Thursday, October 7, 2010

Fall Tips to Help Your Child Succeed in Math

As a parent, you are in a unique position to help set your child on a course toward math success. Here are four things you can do now that will make a difference all year long:

Instill a Sense of Confidence
Many children start off the year with math anxiety.  Some even feel a sense of impending doom growing out of last year's bad math experiences. As a teacher, I know how destructive these hidden fears can be.  Surfacing and identifying your child’s feelings can help him/her let go of old baggage and approach the new year with confidence.  Help your child develop a realistic plan for success this year, and give lots of reassurance that you’ll be there to help. And don’t forget to bring your child’s math teacher into the conversation early on! 

Schedule for Success
Math learning is largely a matter of persistence. In his best-selling book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell quotes research that finds that the common denominator of successful people is a specific number of hours of practice. Through careful planning now, either by purchasing a math software program, or studying together, you can help your child succeed in math by accomplishing those hours of practice. And remember, avoiding over scheduling is key. If your child has no room for down time because of boy scouts, soccer, choir, music lessons and an after-school job, he or she will make room -- during homework and study time! 

Prepare Your Child for the “Work” Part of Learning
Math takes repeated effort and a child who has no idea of goal-oriented effort, self-restraint and focus is not likely to be a successful student. The only way your child will master these skills is through practice.  Giving your child tasks that are unrelated to short-term personal gratification, through a structured system of chores, can also introduce the idea that - over time, - repetitive work can lead to achieving valued family and personal objectives.  

Become Your Child’s Math Helper
Even the brightest and hardest working math students get disappointing grades sooner or later.  In my experience as a teacher, parents are the key to helping children take isolated failure with good grace and get quickly back on the road to math success.  Give your child permission to admit not understanding a lesson or unit without fear of recrimination.  Help him/her understand the cause of the problem and work together to develop a strategy to overcome it.  It’s a great lesson in math -- and life! 

After a summer filled with glorious freedom and pure fun, many children now suddenly find themselves mired in the dreaded Back to School Blues.  Not surprisingly, most kids find it hard to work up much enthusiasm for another year of homework and tests.  But as a math teacher with many years of experience working with children of all ages, I know that a successful reentry into the world of structured and outcome-based learning is the essential foundation to a student’s success throughout the school year.   

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