Parents can help their children with maths without the upset. Yes, you read that right. Yes, as parents you CAN help your children with maths …
but not in ways you may think
If you haven’t thought much about maths since you were at school, you may not be feeling so confident about helping your children with maths. But the good news is, you don’t have to be able to do it yourself to be of help.
Things have changed in maths instruction and learning since you were at school. It’s not a case of studying in silence and poring over workbook after workbook anymore. Schools are adopting new approaches to teaching maths that you can also adopt with your children in the home.
Here’s how …
Have conversations about maths
School lessons no longer take the teacher-down approach where the teacher is at the front of the room lecturing and the students sit and work in silence. Students are encouraged to work in groups and discuss problems to solve them together. If you also take this approach at home, this can go a long way to helping your children feel comfortable about maths and not being judged. Ask them to talk out their maths questions with you and give their reasonings. Ask them to explain to you problem sums that you can’t do. It will give them confidence to know that their ideas are important and that they have knowledge that you don’t!
Maintain a positive attitude towards maths
Be careful not to inadvertently pass on negative attitudes towards maths to your children by saying things like “I’m not a maths person” or “I don’t like maths”. You will only perpetuate the cycle and your children could end up thinking they’ve inherited the same “bad genes” for maths. Your attitude towards maths can impact your children’s success in the subject according to research which finds that how a child perceives their relationship with maths will affect how well they do in the subject.
Your children’s emotions around maths, their perception of their skill in it and their understanding of why they have to learn it all play a part in their maths learning outcomes. If a child likes maths, thinks they are good at maths and enjoys the challenge of problem solving vs. rote learning, they are likely to excel in maths.
So encourage a positive attitude to maths in the home. Reward your children with compliments when they get things right, but be careful to celebrate the process as well. Mistakes are good because they are opportunities to learn and a clear indication that learning is happening.
Maths is taught today as the teacher and student working in partnership. It is no longer about the teacher passing on the learning and the student absorbing it. This is a major cause of maths anxiety. Instead it is a rewarding working relationship where the teacher learns from the student too.
So take the same approach when helping your children with their homework. Rather than being controlling, be supportive, guide by asking questions not giving the answers. Let them work it out for themselves and let them fail. Remember, learning comes from making mistakes. Get them to analyse where they went wrong and put in enough practice. Let your children take the lead and be there when they need support.
Problems can be solved many ways
If you went through rote learning at school, you may be of the impression that there is only one way to get to the answer, or if you are aware there are other ways, you only know how to do it one way.
Be aware now that there are different ways of thinking about and looking at problems. The working out can be done in different multi-step ways. You’ve probably seen those puzzles where you have to move one matchstick only to get a different number. It’s amazing how people come up with different solutions and they are all correct if only one match was moved. It makes you realise that there is more than one way to look at something.
If your children want to use their fingers to help work out a problem, let them. And look for opportunities in everyday activities to have a maths conversation such as dividing sweets between them and how many each will get, etc.
So know that you as parents have an important role in helping your children excel at maths, not by being good at it yourself or doing it for them, but by having conversations, becoming a learning partner and celebrating ideas even if they are wrong. And be ready to learn from your kids!
If you are worried about passing on negative feelings about maths, this article could be helpful.