Subtracting the fear of learning maths
By sixth class, there are some basic maths strategies that children will need. You can help to strengthen these at home. Multiplication tables are very important. You can strengthen these by encouraging children to count up in twos (on the stairs), in threes (sweets or marbles) and in fives (five-cent coins).
Use maths in everyday situations. Baking is a great activity (measuring, calculating cooking times), as are shopping, budgeting with pocket money and playing board games such as Monopoly. When shopping, ask children to work out which product offers the best value, comparing weight and prices, “buy one get one free” deals and 20 per cent extra stickers, for example. Look for examples of maths in its broadest sense: parallel, perpendicular, vertical and horizontal lines in buildings; shapes in natures; patterns in art.
It’s not your role to teach your child, but to support them in developing maths awareness. Use maths homework time to talk about the maths rather than to teach or correct it. If you spot something wrong, lead the child to discover where he or she went wrong, and to self-correct. If the child has many answers wrong, help them to discover their mistake in one instance and then invite them to look back over the rest, but don’t just correct every mistake. If you do, you are not giving the teacher an opportunity to see how the child is getting on. If the child is making the same mistake again and again, or clearly does not understand something, make a note for the teacher in the homework notebook.
Support children of all abilities by helping them to learn in their own way, reflecting maths in the world, using concrete examples and building their language and confidence in everyday activities.
It can be difficult to know when a strategy or technique is worth persevering with, and when a change of approach is needed. Techniques or interventions that offer a quick fix are unlikely to work.
Give any strategy time to work. Sensible learning goals, good work habits (short, regular and frequent sessions), preserving confidence and self-esteem in your child and good connections with their school will offer the best chance of success.
It can sometimes be hard to see the wood from the trees when assessing whether the current plan is working. You could try to chart progress against sensible measures: for example, chart progress with spelling against a list of known “tricky” words. Done in a light-touch way this can give you a sense of progress and your child a sense of momentum and achievement.
If you are doing something that does not seem to be working, then there may be no point in flogging a dead horse. Before a major change of approach though, speak to someone else, get advice or, importantly, connect with your child’s school. It might be that the approach just needs tweaking rather than wholesale change.
Finally, if you are going for a new approach, try not to change too much at once. That way you will have a sense of which bit is working. Scattergun, try-anything-and-everything approaches, although totally understandable as a concerned parent, might risk overloading you and your child. More measured change might be a better way to go. Learning is a journey: keep optimistic, and travel hopefully.
Use the child’s maths homework as a platform, and listen more than you talk.Encourage different approaches – risk-taking is an important element of good maths.
Start by “unpacking” the question. What is the problem asking you to do? Where is the maths in this? Underline key words. Could you use anything, such as a numberline, a 100 square or coins, to help you? Are there any words you don’t understand? How does your teacher do this? Could you draw a picture about the problem?