Tuesday 24 September 2013

Math is a problem - What now ?

Earlier this year I shared with you about my approach and philosophy about teaching Math. Today I want to tackle this subject from the angle of what do I do if my student hates math or they are really struggling to grasp a mathematical concept. In preparation for today's post I did a quick Google search Help! My Child Hates Math! and was surprised that it came back with over 21,700,000 results!

One of my earliest memories of teaching a math concept to a struggling student was trying to teach one of my children fractions. It was the third or fourth day and I had pulled every idea out of the bag to help this child understand their work. They were getting frustrated and so was I! After all I thought what is so hard about fractions!!!! In desperation I rang a friend and went over for a cuppa coffee to regain my sanity and shared what had been happening in math class. She calmly called over my children did a quick lesson on fractions to which said child looked over at me and asked "Why didn't you just say that?" Oh boy ...

The greatest lesson I took home with me that day is that if they don't get it the way I teach it ask a friend.  There is no one right way to teach math or any other subject for that matter. We all see the world in our own unique way.

 History and Research on the Teaching of Math This article takes a fascinating look at mathematical learning and teaching over the years and how this impacts our ability to learn math easily. It has helped me be far more relaxed in my approach in doing math with Sir N. Our brain development plays an enormous role in our ability to learn math than we realize. I highly recommend this insightful article if you have a child struggling to cope with math.

Some solutions
  • Step away from the text books for a while and play games
  • Slow down. Sometimes the text book we are using moves along at a pace that may be just a little too fast for some students. Get to know your students learning curve and move at that pace.
  • Use online games to learn math facts. Math facts do not need to be understood to be learned.  This is route learning but plays a very important role in the highschool years.
  • Play card games 
  • Use dominoes to learn math facts. Drill work.
  • Ask a friend to teach a lesson.
  • Ask the child to teach you (I have found this helpful as it helps to clarify their point of misunderstanding)
  • Do practical math application learning. (banking, area, shopping, etc)
  • Ask questions
  • Keep the manipulatives for as long as possible. It's been shown that pushing a student to abandon the use of manipulatives hampers a students progress in later years when doing more complex equations.  Manipulatives are very important in math competency.  Allow the student to drop the use when they are ready. 

On the Net
    TED talks on math
    I have enjoyed TED talks on the subject of math. They have helped me think through my preconceived ideas on teaching and learning math.

    Conrad Wolfram: Teaching kids real math with computers

    "Stop teaching calculating, start teaching math"

    I would love to know your thoughts and how you approach math



    This post is part of the Homeschool Help series brought to you by a group of homeschool Mom's from around the globe.  Do not forget to visit and read their inspirational insight.

    This week


    1. Thank you for this helpful post.
      We have often used the Khan Academy videos when someone else's explanation is needed. It is strange how often that is all that is needed.
      We use a spiral approach to maths and find that often a topic that causes real trouble one year is fine the next. If it still causes difficulty, going back to the previous year's book and exercises usually helps.

    2. Thanks for the great list of resources. I'm excited to check them out.

    3. Those videos look great - thanks for putting all this together.

    4. What a wonderful resource list, Chareen! Sharing on Facebook page.

    5. Great resource list that I'm going to bookmark/pin for reference! One of the best things I've learned is that even (or especially!) with math, one size does NOT fit all. The curriculum we used in K-6 with the boys worked fine for them, but not for my daughter. The algebra the boys were doing worked okay but there was a world of difference between something that worked "okay" and finding the thing that really suited their style. And my daughter continues to need math instruction that is completely different in approach. Finding something that taught the way my kid's brain could comprehend makes a big difference.


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