School closures during the COVID-19 pandemic has put a lot of parents in the unusual and challenging obligation of home-schooling their children. Here are 6 useful tips about math home learning and teaching - even once the epidemic will be over.
1. Talk about math and practice basic math with your kids for 10 to 30 minutes... every other day
Do you remember the time when teachers did all the talking at the chalkboard in front of a class of students sitting quietly? A really poor method. Discussion is key during math lessons. Teachers and parents have to teach their kids that we learn better by listening to each other and sharing knowledge. As often as possible, set aside your own ideas and ask questions about what your kids said, like "tell me more..." or "how do you know that?"
2. Attitude about math matters a lot
Three aspects of kids' relationships with mathematics influence how they engage in this field: their emotional disposition (I like or I don't like math), their perceived competence (I'm or I'm not good at math), and their vision of math (is math about understanding and problem solving, or only about memorization). It's important to foster a positive attitude, avoiding at all costs negative statements such as "I don't like math" or "I'm not a math person," while emphasizing that mistakes are normal and can even be highly beneficial in the process.
3. Let your kids fail, it's for their own good
Paradoxically, and in many circumstances, failure helps to build confidence. Self-confidence comes from mastery and mastery comes from practice. Don't try to be the expert and admit it when you're not sure of something. The main goal is not for you to be an expert, but to make your child an expert. In order to improve their practice and mastery, both parents and children need (together, and of course always kindly) to analyze what went right and what went wrong.
4. Learning and teaching is a partnership
Learning and teaching is a partnership, which implies people working "together". This means that "all-knowing" teachers making all the decisions are not well suited for this job. Sometimes the teacher should be the learner and the student the teacher. Traditional math education, provided by authoritative teachers, or controlling parents, can be a major cause of math anxiety.
5. How to develop basic math skills
There are always many different ways to solve a specific math problem. A good method is to ask your kids to share their own solution and then to compare it with yours. Let's take a very simple example:
What is 25 x 5?
A. 25 + 25 + 25 + 25 + 25 = 125.
B. Multiply 20 x 5 to get 100. Then, multiply 5 x 5 to get 25. Finally, add the two figures: 100 + 25 = 125.
6. Encourage your kids to use their fingers to do math
Encourage your kids to use their fingers to count, add, subtract, multiply, etc. Our brains are closely related to our fingers and we are really lucky to have 2 hands and 10 fingers (plus 2 feet and 10 toes). Why not use these incredible natural tools?
Picture: Arcanys Early Learning Foundation