If you have a reluctant math learner in your home, you have probably gotten frustrated during a homework session and wondered - what more can I do to help my child with their numeracy skills? How can I help my child eliminate math anxiety?
Helping your child with arithmetic homework can be stressful - they may resist your interventions, complain “that’s not how my teacher showed me,” or simply have a negative attitude toward the subject. You may also find that learning math has changed: today’s math pedagogy is much more focused on “showing” the math through pictures and objects, using different operations to solve problems, or reflecting on math learning in paragraphs. This can be a stress for many parents and guardians who learned order of operations and problem solving in a very different way, where getting the “right” answer was the only thing that mattered.
So what can you do to help your child with their math assignments and tests? How can you help your child have a better attitude toward their math learning?
Learn more about how to help your child with math and language homework.
Start with Developing a Growth Mindset
Let’s face it, math doesn’t come easily to everyone, leading many people to the assumption that you are either good in math, or not. While widespread, this cultural assumption is toxic and has resulted in a whole lot of people who simply hate math and experience anxiety when faced with mathematical problem solving.
Luckily, math can be a fun and accessible subject for everyone when you take a growth mindset approach to remove any mental barriers your child has toward math. What’s a growth mindset?
A growth mindset is the belief that - through hard work and consistent efforts - you can develop new skills and abilities. When it comes to math, the focus is on learning rather than being ‘wrong’ or ‘right,’ trying new strategies when faced with difficulty, and accepting that mistakes are part of a bigger pattern of learning and reflection. To fully understand a growth mindset, we might consider its opposite - a fixed mindset. Those with a fixed mindset believe that abilities and beliefs are not changeable, that feedback is a form of personal criticism, and that flaws should be hidden.
Parents and guardians can start taking a growth mindset with their children by following the practices:
- Developing an inquiry relationship with math - approaching math with curiosity, courage and confidence
- Taking multiple approaches to solving the same math question
- Focusing on the level that is the most appropriate for your child
- Point our real-world applications of math: shopping, budgeting, planning a vacation, or saving for the future
- Rewarding effort
- Modeling the importance of mistakes and critical feedback
- Reinforcing the belief that everyone can be good in math
Overcoming a fixed mindset takes commitment and optimism, but doing so will help your child have a better relationship with math learning.
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Learn More about Your Child’s Math Program
While it’s always easier to leave the work of curriculum up to teachers, you may want to get a sense of what your child is learning to give them the help they need at home. Check out the math curriculum for your province, or ask your child’s teacher about their long term plans. When you have a fuller perspective of what is expected, you will find it easier to identify the best resources and methods to support.
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If your child’s class has a virtual class, check the feed regularly so you can be fully informed about the math tasks your child is assigned. You may be able to help by rephrasing the question for your child, or simply reviewing the textbook or videos the teacher is using to model the mathematical process they are learning. Support your child’s math program by finding workbooks with additional practice exercises. The repetition will help your child master new learning and perhaps even learn a new strategy for solving a problem.
The main math ‘strands’ or areas in the curriculum kids at all ages will learn are as follows (check your province’s ministry of Education for more detailed information):
- Number Sense
- Patterning and Algebra
- Geometry and Spatial Sense
- Data Management and Probability
- Financial Literacy
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Identify the Real Issues
With an understanding of your child’s math program, you can start to identify what the real issues are, and which specific areas your child needs more support. Perhaps your child has a hard time understanding what the teacher is explaining, and needs to go through the lessons at a slower pace with extended practice. Sometimes kids are great with manipulatives and smaller numbers but have a hard time when larger, more complex numbers are introduced. Parents of older children may realize their kid needs more practice in basic numeracy and literacy to move forward - it’s challenging, for example, to solve multi-step problems without a firm grasp of multiplication tables, or to write a paragraph reflecting on shapes with weak writing skills.
Be patient and take the time to investigate why your child is struggling with math, so you can find a solution that works.
Want to know how you can help your child with homework? Read our article!
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Use Technology and Workbooks
Another way you can help your child is to harness the use of apps and technology to make learning math easier. There are dozens of websites that summarize key math concepts into plain language and have videos that model different operations. Khan Academy, for example, is loaded with curriculum relevant content and videos. Find a video that works, and pause or re-watch as needed.
For practicing basic math skills, try apps like Sumdog, IXL, or Prodigy offer math diagnostics, games, and activities to make math learning more fun. Many schools will offer class subscriptions, so find out what tools your child’s teacher recommends and hold your kid accountable to practicing every day. Another great thing about math apps is that they monitor how much your child spends on the app and the progress they are making. Dashboards make it easier for you to track your child’s work, and know when a reward may be appropriate.
If screen time is an issue for your child, consider the use of math practice workbooks. Workbooks typically include brief instructions for problem solving, as well as practice exercises your kid can use to help them master operations and algorithms. Unlike math apps, you will need to push your child to complete a set number of pages or exercises, but it can be much healthier than adding to their time on a computer or tablet. Check out books like Jump Math or BrainSmart for kids at all different grade levels.
Do you have a child struggling with writing assignments? Learn some strategies to help your child with their writing here.
Schedule Time for Math Homework
Making math homework a regular part of the day can make a big difference in your child’s academic performance. Much of math mastery comes from practice, and you will need to ensure that your child gets practice at home regularly to get results. When math work times are scheduled and consistently followed, you will instil a positive learning habit that will serve them well as they get older.
An hour every afternoon or evening is usually sufficient for math practice (though you might do less for kids in the primary grades). During that time, prioritise homework that needs to be completed for school. You might then take some time to sit with your child and review their work, and help them work through any mistakes or errors. The rest of the time may be used for workbook practice or math apps.
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Take Advantage of All School Supports
Many schools offer subsidised math classes and clubs for students who need help with math, so speak with your child’s teacher or principal to find out if any programs are available at your school. In-school math programs typically take place at lunch or after school, and typically consist of smaller groups with another teacher in the school. Another resource is your neighbourhood public library - sometimes math help and enrichment programs are available at low or no cost. Learn what your options are, and get your child involved!
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Find a Private Math Tutor
One of the most impactful ways to help your child and preserve your own sanity is to get math tutoring for your child. Private tutoring is an affordable, popular and convenient option to getting your child individualised math instruction. Tutors can meet your child virtually, at your home, in a library, or even a cafe. Math tutors are proficient and passionate in the subject, and may be able to explain math to your child in a way they can understand.
A personal tutor can be the person you need working alongside your child, making sure they are completing their work to the best of their ability. They can review all the math concepts, play games with flashcards, work through math puzzles or help your child progress through their worksheets. Of course, a tutor can alleviate stress for busy parents, who prefer to have some extra time to relax or get things done around the house. Schedule a tutor once or several times a week for maximum results. You may choose to increase sessions when there are many assignments happening, or exams for your high school student. If your child is in post-secondary, having a university or college tutor may be a critical factor in getting your older child the grades they need to graduate or enter another program.
Online tutors are great since they can meet your child at convenient times, and are well versed in digital tools that help explain everything from multiplying and dividing to algebraic expressions, multi-step math problems to the Pythagorean Theorem - just to name a few. Online tutoring is super easy - as long as you have a great internet connection, it can be one of the best options for tutoring your child.
You can find a fantastic selection of tutors near you by checking out sites like Superprof, where you’ll find the profiles of fantastic tutors. Check out Superprof today and find a math tutor for your child!
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