There was a time that the United States of America had some of the highest mathematic scores in the world for students in grades k through 12. A lot has changes since those days, and in order to help children get back on the path to being good mathematical students parents need to play an important role. Parents can assist with developing a lot of the fundamental skills needed for children to succeed in math when they attend school. Parents can do things that will support the schools and hopefully the schools will do the rest.
In order to develop a student that has good math skills, a parent must play a key role in the learning process. In addition to parents, teachers and other family members are very important to a child’s mathematical development. Elementary teachers and parents play the biggest role in a child’s mathematical development, especially from Kindergarten through Fourth Grade. Time spent in school learning math or not learning math can never be replaced. Parents should make sure the elementary math teacher is knowledgeable and is a good teacher. Anything less could cause children to suffer a tremendous loss. The teacher that parents should be trusting to teach their child math is a person that will challenge their child regardless of their age. In addition to the challenges, the teacher should encourage children to try hard. Children need to know that their teacher cares about them and is not just trying to give them a lot of hard work. This teacher should believe in giving homework every night. Homework reinforces what was taught and learned in class and gives the parent and the teacher a chance to see if the child understands that information.
I have observed teachers who really challenge their students to achieve higher order thinking These teachers take their students as early as the Second Grade and teach them how to add, subtract, multiply and divide using only their bran. We call this Mental Math. When I observed a Second Grade Class that had their students mentally answering math computation questions, I put my own son in that class. Shortly after being enrolled, He, too, learned how to do Mental Math. From that point on, math was my son’s best subject. Teachers can really make a difference and parents can help affect change.
The parent’s role in their child’s math development is very important and should start as young as possible. Teaching young children how to count, add and subtract numbers in their head without pencil and paper can stimulate the brain to think mathematically. Parent s can start the process by teaching children how to count from one to one hundred. Teaching children how to mentally figure out math problems should also be part of this process. They can start with asking simple math questions and going on to harder questions, as the child gets older. Parents should continually ask children mathematical computation questions and give positive feedback when they respond. Children love to receive positive feedback and that encourages continues growth.
In addition to mental math activities, children should be given grade level mathematics workbooks to strengthen their math skills. Parents should have these books and other subject content books at home for additional practice and homework. These can be purchased from bookstores, teacher supply stores and multiple-purpose department stores where school or office supplies are sold. As children become more confident in their math skills, give them worksheets one grade level above their current grade. Help them if necessary, but when students become successful in the upper level workbooks; their confidence will really improve. The seed will be planted early and parents can watch as it grows.
A parent must know what level of math and any other subject, for that matter, that their child is performing at every school year. When children enter kindergarten and the school recommends that children know their ABC’s and know how to count to twenty or whatever number, it is the parent’s responsibility to make sure the child is prepared prior to enrolling in school. Also, when the child is in the second or third grade and their child can’t add simple two digit numbers, it is up to the parent to make sure that their child gets the extra help needed to become successful. Parents cannot wait on the school every time their child has an academic deficiency. Part of being a good parent is making sure that your child functions at the correct grade level throughout their academic career.
Another strategy involves allowing your child to spend some time on a computer playing math games. The computer can be a wonderful resource that supports math and other subject area skills. Software is available that will measure a child’s math skill level. Some of the software is developed in a game format. Children will think that they are playing a game, but in reality are actually learning math. Technology can be great, but I must warn parents to not allow children to spend a lot of unsupervised time on the computer.
Another recommendation for parents is to not allow children to utilize calculators at an early age. Children need to first develop their brains to be able to do mathematical computations on their own. Constantly using calculators at a young age can stunt the mathematical growth of children. If children develop math skills by mentally thinking of the answer to simple problems, they will be better prepared for everyday life, such as grocery shopping, balancing a checkbook, to name a few. For example, all children should learn their multiplication tables by the third grade. They should be able to repeat them, verbally, without using a calculator. Children in elementary school who rely on the calculator for the answers are creating math deficiencies, which could have a negative impact on their math development.
In addition to good teachers and involved parents, children should be involved in extracurricular activities that support math. In the state of Michigan, students can join a club at their school that plays a game called Academic Games. This form of gaming is challenging for children. It helps them to develop their academic skills as well as their math skills. Children can start playing these games as early as the second grade. This form of gaming will teach children how to play the game of Equations, a form of Algebra, at the age of seven. These skills are called Higher Order Thinking Skills. The children also compete locally, state wide, and on the national level. The experience is invaluable. There are also other mathematical games and clubs that children can join that will help develop skills and are fun. Parents should contact their local school district or state level office of Gifted and Talented Programs for this information.
Children can take classes from various organizations that will support their mathematical development. These organizations may offer classes in the summer or on the weekends. Some of the classes can teach children how to build robots, toy cars, toy airplanes, etc. These classes may be in the area of engineering, computer science or some other technical field. The classes can be taught at the various colleges or universities in the local area. This is a community outreach for the colleges and universities, but children will develop social and academic skills that will carry over to their classroom and on to adulthood.
When trying to develop good math students, all avenues should be tried. Parents can make additional progress by allowing children to visit work locations that utilize a lot of math. Children should be exposed to as many careers as possible. Careers in math and even science should be on their list of considerations. Parents should inform children which careers require them to have good math skills.
Parents who are positively involved with their children and want the best for them will make sure their children are keeping up with their math skills and are successful in school. The strategies utilized in this article are a sample of the many ways parents can make sure their child is developing strong mathematical skills. The number one way to help a child develop good math skills is to have their parents positively and actively involved with their educational journey.