At this time of year the 'back to school' buzz is in full swing and everyone wants their child to succeed. If your student has concerns with math, then this may be the thing that they fear the most. For some students, math fills them with anxiety to the point that they will feign illness, skip class and do just about anything to get out.
As a parent or teacher, this can be a very serious concern but there are some things that you can do to help your child deal with their math demons.
- Be positive about math. As a teacher, I've spoken to many parents who tell me that they hate or fear math. Some openly admit that they can't do math and hence can not help their child. As the #1 role model of your child, that tells them that its okay to have a negative attitude towards math. It also excuses them from trying because if you can't do it, then why would they need it? Even if you can not actually help them solve the problem that they are doing, being positive will encourage them to try a little harder.
- Ask them to explain what they have been doing leading to the problem. Educational Psychologists have shown that teaching and explaining helps retention and cognition far more than listening to lectures or reading. The reason for this is that you can't just go through the motions. You have to actually think about what you are doing and how and examine why each step follows from the last. Being active and asking questions will force your kid to examine their steps and find any mistakes that they may have made.
- Use online resources. There are some excellent youtube videos online that explain procedures and give dozens of examples. Talking about the videos and writing out the steps with your child will help them understand what they are doing and why. Not only that, it might help remind you of what they need to do so you can help them more!
- Avoid leaving the assignment to the last minute. Its easy to put off the thing that you don't like doing but if you know that your son or daughter has math homework and is avoiding doing it, help them by getting it done first. If they are less tired and stressed while attempting the assignment, they are more likely to be successful at it. If they have a good attempt at it and still can not do it, then they will have plenty of time to contact the teacher.
- Contact the teacher. As a teacher, I know that I prefer students to come to me before the deadline to tell me that they had difficulty. This isn't because its eating into my golf time, but because I can make more time to help your child if they come to me sooner rather than later. I would also try to encourage students to contact their teacher themselves. Some students find it difficult to ask for help, but keeping open lines of communication will help in the long run.
With a positive attitude, healthy communication, use of resources available and good timekeeping, your child can reduce the stress associated with math. While these steps may not turn your middle schooler into a math genius overnight, it may help them sleep better, enjoy math classes more and hopefully help their understanding as well.