There are many children who struggle in math. As parents and educators, it is important to find a teaching method that works for the children we are teaching. If what we are doing is not working, it is important to try different methods that children can understand.
Kathleen Cotter Lawler says that if you have been giving your child flashcards and worksheets, and that is not working, don’t keep doing the same thing! This leads to frustration and an increased dislike for math. As parents, we may not know what to try. Here are some suggestions from Ms. Lawler that will give you new insights as you work with students to teach math in a way that will help them excel.
Make Math RELEVANT
Kids need to see that math matters. One way that we can do this is to play games with math. For example, if our child has to know the answer to a math problem to win a card game, it suddenly becomes relevant to their life. Giving children a reason to care is vital. Money is another way that kids might start to care a little bit more about what the answer is. When children can see why the answer to a math problem matters in their own life, they become more motivated to learn.
When children are required to learn a set of rules without understanding the meaning behind them, it becomes a greater and greater challenge for them to keep up in math. If we can help our children understand the meaning behind the math, they will be able to understand it on a deeper level that allows them to really figure things out, instead of just memorizing facts.
Make Math Tangible
Making math tangible is especially important for younger children. Kathleen Cotter Lawler says, “It needs to be hands on, especially with younger children. Kids want to explore. Why would they not want to touch their math?”
Math can be made tangible by using manipulatives, such as blocks or counters. Even using their own fingers can help children “see” their math. When children see, feel, and can play with the concepts in math, it becomes real to them. This hands-on method helps children to really grasp what is going on.
When children are able to hold and play with their math, it also captures their interest. In this way, math goes from being a hard to understand concept on a page, to something they can explore and grasp in their hands and in their minds.
Put Math in Context
“Kids need to understand the reasons why things work. Kids need to know the big picture. It comes down to understanding,” says Ms. Lawler.
The greater context of what we are doing with math is very important to teach our children. This is where it all comes together and children start to understand why it matters, how to do it, and that it actually does make sense.
Word problems are just the beginning! If we can make math problems into real life scenarios, kids will understand the need for math. For example, if a child has an interest in raising chickens and selling eggs, they can do the real life math to find out the cost of feed, the amount of eggs laid in a certain amount of time, and how much they need to charge for a dozen eggs in order to make a profit. This real-life math fits into the child’s life and becomes much more meaningful than a worksheet ever could.
Math can become fun for our children when we make it relevant, tangible and put it into context. We will start to see our children excel in math and take steps to become great mathematicians