Math seems to be a love-it or hate-it subject. For parents of children that love math, teaching the subject can be smooth sailing. But if you have a child who struggles and hates math, teaching math can be pure torture! So what’s a homeschool parent to do?
Here are some ideas that can help make math a little more palatable for everyone.
Hopefully if you have a child in the preschool to first grade ages, he hasn’t formed a negative opinion about math. You will save yourself a lot of problems later on if you keep it this way! If you happen to dislike math personally, try your best to keep that opinion to yourself. Make math fun and interesting, easing into it gently so that your child won’t pick up any negative attitudes you may have. Don’t tell stories about how you hated math as a child. Keep things positive and upbeat.
As with all subjects at this age, try to teach math as naturally as possible. Ask your child to do tasks like counting out enough silverware for supper, measuring ingredients for recipes, or matching socks or gloves. Play math games. Use math vocabulary in everyday conversation. As your child heads toward the end of this stage, begin some basic math problems and worksheets or flashcards, but keep them short and sweet.
By this age, your child may be developing attitudes and opinions about math. Her learning style has also become more prominent, and you may recognize that she learns visually, auditorily, or kinesthetically. Consider these learning preferences as you choose math activities and curricula. If you have a visual learner, make sure to demonstrate math concepts visually. Use objects (also called manipulatives) to show math problems or have your learner watch online videos that explain the concepts.
For auditory students, explain and read instructions aloud. Make up songs or use ready-made CDs to explain math concepts such as multiplication. For kinesthetic learners, get the student physically involved in the learning. Have her move the manipulatives. Use movement and fingerplays to show concepts.
Try to keep things light and fun even as your child heads into more difficult math concepts. Use games when possible. Remember that math is a mastery subject. Each concept builds on previous learning. Don’t move on to multiplication until your child has mastered addition, for example.
Beginning to Understand
If by middle school your child has already decided he doesn’t like or understand math, you may face an uphill – but not insurmountable – battle. Use Well Planned Start to check for gaps that may be causing frustration and actively work to fill in those gaps. You may discover that your child didn’t master multiplication and is therefore struggling with fractions.
Show your child how math relates to their life outside the classroom. Assign tasks such as multiplying or halving a recipe for fractions, helping with budgeting and grocery shopping for addition and multiplication. Continue to use math games. Dice games work well for talking about probability. Online games and apps can make reviewing basic operations more interesting. Use online homework helpers like Kahn Academy to help explain topics, especially as your child approaches algebra.
Learning to Reason
If you have a high schooler who hates math, you may be doing clean-up rather than being proactive. Still, try to keep math instruction as positive as possible. If you hated math yourself in high school, try to keep your own attitude to yourself. While it doesn’t hurt to let your child know that you struggled, make sure that you project confidence in her abilities. Find help in the form of a tutor or co-op if you need to. Use apps, games, and online videos to help explain concepts.
Use Well Planned Start or curriculum-based assessments to check for gaps that may be causing your child issues, especially if she was not homeschooled her entire school career and you are not sure what she knows. When possible, show math at work in the real world. If your child is a history buff, consider having her read about famous mathematicians to pique her interest. Don’t jump from curriculum to curriculum, but if you have given a curriculum a good solid try, consider your child’s learning styles and think about picking a different math curriculum. Some curricula work better for one learner than another.
If, after all of these efforts, you still have a math-hater, consider that it is not absolutely necessary for your child to complete higher-level math such as Algebra 2, trigonometry, or calculus. Most colleges require at least Algebra 1 and geometry, and your child will need to have taken them to do well on college entrance exams. But if she isn’t interested in a math-oriented profession, she may be able to use courses such as personal finance, general mathematics, accounting, or consumer math as the final course or two to complete her graduation requirements. Be sure to check both your state’s graduation requirements and the entrance requirements for her college(s) of interest, then choose a math course that will work.
Math may never be your child’s favorite subject, but with some thought and planning, you can make it a tool rather than something to be hated.