For 28 years, Tutoring For Success has helped children with almost every academic subject. Guess which subject is requested most? You guessed it – math!
Math is a Build-up of Skills
Did you ever watch a TV series like Downton Abbey or Severance? Try watching a random episode and see if you can figure out what is going on. For many current TV series, as well as soap operas, you have to start at the beginning and watch the episodes in order to follow the plot. Math is the same way. If you don’t master the multiplication tables, you will struggle with fractions. If you don’t master fractions, you will struggle with algebra. For math, it is most important to keep up. When children hate math or have difficulty with math, the most likely reason is that they didn’t master an important skill or two along the way. Another reason is that they learned by rote rather than understanding the concepts – the difference between short term and long term memory.
Math can be challenging and fun. The problem in the photo above was recently disputed on Twitter and Facebook. (Using the order of operations Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally, the answer is 16.)
Why I love Math
Understanding how numbers, shapes, and mathematical concepts work is a gift. Here are the top 8 reasons I love Math:
- The answer is exact. While language arts, history, and science have much nuance and ambiguity, math problems usually have one correct answer.
- Finding that answer brings a wonderful feeling of satisfaction.
- Math is about patterns, and understanding patterns brings a sense of understanding how the world works. Did you ever play Tetris? What a great feeling, seeing those shapes winding around each other!
- Math is a universal language. You can communicate with people throughout the world, and students who immigrate from other countries have one subject they can already do.
- Understanding mathematical concepts helps build problem solving and logic skills of all kinds. This is why geometry, trigonometry, and calculus are studied in high school even though most students will never use many of these direct skills.
- There are many possible approaches to get the correct answer. Understanding at least two approaches demonstrates an understanding of the concept.
- Math and statistics are essential to science.
- Solving mathematical problems and puzzles challenges your brain.
Why Some Students Don’t Enjoy Math
- They did not learn math facts fluently.
- Some have not been taught math using real world applications, making math too abstract for them.
- Some need more practice.
- Others need less practice.
- Some have a negative mindset.
- Many need extra individualized assistance.
Explaining points 3 and 4: Some students need extra practice to catch on. Other students catch on quickly and get annoyed when assigned too many math problems. This is why math homework should be individualized. If it isn’t, parents or students can talk to the teacher to come up with the appropriate number of math problems.
Explaining point 5: Do not say to your child, “I wasn’t good at math either.” If your child complains that they are not good at math, a good answer is, “Not yet. With practice and extra help, you will improve.” While we tend to prefer and excel in some areas rather than others, our brains are elastic and can change. I once worked with a trumpet player who told me that she was terrible at trumpet when she first started. She persevered, improved, and learned to love it. Now she plays trumpet for a living with the U.S. Army Band. Similarly, many people who once struggled with math persevered and learned to love it.
Some children catch on right away to math facts (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.) Others take years to learn their facts, but do learn eventually. Keep at it. Give your children mental math problems on a regular basis: in the car, while waiting on line, or in between activities. Make it more and more challenging. (e.g. 80-50, 85-53, 87-58)
Many children say they hate word problems. However, the usefulness of math is all about word problems. I don’t think most elementary school curricula contain enough. Yet, the SAT and ACT contain mostly word problems. Conquer the fear by making it a part of your life. Do math with recipes, art projects, building projects, road trips, and anything else you can think of. Come up with challenging problems that the family can work on together.
If you see your child fall behind in math, jump right in. Individual help from a parent, sibling, friend, relative, or tutor can make all the difference. Weekly help can assure that your child stays on top. More information on how to get a tutor
By Cheryl Gedzelman, President, Tutoring For Success, Inc.