Parents and guardians of elementary school-aged kids who have been learning in a virtual classroom this year - which likely includes most Canadian families - are familiar to the stressors of online learning. Watching your child spend endless hours looking at a screen is tough, especially when they are struggling to keep up with their lessons. Math learning is one area that has many families and educators concerned: it’s hard to regularly check for understanding in a virtual environment with so many students requiring attention. Let’s not forget that our modern learner is continually distracted, with so many different games a tab away, with no adult to gently remind you to focus on school.
If you are like many parents and guardians that have seen their kids’ math grades drop, or are simply looking for a way to supplement your child’s math learning in a pandemic world, you are not alone. Mathematical thinking and computation skills are among the most important areas of learning for kids, as their numeracy will become an essential part of daily life when they get older. Whether we realize it or not, we perform mathematical operations on a daily basis: adding the cost of items on a grocery bill, doubling fractions for a baking recipe, analyzing the statistics for work or on the news, comparing prices, setting a timer, and estimating the weight of a suitcase are just a handful of the ways math enters our everyday lives.
This article will provide you with our best tips to help your child with math while learning remotely. You’ll be able to help your child become a confident math learner in no time.
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.
Remember Mental Health Matters
Before getting into anything school related do a check-in with your child around mental health. The pandemic has caused a tremendous amount of anguish on our kids: they don't get the joy of daily in-person socializing with friends, no recess, missed events like school dances and parties, and sports. Learning at home can also be stressful if they are dealing with spotty wi-fi, too much time cooped up in the house, and are contending with noise from other siblings. If your family has been impacted directly by COVID-19 illness, or a job loss, or any other larger issues, your child may also be quietly struggling. the So take some time to see if your child is feeling stressed - their health and well-being are more important than anything else happening in school.
If possible, build in time for daily walks with your child or time at the local playground. Don't hesitate to give your child a day or afternoon off from virtual learning, and if you can spend that time with your child to do outdoor activities, do a socially distanced visit with a cousin or friend, or do an activity like baking, sports or art, you will have a much happier and well-rounded student.
Of course, if you notice changes in your child's behaviour - moodiness, anger, withdrawal, or changes in eating, make sure you book a visit with your family doctor for further investigation.
Start with a Focus on Number Sense
Numbers, or number sense, are fundamental to any study of math and the area of learning parents should focus on most when helping their child develop mathematical reasoning and computation skills. This is because they form the basis of so many other math skills.
For many small kids, learning numbers is easy and fun, with songs for counting and cute counters to use. As kids enter the junior and intermediate grades, concepts like place value and operations like addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division are introduced - and suddenly learning gets complicated. It’s hard to understand division without mastering multiplication, and even concepts like addition and subtraction become a challenge without an understanding of place value. Because so many math skills are interlinked, kids must learn all of them to be successful.
Every other area of math - algebra, data management, geometry, and measurement - relies on an understanding of numbers and basic operations, so the time kids spend practicing and learning number sense will see their efforts pay off in other math learning. To calculate the surface area and volume of a 3-D object, for example, kids need to understand how to multiply, add, and organize their thinking. To calculate an average, knowledge of addition and division is necessary; solving problems with high decimal numbers requires an understanding of place value. So if your kids are struggling in an area of math like algebra or measurement - check to see that they know their basic math facts, which is where the problem may lie.
Does your child need more math practice? Learn how math apps can help.
Keep up With Your Child’s Virtual Learning Environment
Another way you can help your child through a year of learning math online is to keep an eye on their virtual learning environment. Keep track of which math units your child is studying, and whether or not they are provided with any math homework. It is always easier for your child to keep up than catch up, so making sure they keep up with homework can help them to stay on course.
Of course, don’t be surprised if your child is hesitant to let you peek inside their Google Classroom - especially if they are older and want to be more independent. Should this be the case, try to check in with them regularly on what they are doing in math. When you know what your child is learning, and what their assignments and learning tasks are, you’ll be better positioned to follow up with them on homework completion.
You can also email your child’s math teacher and ask for an update every 4-6 weeks. They can easily generate a list of assignments your child has or has not done, and let you know if they are struggling in anything specific.
Build Math into Your Everyday Routine
Making math a part of the daily routine in your home can be a powerful way to set up regular practice, even when they don’t have homework. When it comes to math, repetitive activities can be helpful as they help kids memorize math facts, and can also promote problem solving if you have tasks like puzzles and challenges.
Start by getting your child a workbook, flash cards, or even activities that require mathematical thinking like logic puzzles or board games. Getting your child off the computer and doing tasks with their hands will support their mental health, and change the routine. Schedule a set amount of time every day or week to do extra math activities. While the first week may be hard, keep pushing and soon it will come automatically. Reward your kids for their efforts every so often with a treat, a favourite meal, or a prize that is meaningful to them.
Want to help your child in math? Read our top tips for helping your child improve in math.
Use Math Games
For kids who struggle to stay motivated when it comes to doing extra math, take advantage of the many math games available to them. Apps like Sumdog and Prodigy make math fun by providing exciting and engaging video games where kids solve math problems to win. In many games, students may even be able to play against kids from around the world.
Math video games and apps provide repetitive practice in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, and will enable your child to memorize their math facts and respond to problems quickly and efficiently, Another great benefit for parents is that your won’t have to check their work - the app does it for you! You’ll also be able to track your child’s progress.
Coding is another learning expectation new to math curricula across Canada, so be sure to explore some of the great coding apps out there! Start with Code.org, a free app that is popular with educators.
Considering getting a math tutor for your child? Find out what the best reasons are to hire an online tutor in math.
Hire a Tutor
Sometimes the best option for parents is to hire a private tutor to help their child. Private math tutors are an excellent way to support your child in math, especially if they are struggling. A private math tutor can give your child one-to-one attention - a rarity in today’s crowded online classes. They can observe your child’s work and give them detailed feedback on their problem solving, and review concepts they may be unclear on. They can check your child’s homework, provide extra practice, test preparation, and do follow-up work after a test.
Private tutors can meet your child online at a time that is convenient for your family. They can add more sessions when the learning is particularly challenging, and even support your child in other subjects like English, Science, or Social Studies. Sites like Superprof have listings for amazing math tutors near you. Check out Superprof today!
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