If you have a student struggling in math and sees it as a four-letter word, here are few tips from an expert to help turn that around.
Doing homework isn’t fun for parents or kids, especially if a child struggles in school and brings that frustration home in his or her backpack.
As a parent, it is difficult to sit by and watch your child struggle, especially with math. Students and parents alike often feel that being unable to learn math is the norm and struggling to just get by is the expectation.
This does not need to be the case.
Matt Groden understands these issues.
Groden is the Chief Nerd and Founder of Problem Solved Math, a subscription-based math tutoring and enrichment video program.
In more than 10 years teaching middle and high schoolers ranging from those who despise math to those who just can’t get enough, he enjoyed leading students to realize math is an interconnected puzzle.
Groden left public schools to focus on making math accessible to all students through small innovative extracurricular class, tutoring and enrichment opportunities.
Here are 5 math help tips if your kid – or you – are struggling with math.
Math Tip For Kids #1 – Teach Your Student to Make a Thought Log
Your student’s homework is often the most valuable resource for making gains in math. Instead of doing the homework to get it done and never looking at it again, have your student check their answers (this is often performed in the next day’s class).
Your student should circle the exercise numbers on which they struggled and got correct or got incorrect. Next to each circled item, have your student to put a five-or-less word note identifying their mistake.
For example, if a student realizes they incorrectly multiplied -5 x 3 to receive 15, a quick note of “negative times positive = negative” is a perfect note!
Students should then spend about five minutes each day before they begin that day’s homework reviewing these notes.
Making homework into a thought log will help minimize the dreaded, “Uggghhh!!! I keep making that mistake!” You will also give your student the gifts of self-assessment and teaching them how to think about their thinking.
Math Tip For Kids #2 – Review the Day’s Lesson Before Homework
Your student has a long day of school that includes learning in a variety of subjects. What are the chances their mind will be ready to practice what they learned from Math class that day the instant they sit down to do their homework?
Have your student spend a few minutes reviewing their notes from class. If done well, you should hear your student discuss aloud the events of Math class that day. Prompt your student to tell you why steps in a Math problem were taken and to narrate to you how a certain process works.
Ask your student how what they learned today connects with what they learned the day before. Above all, do not accept a simple and quick “I don’t know”.
Your student may not actually know the answers to these questions, but provide them with at least 30 seconds of think time to mull over the questions you ask. This will, at the very least, build your student up to be a more patient thinker.
Math Tip For Kids #3 – Five to 10 Minute Daily Review
This study strategy pairs nicely with the Thought Log. Your student will use the exercise numbers they circled because they either struggled on them or got them incorrect to guide daily review.
Before starting the evening’s homework assignment and especially when there is no homework assigned, your student will look over these circled exercises and find similar exercises from their textbooks, handouts, or other forms of practice.
They should then spend 5-10 minutes BEFORE doing that evening’s homework assignment trying the similar exercises they found from previous lessons in their current chapter of study to
- see if they have improved in their understanding and
- keep fresh skills and concepts from prior lessons. Many of the students with whom I have taught or tutored over the years realized the strategy works when they arrived at studying for a test and saw they remembered more than they did prior to using this strategy.
WARNING – this strategy must be used daily and will not produce immediate results.
Math Help Tip For Kids #4 – Have Constant Dialogue with the Teacher
Your student’s Math teacher is an excellent resource. Don’t treat them like the enemy – keep an open line of communication with them.
As a teacher and tutor, I always benefit from hearing from my students’ parents about both the negative and positive observations of what goes on with their students’ Math studies at home.
I learn much from my parents about what I do not see in the classroom and 1:1 tutoring space and can incorporate proper instruction techniques based on parental feedback.
What’s more, your student should be a part of this dialogue.
Copy your student on emails to their teacher and encourage your student to advocate for help in the classroom. Of utmost importance is all conversation remains optimistic and small attainable goals are set that when realized, are celebrated by you, the teacher, and your student.
These goals can be as simple as getting a single concept correct even despite earning a less-than-stellar grade – every gain must be recognized and used as motivation for struggling students.
Math Tip For Kids #5 – Leave Your Negative Feelings About Math out of the Conversation
Did you struggle with learning Math as your student is currently? If so, keep that to yourself.
Sure, a little empathizing with your child is a great way to relate with them. However, continuously demonstrating your frustration with Math or discussing your less-than-positive history sends the message to your student that disliking and struggling with math is normal.
Over my years in the classroom, I would sit in on parent meetings during which parents and other educators would nod their heads in agreement as a meeting participant would acknowledge how hard math is for them. That was routinely met by others with empathy and acceptance.
Can you imagine if the same reaction of acceptance occurred if your student could not read well? That sort of thing will stop a student in their tracks from attempting to make any real gains in Math.
Somewhere along the way (or perhaps it has always been the case) it became socially acceptable to not understand math. By changing the narrative at home with your child from one of resignation – “I know firsthand how hard math is…you just have to struggle through it like I did” to “I understand how difficult math can be, but there are ways you can improve and I will help you get there” can make a huge difference.
MORE MATH HELP & RESOURCES FOR KIDS
- 6 ways to make math fun from Oxford Learning
- HUGE Resource List for Pre-K Math Activities from Math Geek Mama
- Make math a cool game with the help of Prodigy
- An extensive selection of fun and easy math games for kids of all ages
- 6 ways Alexa can help kids with their math homework
- Covering everything from basic arithmetic to the more complex subjects of statistics, geometry, and algebra Help Your Kids with Math uses bright, easy to understand visuals and thoughtful explanations to cut through the confusion.
- From award-winning author and “America’s Math Teacher”, Richard W. Fisher, Mastering Essential Math Skills will guide you through each and every lesson on your way to mastery! It’s like having your own personal math tutor who is available 24/7 to take your learning to a whole new level.
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