The pandemic has drastically changed nearly every part of our kids’ everyday lives, particularly school. While many Canadian parents are hoping for a return to normal next year, the impact of virtual learning and on again, off again in-person learning may be long-lasting. The shift to online learning was sudden, and in many cases students received minimal live instruction while families and schools mobilized virtual learning. The interruption in schooling, coupled with the stress of living through a pandemic and working in home environments with distractions everywhere, has unsurprisingly left educators and parents worried about the inconsistencies and lapses in their child’s regular learning.
Math is one subject that many Canadians worry about in their children’s learning. If your child was already struggling with math before the pandemic, chances are that the drastic changes to their learning environment did not help. In a virtual environment, it is nearly impossible for teachers to check the understanding of their students after a lesson, to gauge student’s facial expressions and reactions after a lesson, to manage class behaviour and outside distractions. Explaining math concepts without the use of a physical environment or math manipulatives can also be tough for teachers, especially where students have special needs or are still learning English. Being on a computer all day also has its own stressors: spotty wifi, easy access to video games, side conversations, or device sharing can also hinder the learning experience. Given all of these drastic changes over the last year - that may well continue into the 2021-2022 school year - parents are rightfully concerned about their children’s numeracy.
Does your child need more math practice? Learn how math apps can help.
Why are Numeracy and Math Skills so Important?
Numeracy and math skills are essential skills in life, as so much of everyday life requires an understanding of numbers. Money is perhaps the most obvious way numbers enter into our lives. Your kids will need to understand how to balance a budget, know how to compare prices, calculate costs, or simply count money to survive in the world. Beyond money, math enters our daily lives when cooking, baking, estimating the size of space, organizing time, determining one’s arrival time, and playing games - just to name a handful of number scenarios.
Math is also foundational to so many careers. Your kids will need algebra, calculus, trigonometry, and other advanced math skills to pursue careers in commerce, architecture, medicine, accounting, computer science, biology, chemistry, statistics, economics, engineering and more. Some of the main areas of advanced mathematics include:
- Applied mathematics
- Game theory
- Number theory
- Differential Equations
- Complex Analysis
Math opens doors to so many education pathways and careers, and securing your child’s future success can depend on how much you support their study of the subject in childhood. Without those secondary school math credits, your child will be much more limited in their options when they enter college or university.
Now that we know why math skills are so important - and how pandemic learning has made it so difficult for your child to learn math comprehensively - let’s take a closer look at how you can support your child better when they are learning virtually and in person over the next year.
Read our latest blog about helping your child with their math learning during the pandemic.
Getting Started: Tips for Helping Your Child Learn Online
Learning online goes beyond schoolwork and tasks - our kids have been in a stressful environment since the pandemic started. Let’s look at some starting points for helping your child before you can even think about doing the math.
Check Your Child’s Mental Health
The news has been jarring to say the least over the last year, with stories of infection, death, and fear at every turn. New variants flood our social media headlines, and kids are not isolated from what is happening in the world. Our kids are experiencing a world many of us would not have thought of, where one is socially distanced from friends, family, and missing the simple joys of a family cottage trip, camp, sports league, or birthday party.
When we feel sad and anxious, learning becomes hard if not impossible. Remember Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? Humans need to feel safe and secure before they can start to pursue intellectual goals. Bear this in mind as you help your kids in school, and take some time to check with them to find out how they are feeling. You may find that a visit to the family doctor may be needed before pushing math help.
Keep Your Kids Active
Physical activity may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about multiplication tables or calculating the area of a triangular prism, and yet maybe it should be.
Our kids spend hours each day staring at a screen and sitting still, even when doing gym class. The reality is a stay-at-home lifestyle can lead to issues like obesity, diabetes, or general malaise, and regular exercise is the best way to avoid these problems. Even a simple walk can pump oxygen into our bloodstream and to refresh our minds. A trip to the playground can stimulate young kids after a day online, and may even give your kids a chance to see friends. Exercise also makes our immune system stronger, which is another huge incentive to exercise daily.
How to Best Support Your Child During Virtual Learning
Now that we’ve covered the basics of mental and physical health, let’s discuss how we can directly support our kids with their math learning.
Focus on Number Sense
While it may seem obvious, numbers are the most important areas of math you should focus on with your child if they are struggling in math. No, we are not just talking about counting here - understanding place value, mastering simple algorithms, memorizing basic math facts, and mental computations are the foundation of many other math skills. Focusing on number sense with your child, even when they are focused on another math topic in school, can yield so much progress in the long run as much of math learning is interlinked.
Want to help your child in math? Read our top tips for helping your child improve in math.
If your kids are still young and in the primary grades, fun math activities like counting and representing numbers with objects or manipulatives will make you feel confident about your child’s learning. However, as students get older, operations like addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division are introduced, and learning gets complicated as each year depends on the year of learning that preceded it. For example, it’s hard to understand division without knowing multiplication; you cannot start to learn decimals without fully comprehending the concept of place value. When math performance in school starts to waver, it is often linked to a missed or incomplete understanding of a math concept that should have been mastered beforehand.
Make sure your child’s math foundation is strong by reviewing number sense concepts. Take a break from technology by practicing multiplication tables over dinner, using flashcards for quick addition drills, or simply grab a workbook like Jump Math from your bookstore or print some worksheets off the internet. Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of “old-fashioned” math approaches: repetition and regular practice will often do the trick of building mental math skills. With the basics mastered, problem solving more complex operations in the intermediate and senior grades will become much easier for your child.
Stay Abreast of Your Child’s Virtual Schoolwork
Staying on top of your child’s math learning and following their virtual classroom is another way to help your child through a year of learning math online. One of the simplest and most effective ways to help your child succeed in math is to stay aware of what they are learning and to help them with their homework on a daily basis. As the saying goes, it is easier to keep up than to catch up, and when your child feels like they are in control of their math learning they will feel more confident participating during class time.
Older and more independent kids may be reluctant to let you peek into their virtual classroom, so you may want to start by having regular conversations about math in school. You can always reach out to your child’s teacher occasionally to find out what is going on, or have them send a list of tasks your child has been assigned.
Use Math Apps for Practice
Free and paid math apps are great resources for math practice that kids love to use. Engaging kids in learning they may find frustrating is key to getting them to improve, especially in a virtual world where there are plenty of distractions like YouTube, video games, and messages from friends. Math apps turn math practice into fun games that can track your progress, target curriculum areas, and make it easy for parents and guardians to see how their child is doing.
Math apps are highly effective as a way to provide kids with repetitive practice and problem-solving, which are instrumental for learning skills like mental math. Most adults now can remember learning their times tables through simple games and worksheets; while those practices have been largely eliminated from classrooms on a day-to-day basis, they nonetheless played an important role in helping students to develop automaticity in math.
Unlike worksheets, apps are much more exciting, and gamify learning in creative ways. Kids get to experience a world of interesting and sophisticated graphics, worlds, and scenarios, and may even draw your child back in to practice independently. They can be played anywhere there is internet, are generally affordable, and will get the most reluctant math student enthusiastic.
Here are a few of our favourite math apps.
The Best Math Apps for Kids
This math app has visual tools and a self-paced program, making learning fun and accessible. Serving students up to grade 5, SplashLearn is perfect for younger kids and focuses on the basics: think shapes, counting, and addition and subtraction facts. It has a dashboard parents can check to monitor progress and kids enjoy the virtual rewards they get after achieving a goal.
Elmo Loves 1,2,3’s
Parents and guardians that have fond memories of Sesame Street will be pleased to know that their kids can enjoy the same characters and themes on Elmo’s apps. Preschoolers will love this app as a way to build numeracy skills through famous Sesame Street Songs, videos, puzzles, and even tracing activities. Add this app to your little one’s tablet for hours of endless fun!
Khan Academy and Khan Academy Kids
Khan Academy has been a leader in math instruction over the last decade providing high quality courses and math instruction videos over the years. Their website contains videos that explain to kids how to perform math operations and problem solving in every area of the curriculum, and even enable educators and parents/guardians to assign different work. The kids app contains games with colourful animal characters, and was developed by education experts at Stanford.
Considering getting a math tutor for your child? Find out what the best reasons are to hire an online tutor in math.
Hire A Math Tutor
While it may seem expensive, hiring a math tutor is one of the best ways to support your child’s learning, especially during a pandemic where school has been interrupted repeatedly. Remember that math skills are essential to so many careers, not to mention our everyday lives. A tutor will help your child become more confident and comfortable with arithmetic and problem solving - which will pay off in the future when your child applies for university and college programs, or simply becomes responsible for their own expenses.
Make up for Lost Learning
With a tutor, your child will be able to make up for learning possibly lost in the distractions and difficulties of online learning. A skilled instructor working one-to-one with your child to review math concepts, practice exercises, help with homework, and even re-teach lessons will enable your child to make gains in their numeracy.
Strengthen Learning Skills with a Tutor
Another benefit of having a tutor is that your child will improve their learning skills. A tutor can model strong study habits and math behaviours, and as your child becomes more competent in math they will see the difference regular practice can make. Kids will also develop a sense of routine when they become accustomed to regularly tutoring sessions, and will become stronger at working independently as they learn new strategies for problem solving and test taking. With a tutor to talk to regularly about math on an individual basis, your child may even develop better communication skills as they explain what they are struggling with in school and feel more comfortable about making mistakes.
Tutors Take the Pressure off Parents
If you need one more great reason to hire a math tutor, imagine all the time and trouble it will save you as a parent. This pandemic has been hard on parents and guardians, and you need a break just as much as your kids. Having a tutor take care of the math help will give you more time to tidy up around the house, get dinner on the table, or pursue your own professional goals. Oftentimes a tutor will develop a more professional relationship with your child, which is impossible for parents and guardians to make.
A tutor can make sure your child receives focused practice in operations like addition, subtraction, multiplication, division or more complex problems without the fights that can ensue between family members. You’ll be able to focus on having fun, quality time with your child unencumbered by stress and tension over finishing homework.
Sites like Superprof have plenty of tutors near you that you can choose from to help your child with math. They can meet your child online at a time that is convenient for your family, taking away the time consuming task of getting to a class on time. Check out Superprof today!
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