Math is something that children will use for the rest of their lives, so it’s essential that they develop a grasp of math concepts early on. But math can be hard for some children and let’s face it, it doesn’t have the best reputation for being a favorite subject in school.
More often than not children rely on memorization tactics for math procedures and formulas just to pass tests rather than genuinely understanding math’s use and importance. This is where parents can help their children realize that math can be useful not just in academia but also in life. Through effective teaching methods, children can be taught to understand math concepts and apply them in their day-to-day lives where necessary.
If you are a parent and want to instill the love of math in your little ones, here are some practical strategies that can help.
Tell Your Child it’s Okay to Make Mistakes
Constantly getting things wrong can lead to a lot of frustration and a negative mindset. After a while, most children tend to give up because they view mistakes as bad. However, as it is with everything in life, doing something wrong brings you a step closer to doing it right, eliminating the idea that it is “wrong” and instead encouraging a growth mindset will help your child in math and all areas of life.
Teach your child that solving math problems is like finding your way out of a maze. You are going to run into dead ends; you will have to double back, go forward, get all mixed up, get straightened back up, and then magically (with grit and perseverance), you solve the puzzle and find your way out.
For this reason, encouraging children to make mistakes can go a long way to help them succeed in math. The key is to make sure your child understands their mistakes and why they led to the wrong result. Then, without feeding them the correct method, they can reason their way to the right answer.
Draw a Connection Between Math and the Real World
Showing your child how math applies in real-world situations can help make it more meaningful to them. It’s hard for children to invest time into something they think they won’t use outside of the classroom. Finding a way to draw a connection between the theory and practical application of math is the key.
Give your child examples of where the math concepts are applied in real-life scenarios, for example, shopping, cooking, or even their favorite sports. You can also show them how math can help them understand other subjects like science, history, or art.
Children are naturally curious and will have many questions as they learn math. Make sure to encourage your child to ask lots of questions and try to make sure to validate all questions, no matter what. When children ask questions, they better understand the material, and sometimes the asking of the question is just them solidifying the concepts.
Use Physical Manipulatives
Using physical manipulatives can help you teach math effectively and provide your child with concrete representations of math operations. Here are some physical manipulatives you can use to help your child:
- Fingers: Using fingers helps younger children when learning how to count.
- Base 10 Blocks: You can get an inexpensive set online. They will help your child understand ambiguous concepts like place value, and they can also use them to add and multiply small amounts.
- 2D and 3D shapes: Also good for younger children, the use of 2D shapes, like squares, circles, and triangles, and 3D shapes like triangular pyramids, spheres, and cubes, can teach them about geometric shapes. Once they comprehend the basic concepts around shapes, they can be taught to solve puzzles and other challenges.
- Food: Food such as pizza, pie, apples, and oranges can teach fractions to children who are struggling with the concept (and provide them a snack).
- Clock: Telling time is an essential life skill that children need to know. You can use a clock, whether real or printed, to teach them about seconds, minutes, and hours in a fun and interactive way.
- Money: Using money is a great way to teach children how to count, sort, and use it to achieve their goals. This is another life skill that will serve them well as they venture more and more out into the real world.
Employ Various Teaching Styles
Sometimes, the teaching style used could be the reason why your child is experiencing learning difficulties. Everyone learns in different ways, so it can be difficult for teachers to foster all those methods in the classroom. But, at home, you can incorporate a variety of learning styles to help your child find what works best for them:
- Visual learning: Visual math will engage and help children who learn better when they can put concepts into images. These learners learn best with videos, drawings, pictures, and other visual representations of information. For instance, to teach your child which number is bigger—1 or 10—you can draw a circle on one side and 10 more next to it. By analyzing the drawing, the child can figure out that 10 is bigger than 1.
- Auditory learners: Some children learn best by hearing things explained. Breaking down each step and presenting it to them verbally will help. Likewise, these children may need to verbalize their problem-solving steps and strategies to hear, solve, and solidify the concepts.
- Working in groups: Some children learn better when they are part of a group. So talk to other parents to form a math group for your children. All you have to do is explain the basic concepts of the lesson, give them a problem to solve, and the children can solve it together. This allows children to communicate and reason as they work towards solving a problem. This also will help build their critical thinking and problem-solving skills in the process. And, it will not only help them with their math, but they will also make friends and learn to collaborate.
Play Math Games
Some children struggle with math because they find it boring. Think of the last time you watched a movie that you thought was boring. How much did you struggle to pay attention to the plot? Did you even finish it, or did you text throughout? The same is true for children who find math boring— they won’t give it the attention it deserves.
An effective way to make math exciting and keep children engaged is to play math games. Fun math games include math bingo, pizza fractions, hopscotch math, math baseball, twister math, card games like War, and even Sudoku.
Show Your Child Multiple Ways of Solving a Math Problem
Just because your child is failing to solve a math problem one way doesn’t mean that they can’t solve it in other ways. So, make it a point to show them that there is more than one way to find a solution.
Knowing that a math problem can be solved in several ways can take away the anxiety. This is because they can choose an approach that works best for them. You can encourage your child to get creative and invent their own way of solving the problem. They can also research alternative methods and discuss them with their friends when they get to class.
Showing multiple ways to come to a solution allows the child to explore a variety of math concepts. This takes the emphasis away from the procedure used to solve the problems and focuses only on the right answers. It creates a much deeper understanding of the why and how behind it all.
Repetition is Key
Memorization is not always a bad thing, and the best way to memorize a concept is through repetition. This is why parents with a child who struggles with math should use repetition to help them grasp core mathematical concepts.
By highlighting what your child learned earlier, they can build upon it and find new math concepts easier to understand. This is true whether you introduce them in your home or if your child encounters them at school. You can save them a whole lot of frustration and foster their love for the subject.
Summarize the Lesson at the End of Class
Towards the end of any home lessons, you should dedicate at least 10 minutes summarizing what you have covered. A summary allows the child to concentrate on the most important topics. These can easily be forgotten as the lesson draws to a close. Reiteration will improve understanding and retention.
Furthermore, you take this time to ask your child questions about what they have learned and have them explain their reasoning. If you gave your child some problems in a previous lesson, you could also go over the answers with them before concluding the lesson.
There isn’t one way to teach math. This realization allows parents to explore various strategies to teach math effectively, especially when their child is having a tough time. Math is a life skill that everyone needs to learn. And by employing the teaching strategies mentioned above, from encouraging mistakes to playing math games to using repetition, you can help your child understand the basic concepts of math and inspire a love for solving puzzles–which is ultimately math.
About BYJU’S FutureSchool
At BYJU’S FutureSchool, we aim to teach the value and joy of mathematics to children between the ages of 6 and 14. Our visual and interactive platform gives children the opportunity to improve their learning outcomes through fun and engaging materials, challenges, games, and 1:1 instruction. Our curriculum allows children to practice important math concepts, explore various ways to solve problems and apply what they’ve learned into action beyond our platform.