Love it or hate it, virtual learning is here and not going anywhere anytime soon. While COVID-19 vaccination rates in Canada are making us feel increasingly optimistic, the 2021-2022 school year will likely include virtual learning options until all children are vaccinated. While virtual learning is keeping many families safe, there are negative impacts to a model of school that removes beloved activities like after school clubs, sports, socializing, and simply being in the classroom. Social anxiety, stress, a sedentary lifestyle, and widening learning gaps are just a few of the negative effects that families and schools will be dealing with long after the pandemic is finished.
Math learning is one area that is a cause for concern - if your child struggled with math before the pandemic, chances are that a virtual learning environment only exacerbated those issues. Why? In a virtual classroom, it’s hard for teachers to check their students for understanding, keep the group on task, and explain math concepts with manipulatives and experiential learning. With parents and guardians working at home or on site, getting extra math help in the home is never easy. So what can parents do to help their kids with math learning during this challenging time? Let’s take a look at some of our best tips.
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Do a Mental Health Check With Your Kids
With breaking news headlines constantly flooding our social media feeds, along with stories of illness and variants around the world, mental health issues related to stress and anxiety should come as no surprise. Our kids - especially those that have been learning online for over a year - have also experienced social isolation and the withdrawal of important activities like camps, sports, arts classes, playdates, birthday parties, and family gatherings.
Learning becomes nearly impossible when we feel sad and anxious, so it’s important to address our kids’ mental and physical well-being before we encourage or push them to improve their academic performance. Monitor your child for any unusual behaviour, changes in personality, or sleep patterns. Take the time to ask them how they are doing, and if you have a hard time getting through to your child or you are seeing major changes then see a family doctor so you can be in touch with the right health professionals.
Make Sure Your Kids are Physically Active
So what does physical activity have to do with long division or quadratic equations?
Take a moment to remember that your child is spending a lot of time looking at a screen, and is not getting regular time in gym class or recess. In fact, a ‘stay-at-home’ lifestyle can easily lead to health issues like obesity. Regular exercise also pumps oxygen into our bloodstream and refreshes the brain, and may be the exact antidote for your kids when they hit a mental block in math or have been looking at the same problem for too long. Take your kids outside, rain or shine, and take a walk or visit the playground to get them valuable physical activity. Exercise also strengthens our immune function, which is incredibly critical right now, and keeps us healthy.
Take a Look at Your Child’s Math Work
It’s a simple thing to do - look at your child’s math notebook, look through the work they are being assigned in class, or email their teacher to find out what your child has been sharing in their learning during class. When you actually see the way your child solves math problems, or if they are not submitting their assignments, then you will be in a much better place to support your child. If you are aware that your child is struggling in math, finding the reasons why - a need to re-learn concepts, computation errors, weak mental math strategies, to name a few - is the best starting point to helping them improve. When your child sees you directly engaging with their learning, they will see that you care about their education and may feel more motivated to practice more often. There are many ways to problem solve - why not teach your child some of the ways you learned as a child?
Read our latest blog about helping your child with their math learning during the pandemic.
Make time for Focused Practice
One thing your child may need as a virtual learner is to have focused, supervised study or practice time in math. In a virtual learning environment, it’s easy to get distracted by games or your surroundings, especially since the teacher is not right there to keep an eye on your child.
Ensure that your child is getting the most from their learning by making time for focused practice in math several days a week - time where they can work on math homework or problem-solving under your careful watch. Keep it as tech-free as possible by printing off the work or providing a child with a workbook to supplement their learning - you want to eliminate all the distractions that could be getting in the way of their success.
Double Down on Essential Numeracy Skills
In many cases, kids that are struggling to learn math online have gaps in their essential math skills. Every year of math learning is typically based on the previous year’s curriculum, so falling behind becomes a problem when there are gaps in learning. Place value, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and word problem solving are some of those basic math understandings that other learning in algebra and geometry rely upon - so double down on those basics and your child will be much better equipped to calculate the surface area of a pyramid when they hit the older grades.
Get started by having a talk with your child’s math teacher to find out where you can get started. Sometimes, it’s simply a matter of reviewing how to apply standard algorithms to problems, improving computation accuracy, or even memorizing multiplication tables. Math apps and games can be a great resource for ‘kill-and-drill’ math practice and are designed to help kids build mental math skills. Sumdog, Prodigy, Khan Academy, and IXL are just a few of the options you can check out. Another option you can take is to buy your child a math workbook such as Jump Math, and assign your child some extra work they can do for rewards.
Considering that most kids started emergency learning in March of 2020, lots of learning has been missed, so be patient and remember that your kids have been through a lot. Start small, celebrate small gains, and reward your child if possible when you start to see signs of improvement.
Does your child need more math practice? Learn how math apps can help.
Hire a Math Tutor for Your Child
If helping your child in math sounds a little too stressful or does not align with your own busy work and parenting schedule, you can save yourself a lot of work by hiring a private math tutor for your child. A private tutor can meet your child regularly to help your child review new math learning, practice basic skills, or simply work on what your child needs help with at that moment. A private tutor can help your child prepare for big exams, monitor your child’s learning behaviours, and provide valuable one-to-one support that your child needs. Tutors can teach new ways to solve math problems, and enable your child to build more confidence.
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.
Tutors are also a convenient option - they can meet your child online when it works for your family, and increase sessions when a tough unit or a big test comes up. They can be especially helpful for kids in secondary school that need mastery in math skills to get the grades they need for university. Sites like Superprof have listings for local math tutors near you. Check out Superprof ASAP!