Is Math a Struggle?
Is your child struggling with math, but you’re not sure exactly what you can do to help him? If you’re a homeschooling parent, perhaps you have tried more than one curriculum, but still your child struggles. Perhaps your child attends regular school, and he is not able to consistently perform well in math despite spending a lot of time doing math homework, etc.
Maybe the root problem of your child’s lack of success in math is that he has many holes in his math education. Don’t worry, though. You can work on filling in holes in his math education.
Identify Possible Math Holes
You realize that your child probably has some math holes, but what are they? The first step in finding out is to begin checking off whether the child knows certain important math concepts.
Checking for Math Holes
- Does your child know what the % sign means? Not knowing a lot of simple things can cause big problems. Make sure the child knows that the % sign means to divide by 100. For example 25% is the same as 25 ÷ 100.
- Can your child write division 3 different ways and is he comfortable going from one way to any of the other 2 ways? The child should be able to write division using the ÷ symbol, the √ symbol, or the fraction bar. For example, 3 divided by 5 can be written as 3÷5, 5√3, and 3/5.
- Is your child familiar with commonly used words used in math? For example, does your child realize that “of” means to multiply and that “is” means equals to? To help your child have more success with word problems, make sure he understands commonly used words in math.
- Can your child quickly tell you the perfect squares from 0 to 144 (or, even better, to 225)? The child needs to know perfect squares so he can calculate the square roots of numbers.
- Does your child regularly use a calculator to perform arithmetic operations? You don’t want your child to become dependent on a calculator for doing arithmetic calculations like addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. He needs to keep his arithmetic skills sharp by almost always performing these calculations WITHOUT using a calculator.
How Do I know If My Child Has a Hole in a Particular Area?
Given a possible hole, how are you going to decide whether or not your child lacks understanding in that area?
- You can give him a short quiz. You can assess whether or not the child knows how to do something without any direction or help from you. Try to encourage the child to do his best, and tell him that the quiz is just to help you to determine if he needs help on a particular topic. Try not to make the quiz too long.
- You can ask him a series of questions related to the topic. For example, you could simply ask your child what does the % sign mean. If he is able to tell you that the % sign means to divide by 100 or says something about it telling you how many parts out of 100 you have, you could then give him a problem to calculate. Ask him to change 7% to a fraction to see if he is able to tell you that 7% = 7/100. If he gets that question correct, give him a few more problems until you are confident that he knows what the % sign means and how to mathematically work with a percent.
- You can ask the child to teach the concept to a younger sibling to see if he truly does have a thorough understanding of the concept.
If you discover that your child does have a hole in a particular area, don’t panic. Tell your child that you are going to work with him (or you are going to seek out resources) to try to improve his understanding of the concept. One of the main points is to really focus on that concept until the child truly does understand. Tell your child that you and he are in this together!
Shenek Alston is a homeschooling mom of four with a PhD in Statistics and a BS in Math. She has years of experience tutoring kids in math and believes that many kids don’t do well in higher levels of math, such as algebra, because they have so many holes in their math foundation. If you need additional help identifying possible math holes in your child’s math education, check out her blog, www.bridgingfundamentals.com. Let’s help our kids do better in math by making sure they don’t have holes in their math education.