Parents can help children improve their maths skills

Career & Education

Parents can help children improve their maths skills

Monday, January 20, 2020

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It is unfortunate that many students find mathematics challenging since, at least at the secondary level, it is usually compulsory for advancement in school, and is often required in the workplace.

Foundational mathematics — basic skills such as counting, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and measuring — is the most important factor in overall mathematics performance. It is taken for granted that children will learn these at school, but research is clear that as parents are a child's first teachers, their success in any subject increases significantly when they support them in their work at home.

It is therefore a matter of necessity that parents become involved in their children's education early on and remain involved to ensure that our children are ready for secondary-level education. Regrettably, many parents themselves dislike mathematics. However, parental involvement is irrespective of the parents' knowledge of the subject, as it does not necessarily only mean helping your child to solve problems; rather, in a borader sense, it means actively encouraging your child and maintaining a positive attitude towards the subject.

So, please put away whatever distaste you have for the subjec and support your child! Do not speak negatively about the subject. Refrain from saying “mathematics is hard” or “I hate mathematics”. An optimistic attitude goes a long way. Bear in mind that mathematics can be likened to a muscle, and to build strong muscles, practise is critical.

In helping your child, it is important to note that the goal should always be to make the subject real or relatable. Parents must foster the relevance of mathematics to life in general. Also, make it exciting and enjoyable where possible as mathematics requires work and most children would not naturally gravitate to work. Application to real-life situations such as estimating supermarket bills, reading recipes, counting cars as they pass by are simple activities that reinforce basic mathematical skills, which are also fun.

Parents can also help their children with maths by:

• Explaining that there is more than one way to solve a problem

Although a maths problem generally has one answer, sometimes there is more than one way to arrive at this answer. Encourage your child to try new ways if he or she is having difficulty.

• Analysing wrong answers

Make use of incorrect answers by pointing out how and why they were wrong. Perhaps a concept was not clear, or simple/basic mistakes were made. If your mathematics skills are not strong, speak to the teacher or hire a tutor.

• Reading books with a mathematical theme

There are a range of such books available in stores as well as online.

• Making use of opportunities to use maths talk

While driving, you can have children (depending on age) count backwards, recite timetables, count by fives, etc.

• Pointing out fractions

Some kids have difficulty mastering the concept of fractions. Help establish this concept in real life, eg a pizza, sharing a chocolate bar, slicing a cake, etc.

• Encouraging children to show their caculation process

Some children prefer to work out problems in their head rather than show step by step calculation. When they show their steps it becomes easier to discover and correct mistakes. Writing out work is especially useful for more complicated questions.

• Playing mathematics games

There are numerous games that can be played with your children such as dominoes, chess, cards, and memory games. This is also a chance for the family to get together.

When all is said and done, if your child is still struggling with mathematics it doesn't mean that they are not smart. Neither are they lazy. Many times these children are putting in extra effort and just need additional support and time to improve. Some children may even experience 'maths anxiety' due to excess pressure at school and at home. This can result in poor self-esteem among other problems.

Be patient with your child and offer help, not criticism. Talk to the teacher and if necessary, consider peer tutoring or a private tutor. If the problem appears severe, you may consider evaluating your child professionally to discover the possible root cause and to be advised on possible solutions. It is of utmost importance that you do not make your child feel inferior or dumb. Most of all do not despair, there are always strategies that can help.

Dr Karla Hylton, UWI lecturer in biology, is the author of Yes! You Can Help Your Child Achieve Academic Success and Complete Chemistry for Caribbean High Schools . Reach her at (876) 564-1347, or .

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