I’ll let you in on a secret about teaching: there is no place in the world where it rolls along smoothly without problems. Only in articles and books can that happen.
—Dr. Ruth Beechick
You Can Teach Your Child Successfully
Learning math is an adventure into the unknown. The ideas we adults take for granted are a wild, unexplored country to our children. Like any traveler in a strange land, they will stumble over rocky places and meet with unexpected detours.
Whenever I visit a parenting forum, I feel compassion for the families who are struggling with math. No other school subject elicits such depths of frustration and despair:
- I’ve explained until I’m hoarse, and she still doesn’t get it. Help!! I want to pull my hair out.
- My child is not a mathy person at all. Now he’s convinced that he’s “dumb.”
- She says she can’t do it. She says she hates math. She says she can’t think. She hits her head and pounds her fists in frustration. I am so tired of fighting over math Every. Single. Day.
- The problem is not him … It’s me. I am a failure at math.
- I am sooooo struggling to teach my daughter math. Please, does anybody else deal with this? I will try anything!
Yes, There IS Hope!
Solving the problems of math education is not easy. Situations have built up over years, so they will take time to resolve.
But children are resilient, so improvement may not take as long as you fear.
No matter how much your family has struggled, there is hope. If children can get over the “I’m no good at math” mental block, they can learn all of elementary arithmetic in one school year of determined study.
Does that seem unbelievable? Consider Daniel Greenberg’s experience:
Math as a Second Language
If math feels like a strange and dangerous wilderness to your children, you may need an experienced guide to lead you through the rough spots. For arithmetic, try Herb Gross’s Math as a Second Language webpages:
For upper-level math topics, explore Murray Bourne’s Interactive Mathematics pages or take a look at Kalid Azad’s Better Explained site:
- Ten Ways to Survive the Math Blues and Interactive Mathematics Index
- Developing Your Intuition For Math and Math Better Explained Index
About the Let’s Play Math FAQ Series
The questions in this blog post series will be based on actual forum discussions, though I always change the details, removing anything that might identify the families involved.
We’ll look at a variety of struggles with math, such as:
- Lifelong Learning for Parents
- Primary Level Problems
- Middle Grade Mishaps
- The Agonies of Algebra
- Gaps and Standardized Testing
The questions will cover a wide range of common frustrations that resonate with anyone who has tried to explain an abstract idea to a confused child. Some questions apply specifically to homeschool math, yet non-homeschooling families can use many of the resources I recommend to supplement their children’s schoolwork or to keep skills sharp over the summer.
In my FAQ post answers, I will assume you are working with children of normal intelligence, facing the mental strengths and weaknesses that are common to us all. The human brain is not designed for working with abstraction, so most people find math difficult.
But some face additional hardship because their minds are unable to process numbers and related concepts. If you suspect one or more of your children may struggle with a learning disability, please have them tested and get advice from someone who can help you learn to deal with their special circumstances.
Auditory or vision problems, undiagnosed food allergies, and a family crisis or other emotional strain may also affect a child’s concentration. Sometimes, the best way to help your children learn math is to let it go and deal with other issues first.
To be continued . . .
This post is an excerpt from my book Let’s Play Math: How Families Can Learn Math Together—and Enjoy It, as are many of the articles in my Let’s Play Math FAQ series.
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