The following is a guest post from contributing writer, Linda Kardamis…
Math is an amazing subject and is a powerful example of the ingenuity and design of our Creator. But math can also be a challenging subject for student to grasp. And even more challenging for parents to teach.
As a middle school math teacher, I loved helping students understand math. The light in a student’s eye when they finally grasp a concept is incredibly rewarding.
Teaching your students math doesn’t have to be an impossible task. Here are some keys to help your students succeed in this important subject in making math understandable.
1. Make sure they know their multiplication facts.
These basic facts are the foundation upon which all the rest of mathematics (including algebra, geometry, and even calculus) is built. It may be tempting to just give your student a calculator, but a calculator can only do so much. Yes, it can multiply, but it won’t help them in upper grades when they need to apply this knowledge to more complex topics like factoring, reducing fractions, and adding fractions with variables.
So do whatever you must to make sure your kids know their multiplication facts. Drill them, play games with them, make up songs about them. Take whatever steps are necessary to give your kids the foundation they need.
2. Follow the right teaching order.
The best way to teach math is to first do an example problem (or two). Then, work a few problems with your kids – asking them questions, what to do next, etc. Finally, give them some problems to practice on their own. But don’t leave them on their own. Be there to answer questions as needed.
3. Answer your student’s questions with questions.
When your child claims he is “stuck,” don’t just tell him what to do. Instead ask a question like “what should you do first?” Or, if they need more direction, a specific question about the lesson such as “What do we do with the numerators?” Continue to work through the problem by asking questions and allowing them to do as much of the work as possible. Remember that the person who does the work is the person who’s learning.
4. Master foundational concepts before moving on.
Math builds upon itself, and if your student doesn’t understand a concept, he’s probably going to be even more confused about the next lesson. If you’re homeschooling, you have the advantage of setting your own pace, and you don’t have to keep up with the rest of the class. It’d be better to take an extra day or two to make sure your student understands before moving on. Otherwise he’ll get more and more confused. It’s not worth it to finish the curriculum if your student didn’t understand any of it.
5. Ask them to articulate how to solve problems.
Periodically ask your students to write down how they solved a problem. Other times ask them to explain this to you out loud. Not only will this help you see whether or not they are truly understanding, but articulating the process actually helps students understand it better. In addition, your children learn how to communicate more clearly, a skill that is sometimes overlooked in homeschooling.
6. Get help when needed.
There may be times when your student is just confused, despite your best efforts to help and explain. When this happens, you need to call in help. A friend, a family member, or tutor can make a huge difference. I know this takes extra time and effort (and maybe even money), but if you’re stuck, it’s worth it. Remember that if your child is confused now and doesn’t get help, he’s just going to get more and more confused as the year goes on. You can stop that cycle before it starts by reaching out to someone else for assistance.
What challenges have you faced when teaching your kids math and making math understandable? What techniques have helped you?
About The Author
Linda Kardamis taught middle school math at a Christian school before deciding to stay home with her son and begin writing. Her passion is to help teachers and parents impact the next generation. She is the author of Create Your Dream Classroom and blogs at Teach 4 the Heart. You can follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter.