Helping your child learn math

MathematicsFamilies play an important role in helping children learn about numbers, counting, and other math skills. One important tip for parents is to know that Mathematics is not about right or wrong. Rather it is about engaging in a process of reasoning whose validity can be checked by others. Because a lot of emphasis has been placed merely on the correct answer, we tend to lose sight of the process children engage in to solve problems. My best advice to parents is to always ask what we call the “fundamental question”: how do you know?

Here are more tips for working with your child.

If your child figures out the answer mentally:

  • Ask how she figured it out;
  • Ask what numbers she thought of;
  • Use larger numbers, asking the problem again;
  • Ask for a second strategy.

If your child is unsure:

  • Give plenty of wait time;
  • Make sure your child understands the story;
  • Retell the story with names and objects your child is familiar with;
  • Suggest a tool that will allow your child to represent what is happening in the story.

If your child is incorrect:

  • Ask how she solved the problem;
  • Ask if she can solve it a second way;
  • Use smaller numbers;
  • Move on … You’ve learned that this is a hard problem for your child. See here for suggestions.

Once you understand your child’s thinking, you can make decisions about what to do next. For example, if your child solved a problem correctly, but did not use proper notation, you can show your child how to properly notate it. Or if your child has mastered a concept, you can use their understanding to build on a new concept. For example, use a repeated addition strategy to move into multiplication. As you do this again and again, you’ll get a better feel for how to manage these transitions. To help get you started thinking about these topics, check out these examples.