With the emergence of virtual education, many parents have had to help their children learn concepts that, due to not having a face-to-face teacher, they did not fully understand.
Although the contents of primary school and the first years of secondary school are relatively simple, those of the subject of mathematics are one of the most complicated to teach, especially if we take into account that many adults have completely forgotten about formulas that now It is up to your children to learn.
Here we are going to see some guidelines to understand how to help your children learn mathematics, especially avoiding that our offspring get a certain fear and even disgust having to study them.
How to help your son or daughter to study and learn mathematics?
All parents want their children to learn and to be smarter and smarter than themselves. Each family wants the next generation to surpass it both in opportunities and in knowledge, and for this reason they trust that school, as a source of learning that it is, provides them with everything they need to know so that they can grow up healthy and end up being autonomous individuals and functional when adulthood arrives.
However, as a result of the pandemic, especially during the months of confinement, many parents have had to include some of the tasks that their children’s teachers did in their day-to-day lives. Although the classes went from face-to-face to virtual, primary and secondary education have many contents that can only be clearly understood if someone explains them face to face, without devices in between.
For this reason, many parents have been forced to explain the content of the class to their children, more or less defending themselves by trying to remember some knowledge they left behind so many years ago. All the subjects have contents that are difficult to remember, but one of the most resistant to parents of children of all ages is mathematics. The problem is not only remembering how certain operations were done, but it is also difficult to explain them.
Fortunately for many parents who today continue to struggle with the subject of numbers, formulas and calculations, here are a series of tips that will help them to help their children learn mathematics.
1. Learn together
As we said, many parents have trouble remembering math. This is one of the subjects that we had the most crossed, even when we reached adulthood, at which time there are not a few who either forget what they once came to understand or, directly, they did not even manage to learn it.
However, now that we have to explain it to our offspring we are forced to learn it yes or yes. As parents we must see ourselves as companions on the path of learning for our children rather than their guides, and mathematics is a good example of this because while we try to explain it to our offspring we are learning it again.
A very good tactic for our children to learn quickly and have fun along the way is to pretend that we are both learning it, something that is not really far from reality. It is true that as parents we have the natural desire to provide help to our children with our experience, but this is impossible if we do not master what we have to explain.
It is better to accept that there are things that we still have to learn or, at least, review them. If you are dealing with something that is not mastered, you should be honest with your child and tell him that this method or exercise is new to us, but that we can work together to understand and learn it.
2. Start with the simplest
Learning something new, especially a mathematical concept, can be very overwhelming. Given the complexity with which many students and parents view mathematics, it is appropriate to start with the simplest, going little by little making sure that we understand everything that we are consulting. At first it pays to be conservative and not assume that our son or daughter masters concepts from previous lessons.
Depending on the age of our child, we can check if he is really understanding it in an entertaining, calm and educational way. Especially if they are young children, it is essential to use physical objects, such as toy pieces, buttons, coins or anything else to see if they are understanding processes like adding, subtracting, dividing, pairs, multiples of a number …
Many children view math as quite abstract and are scared of it. In these cases, to prevent that fear from escalating, it is better not to make them answer an exercise to show that they know it or ask them out loud if they know how to do what is being asked.
If the child shows signs that he likes mathematics, he may be delighted to do all of this, but if not, the only thing we will do is make him more afraid if we ask him in such an invasive way. Every parent should know the strengths and weaknesses of their son or daughter and, if mathematics is one of them, teach it in the least distressing way possible.
3. Make them useful
Everything that is taught in school will one day end up being useful, to a greater or lesser extent. Although mathematics is the one that we can get the most daily use of, there are not a few children who continue to see it very abstract, so much so that they wonder what it is going to do for them, especially considering that there are calculators.
Obviously there are certain mathematical calculations that if you learn to do it mentally, they are an interesting skill but not something that can be found daily use, unless you are a mathematician by profession. For example, knowing how to divide 354,345 by 21,987 without having to write it down on paper is something that is not going to be very common in our daily lives.
But this does not mean that throughout our lives we do not have to do any mental math. There are many everyday situations in which we will have to calculate quickly to be able to get out of trouble, such as being in the supermarket with a budget of € 40 and seeing what we can buy to be able to eat this week.
The best way to teach math is to make it useful. One of the currents of his teaching today is to turn learners into “problem solvers”, making them skilled at reasoning and applying what they have learned in their daily lives.
We can see if they have internalized the concepts doing everyday tasks such as eating, cleaning or shopping authentic mathematical exercises. For example, we can ask them to calculate how much rice we will need for 6 people if we know that one needs 50 grams, or ask them how many eighths there are in a quarter of pizza and other similar exercises.
4. Avoid generating fear
There are many parents who confess to their children that mathematics has never been good for them. This, which can be seen as an innocent confession, is very harmful in learning mathematics and making something that in itself does not have to be difficult to learn becomes a real odyssey for the little one.
The real problem is not that there is some kind of malignant gene that makes the whole family bad with mathematics, but that a culture of fear of mathematics has been generated. As they have a bad reputation in the family, the little ones grow up in an environment in which mathematics is even seen as a phobic object.
This is very easily reflected when teaching mathematics. If mom or dad have had bad experiences with mathematics, they are likely to even panic when they try to explain them to their children.Teaching mathematical concepts that are not mastered can generate what is colloquially called math anxiety, the irrational fear of any mathematical aspect.
The risk of this fear is that the fear can be passed on to your child and have consequences on his academic performance, in addition to making him fear math so much that he really has a very bad time in the subject. It can even influence your decisions in life such as deciding not to study what you would like to do for the simple fact that you have a subject with numbers.
A fairly simple trick is to avoid thinking that we are actually doing math, we are simply teaching our son or daughter to learn useful tools for life. We can even give it a friendlier name, such as “problem solving” or “calculation tools,” anything that reflects the skills to be learned.
- Kikas, E .; Peets, K .; Palu, A .; Afanasjev, J. (2009) The role of individual and contextual factors in the development of maths skills, Educational Psychology, 29: 5, 541-560, DOI: 10.1080/01443410903118499