It’s a rare student who hasn’t had some kind of struggle in the span of their learning life. Maybe it’s history or a foreign language for some, but, according to surveys of students, mathematics is the most challenging of all required subjects taught in a standard curriculum. So why does math rank so highly in this category and what can parents do to help their children learn to love math?
One quick answer is that kids will love math when they feel successful at it — when it is not a subject that they struggle to understand. Some parents are well qualified to step in and help their children with their math struggles, but for many parents this is the time to consider a professional tutor.
If you decide to go that route you have a few options — an after-school program offered by your school district, a private tutor, or a company that specializes in tutoring mathematics.
Whether you’re doing this on your own or you have decided to find a math tutor, these tips can help.
Assess the student’s current skillset
Before deciding how to help a child who is struggling with math, it’s important to understand where they are in the struggle. Some kids do well until a new concept is introduced and then, as they attempt to understand that concept they fall behind. Classroom teachers have their hands full with typically large classes and a curriculum that they must use. While schools and teachers do their best, a one-size-fits-all approach does not work for everyone.
This is where a tutoring program that specializes in mathematics can be helpful. Mathnasium, which focuses solely on math tutoring, starts with an assessment of each student and develops a unique learning plan for each individual student. 93% of parents of students whose children have attended Mathnasium for tutoring have an improved attitude toward math.
Maybe with a little help from Mathnasium your child could love math too.
Target individual learning styles
Once you understand the student’s current skills, the next step is to determine the learning style of the individual student. We all have individual ways of learning that work for us but might not work for someone else. The four basic learning styles are visual, auditory, read/write, and kinesthetic. Of course most of us employ a combination of these styles, but one method is usually predominant.
A kinesthetic learner needs a hands-on approach — they need touch objects to facilitate their understanding, while an auditory learner learns best by listening and discussing topics. Visual learners do best when they can view charts, graphs, and other materials, and a read/write learner does best with reading and note-taking — or in the case of math, writing examples of problems.
The tutor who is working with a student struggling with math needs to ascertain how that student learns best so they can tailor the learning plan to their individual needs. The tutor also needs to have various methods on hand to cater to each learning style.
This approach is used at Mathnasium where they employ several methods — visual, verbal, tactile, read/write — to convey various mathematical concepts.
If a student is having difficulty with math, it won’t be long before they start to dislike it and then their skills fall even further behind. But when they are learning in their own way, with help from a qualified tutor, they can learn to love math.
Use a personal approach to teaching math
While computer learning and math games can help students reinforce concepts and particular skills, having an actual human working one-on-one with a student can be very beneficial. When the tutor is working with a student, it’s easier to see whether the child has grasped a concept or is still struggling.
This is especially important in math where concepts build on each other and you must master a skill or understand a concept before moving on to the next one. On the other hand, some students might grasp ideas very quickly. A tutor can see that and move the student onto more advanced topics, thus avoiding boredom and giving the student a feeling of success and pride.
A Mathnasium tutor can help if a student is having difficulty with math, if they’re doing okay but could be doing better, or if they’re making good progress but need more of a challenge than the school curriculum can offer.
Develop mathematical problem-solving skills
Rote learning has a role in some subjects, but it’s important to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills in math. At Mathnasium, the tutors make sure that students develop those skills so that they can figure out problems when no one is around to help them. They accomplish this by helping the students understand how they arrived at their answer — not just getting the right answers and moving on.
This approach also helps when students get stuck. Knowing each student’s process helps see where they took a turn that led to the incorrect answer and shows them how to get back on track. The ultimate goal is for the students to understand their own process. Then, when they are presented with problems in their classroom — whether it’s in another math class or perhaps a chemistry class — they can analyze the problem and go about solving it with the skills they have learned.
Kids Love Math when learning is fun
When learning math is fun, students enjoy it. It can be hard for parents to find the time to make learning math fun, but at Mathnasium students report that they have fun learning math. With their one-on-one tutoring, their multiple methods of teaching and reinforcing mathematical concepts, and their non-judgmental approach, kids enjoy learning math, and they gain the confidence that can help them master the very subject that, before Mathnasium, had been a struggle.
As Larry Martinek, Co-founder of Mathnasium says, “We create a learning environment that is fun, dynamic, and empowering. Keeping math fun for kids keeps them engaged.”
Fun with math at home
Besides the classroom or a tutoring center, parents can incorporate math concepts into daily life by counting things around the house, playing games — like checkers and dominoes — counting various items on a road trip, and many other ways.
- Get your kids to help with projects that involve measuring items and estimating distances.
- Take your child shopping with you. The simple act of weighing produce and calculating the cost of their favorite fruit is a subtle way to incorporate math into their day.
- Baking and cooking are great ways to accomplish this goal as well. Having a kid measure flour for a batch of cookies is a great example of how using various senses can reinforce learning.
- Craft projects help with learning shapes and measuring.
Larry Martinek, Co-founder of Mathnasium also points out, “Kids respond best to multi-faceted learning which is why we employ mental, verbal, visual, tactile, and written techniques.”
This is why involving kids in baking or crafting projects works so well. Pointing out how math is all around us can help children understand that math is a part of life not just a subject at school. At some point they might just learn to love math.
The founders and staff at Mathnasium believe that, “every child is good at math — some just don’t know it yet.”
Story by Julia Osgood
Story Sponsored by Mathnasium
This article was posted by Julia Osgood