This is the third post in the series, Improving Homeschool Math. So far I’ve talked about the importance of debunking math myths and have shared six ways to respond to math mistakes. In today’s post, I’m going to describe a few ways we can help our children gain math confidence.
Some children love math, but some, like my older two children, dislike the subject. In order to get a better understanding of why my girls dislike math so much, I’ve listened to my girls talk about math and studied my girls’ responses to various math lessons.
It seems the girls’ problem may be rooted in one simple area: confidence. Because they’ve had a few problems with math in the past, their confidence has taken a hit, and they think they’re not capable of finding success in math. I’m working on helping my girls’ gain confidence in math and here’s how I’m doing it.
Ditch negative math talk. I freely admit math was not my favorite subject and though I’ve never openly admitted this to my children, I must be careful they don’t pick up on this fact. As I talk about and teach math, I need to avoid using any phrases that indicate a dislike for math. Consider the mental damage the following sentences can cause.
- I know this is terrible, so let’s just get through it quickly.
- Math is a necessary evil and the sooner you get it done, the happier you’ll be.
- Everyone has a subject they dislike. Math is mine.
Such phrases automatically teach a child that math is something to be reviled. Instead, strive to speak about math in a positive manner, draw your child’s attention to careers involving math, highlight ways math is used in everyday life, and point out moments when your child is using math outside your teaching. Consider these positive discussions.
- The old bridge on Main Street is closed but will reopen in a few months. I’m glad there’s a group of talented mathematicians and engineers working on the blueprints for the new bridge. I bet it’ll be safer to ride over once the construction is finished. (career highlight)
- I love these jeans! They’re on sale. Since they’re 25% off, I’m going to save $8.00 on each pair I purchase. Let me show you how I figured that out. (everyday life application)
- Wow! Your Lego castle looks pretty cool! How did you determine how wide and how high to build it? (math outside of teaching)
Teach at a proper pace. It’s important for us to teach at a proper pace. If we move through lessons too quickly, our children may become frustrated and discouraged. If we move through lessons too slowly, children may become bored and antsy. Throughout the school year, I have found my math teaching incorporates both speeds. As I instruct each girl, I’m constantly adjusting my pace to make sure she’s getting exactly what she needs.
Last school year, Sweet Pea hit a mental roadblock in long division. It took her much longer to master the concept than I anticipated. Consequently, I had to slow down to teach extra lessons and offer additional activities until she mastered long division. However, that same year, Sweet Pea breezed through fractions and demonstrated a quick understanding of fractional concepts. These was no need to linger on the topic.
It’s important to let your child’s needs set the pace. Avoid rushing through the lessons just for the sake of being done. Instead move at a proper pace so your child’s math confidence grows.
Do math frequently. It is true that practice makes perfect. In order to help our children gain confidence in math, they need to do math often. This, of course, includes daily math lessons, but also includes additional opportunities to practice as well.
One of the best ways I’ve found to reinforce what I’ve taught is by having them play math games online. Our favorite sites are Arcademics (free to use), Toy Theater (free to use), Thinkfun.com (free to use), Multiplication.com (free to use), and IXL Math (subscription based but well worth it in my opinion).
If you don’t want your children sitting in front of a computer to play games, use printable math games. Check out these free printable games from Math Sphere or check out this list of board games for purchase.
Let your kids teach you. One of the best ways to find out if you truly understand something is to teach it to someone else. After teaching a math lesson and allowing my child to practice the concepts, I sometimes have my child teach the lesson to me. I pretend I’m learning the skill for the first time and let the girlies use the white board and manipulatives to teach me. As they teach me, I make intentional mistakes and ask lots of questions, so they have to give detailed explanations in order to correct me. Allowing the child to serve as the teacher is fun and is an excellent way to help raise your child’s level of math confidence!
Confidence is one of the keys to success in math! Our kids don’t have to cower when it comes to math. We can implement strategies to boost their confidence so math is not a source of stress or fear! Stop by next Friday for the final installment of the series, Improving Homeschool Math.
© 2015, Andrea Thorpe. All rights reserved.