ways to practice Language Arts, so if your child is also struggling with writing or reading they will find the app serves them well!
Sumdog is a fun math practice app with exciting games for kids from K-8. Filled with exciting graphics and fast-paced games, Sumdog is a favourite for students and teachers alike. According to their site, even 30 minutes a day on the app will help your child improve their math. Sumdog’s games are engaging and are sure to satisfy the most reluctant math learner.
Prodigy is a math app that covers math skills for elementary students, and has a fantasy based theme. Users answer math questions that help them earn ‘spells’ which they can use to defeat monsters though different levels. While the app is free, you will have to pay to access more of the gaming features.
Read our latest blog about helping your child with their math learning during the pandemic.
It’s Not all About the Tech
While technology has made math learning and practice more fun than completing worksheets or flipping through flashcards, it’s important to remember that they are just a small part of your child’s math learning. Live instruction will always be important for introducing new concepts, and you will want your child’s teacher to be observing and assessing your child’s numeracy behaviours.
Support your child beyond apps by finding opportunities to do math in real life: ask your kids to help you calculate budgets for things like vacations, back-to-school shopping, or provide them with an allowance you can afford. If you have little ones, count everything around you, like ducks in a point, flowers in a garden or even tiles in your home. Point out numbers on the street: addresses, speed limits, and gas stations are all filled with numbers you can show them. Math is everywhere - just look and you will find it!
Hiring a Private Tutor to Help Your Kids with Math
If you are looking to supplement your child’s math learning even further, why not hire a private math tutor? A private math tutor can work with your child virtually and focus on your child’s math learning on a one-to-one basis, which can be incredibly beneficial for your child. You can tell your tutor what areas your child needs to focus on, and show them what your child is doing in school so they can plan activities accordingly. They can shift focus from homework help to reinforcing new learning, ensuring your child is able to perform better in their classes.
Another great benefit of a tutor is that they can work with your child at convenient times, or help a small group if you have another child, relative, or neighbour that wants to join in. Many tutors will know what the best resources are for teaching math, as they may be teachers themselves. Sites like Superprof have listings for tutors near you - take a browse through and find the right math tutor for your child!
Has a year of pandemic learning got you stressed about school? Find out how to help your child in math during virtual learning in our latest article.