Sometimes it can seem that teachers and parents are pulling in opposite directions regarding the child’s maths education. It shouldn’t be that way! With the right encouragement on both sides, parents and teacher can work in a partnership for the benefit of all concerned, adults and child. Here are 5 things parents can learn from a teacher’s perspective that will help their child at maths.
1. Mathematics is really important. I mean, really really important.
When your child is comfortable with using mathematics in a variety of situations, she or he can apply it “across the curriculum”. This means that when we are measuring liquids in science or drawing a graph to represent data collected in a geography or social studies lesson, for example, the child can see the mathematics that is needed, and use it correctly to make sense of the topic in which it is applied. This isn’t true just in the classroom. Your child’s teacher can see that the things your child will need as an adult revolve around having confidence in a wide range of skills, many of which depend on mathematical thinking.
2. Mathematics is a language which everyone needs to speak
Your child’s teacher sees mathematics as a language your child needs in order to understand parts of the world into which she or he is growing. Just as if you visited a foreign country without knowing the language, if you delve into mathematics without speaking the lingo, you’ll be unable to talk to the people you meet, unable to read the signs around you, and basically you will be isolated from engaging in that world. Sadly, teachers see children every day who face this isolation whenever there is mathematics to be done. The teacher says “Let’s use math to work that out”, and the students look as if she’s suggested that they walk on hot coals and they are looking for ways to get out of the activity. Can you help by encouraging your child to see how knowing the language of maths is really important?
3. Doing well in mathematics will help your child to solve all sorts of problems
Mathematicians are often the butt of jokes, often about their focus on abstract things and their lack of social skills. But the fact is, someone really, genuinely brilliant at mathematics is likely to be one of the most logical, reliable, focused individuals you’ll ever meet, with an ability to hold multiple pieces of information in his or her mind simultaneously while working out a problem’s solution.
Your child will need abilities to reason, to make connections, examine underlying assumptions and find the answers to seemingly intractable problems, whatever field is entered as an adult. If you doubt that, look at the many posts on Inside Maths about the math used by people in a wide range of professions. We allneed maths, basically.
4. Maths is everywhere!
You know this, of course. You use mathematics every day, from when you open your eyes for a bleary look at the alarm clock and try to figure out how many minutes you can afford to stay in bed, until you try to program the video recorder and have to work out how many minutes extra you need to allow on the end of “X Factor” to avoid missing the end.
Children don’t see the mathematics that is all around them, until they are attuned to it. And if they struggle with school maths, they probably try to avoid thinking in that domain at all. You can show your child the maths you use every day in a hundred different ways (at least!). When you are making the family’s lunches, you could talk about the shapes you cut the sandwiches (“Do you want rectangles, or triangles?”) or the fractions of cut fruit (“I’m going to cut your apple into quarters, so it is easier for you to eat”). In my blog I have included a number of podcast videos in which I point out mathematics I noticed while on holidays; that’s another idea you could use. Here’s an example, from Cardiff Castle and Stonehenge, UK.
5. You can have FUN with maths – really!
Again, this is really important if your little cherub says that she or he “hates maths” or that “maths is boring”. Sometimes adults make the mistake of using maths as a punishment – do you remember having to write out your times tables because you were talking in class? While knowing your times tables is vital for success in mathematics, the problem here is that this sends the wrong message – that mathematics is boring, hard work, something you do that stops you having fun doing something you enjoy, etc., etc. How can you make mathematics fun? Actually, it is easier for parents than for teachers. You can do maths in the middle of other fun, family activities, away from the pressures of curriculum and the busy, hectic work of the teacher. How about playing a game of monopoly? (Of course, this should be the “old fashioned” version with paper money and no calculator!)
Playing Monopoly is great practice for children in addition and subtraction as they exchange money. Sports are another great source of lots of mathematics. Some parents reward their sport-playing child with a certain monetary reward per goal or point they score in the game. Or Dad and his son or daughter can enjoy working out the winning margin while they enjoy watching a game together on the TV.
Dr Peter Price has many years’ experience of helping others to teach mathematics, and has a passion for seeing children switched on to the beauty, the usefulness and the sheer fun of mathematics. You can read more of Peter’s work over at Classroom Professor, where there are lots of resources to help teachers of mathematics, including free worksheets and more articles like this one. Check out more resources on the Classroom Professor Facebook page, or follow Peter on Twitter.