Today I was glancing through my overstocked bookshelf, mentally planning what books to buy for my kids and I, when we go to London for a few weeks in the summer. The choice of books in London bookshops is much broader than the choice of books here in the Middle East, especially when it comes to books that parents can use to help their children with school subjects.
Even when shopping for books in London or even on Amazon, it can be too easy to become obsessed with finding the “perfect” maths textbook. The problem with most maths textbooks, if I may put on my Dr Seuss hat, can be summarised as; too boring, too pricey, too big, too small, too detailed, too brief, not what I need at all!
This got me thinking about the many people who have asked me about which maths textbooks to buy, to help their kids with maths. I usually give people suggestions based on books I’ve used or books that I’ve flicked through that seem good, but what can you do if you can’t get hold of them or if my suggested maths textbooks aren’t suitable for your child?
Use any ol’ maths textbook
In most situations you’re looking to tutor your child because; a) they’ve done the work at school but didn’t understand it fully; b) they’re bright and you want them to try new/harder work;
Get them to have a look at the example and try the first question.
If they’re student (a) they’ll have met the topic before, so even if they’re lacking in confidence because they didn’t understand it first time round, at least it won’t be completely new. If they’re student b) then in most cases they’ll cope easily with this type of self study exercise. 90% of standard maths textbooks are set up the same way, with an example at the top, then anything from a few to a few gazillion questions to make sure the work is understood, boring, but it works and remember practice makes perfect!
Some kids are going to say “I don’t get it!”
If that’s the case, sit down with them and read through the examples together , that should calm most kids. Go over the example several times if need be. The last resort is to show them how to do the first question. If this is the case, show them 5 times if you need to, but be patient. Finally, insist they have a go at the next 2 questions or so, then show you when they’ve finished them.
Of course there are some prerequisites here:
You need to have read through the examples yourself and be able to understand them – after all you’re going to ask your child to do the questions:)
Get them to answer the first few, the last few and a few in the middle, I suggest you stop after 20 minutes total (it’s not like you’re paying $40 per hour and need to get full use of the time!) If there are problems, take a break, and just pick them up next session, tomorrow is another day, and sometimes students panic when faced with difficult work. These things sometimes need time to filter into the brain. What has been your experience of using any ol’ textbook with your child?