Hello, I’m Caroline from Maths Insider, www.mathsinsider.com and today I am going to answer a question from a Maths Insider reader who asked, “How can I make sure I’m not confusing my child when they ask me to help with their math homework?”
1. Find out what math they know
So I’ve got three tips, No.1, have a look at the homework and ask them to explain to you what they actually do understand, and if that draws a blank and they give you that look like, “I actually don’t understand anything, I don’t get it at all,” then try to ask them an easier example to see if they’ve got any understanding at all of the topic. For example if they come home with 247 divided by 23 and they don’t understand it, ask them, ”Okay so, how about if it were 24 divided by 3? Well how about if it were 243 divided by 3?” Try an easy example and see if they can actually explain to you how they would get the answer with an easier example.
2. Google the math
No. 2, the next tip, because sometimes even that tip doesn’t work, is to actually Google it and not just Google “long division” but actually put “long division year 4 Australian curriculum” or “long division year 5 UK curriculum” or” long division grade 4 curriculum” and you’re going to get some very good results hopefully. Now you’ll probably get some websites, but also look at the video results because you might get some good YouTube videos and click on images as well because especially the images result might bring in some really good results from Pinterest which might be just some visual short cuts of what method to use, so that’s another good tip.
3. Phone a friend
And the last tip No. 3, which is kind of a last resort, but it might work, is to ask somebody. So ask on Facebook, because people like to be seen to be good at maths, and so if you just put a quick call out on Facebook to say “Hey, my child’s come home with long division and yea I know how to do long division, but it looks as if they’re using a division type of method and I don’t know what method they’re using” and you’ll likely get somebody, some people, who will respond and will know what current method is being used in schools. You can also look on forums as well or Facebook groups, but even amongst your Facebook friends you’ll likely to have somebody who may actually want to help out and say ,”Well, they’re doing this,” or “This is the method my child used last year.” So it’s always worth asking.
So tip No. 1. Ask your child to explain to you what methods they’ve been taught and perhaps with an easier example than the actual example they’re stuck on. Also have a quick look at the homework and see if there’s a question they’ve managed to do and ask them to explain it to you.
Which math skills does my child need to learn first?
“How can he be 13 years old and not know long division? How did that happen?”
That was an actual quote from a distraught parent whose child had just done “not so well” on the Diagnostic Test that Thinkster Math (formerly Tabtor) gives to all new students. It’s often the case that students struggle with a topic because they’ve either not had the chance to practice easier concepts or missed learning an easier concept entirely. So for this student, it may be that his times tables recall is weak or he’s making mistakes in subtraction or he just hasn’t learnt how to set out his log division work.
Math, like reading needs to build up from strong foundations.
Hello, I’m Caroline from www.mathsinsider.com and today I am going to answer a question from a Maths Insider reader which is, “Which math skills, and how to know which math skills my child needs to learn first?”
A logical order of math skills
So I’ll just briefly go over the kind of math skills that kids need to know. So they basically need to know how to count, then add, then subtract and then multiply and then divide and then work with fractions and then with decimals and then how to use all the skills with algebra. So it sounds really simple, but the school curriculum kind of chops and changes so they make sure they do simple addition in one school year and then they do harder addition the next school year and then they do double digit addition the next school year and triple digit addition the next school year and then they might introduce the times table this school year while they are still doing double digit addition, but they introduce it as number sequences and then they’ll do the times tables.
So it’s no wonder that parents get confused, because after they’ve done the times table they’re going to do short multiplication and then they’re going to do long multiplication and then another year they are going to repeat the short multiplication as an introduction to long multiplication and so parents can be left thinking “What are they doing?” They’ve been doing multiplication for ever and you know that is true.
How Kumon Does the Math
A program like Kumon, what they do, they do, they basically do addition, addition, addition, 1 digit, 2 digit, 3 digit, 4 digit, yes they add and then subtract, well they do addition and subtraction together, a bit of addition a bit of subtraction, a bit of addition a bit of subtraction and then only after addition and subtraction are perfect for like 4 digits, plus 4 digits, and 4 digits, take away 4 digits, do they do the multiplication tables and then once they know those then they do the division facts and then short multiplication, short division, long multiplication, long division and so that’s how come Kumon students are able to seemingly move forward very quickly whilst the school will be doing all these things in a broken up way because then they have also fit in shapes and measurements and time and angles and all the other things that the curriculum decides.
A Math Skills Strategy
But how does this help you as a parent when your child comes home with for example a question on dividing fractions? So when I first meet a new student and the parents say they’re stuck on dividing fractions, first of all I want to know do they know their times tables. Well actually I want to know can they add and also subtract but it’s kind of more polite to say, “Do you know your times tables?” especially when you’re talking to a child who maybe 12 or 13 years old and often times they are really hesitant, they don’t know them. It is not a case of being really fast, a fraction of a second, they must know the answer straight away, but they should be able to give you the answer within a few seconds and not panic. So in order to access that dividing by fractions, they are going to need to be able to work with the times tables relatively quickly and relatively comfortably, so it is a case of making sure all the foundation skills are built up. So if you do have your child coming to you with a question to do with fractions make sure they do know their times tables and also before that make sure they do know their addition and subtraction fact relatively easy and not having to count on their fingers and their toes and your fingers and your toes. So it is actually worth taking the time out to do that.
Don’t skip the basic math
Often times I have parents who starts working with me and I start working with their child and they said well, they need to know their times tables which is fine I can give them lots of time tables practice, but actually they do need to be able to do the column subtraction because later on when they are doing long division they’re going need to be able to subtract easily and accurately and times tables aren’t actually that difficult to learn, they just need a concentrated amount of time and they don’t even need to be quick, quick, quick as I said before. It’s the case to get the 4 times table, double and double it again and figuring out. Give your child the tools if they can’t memorize them then give them the tools to be able to get answers so that when later on they’re doing the long division, they are not having to count on to figure out how many times does four goes into 28. Then also they’ve got the problem they can’t subtract accurately, so they are making mistakes when they have to do the subtraction bit of the long division. So it is very important to make sure your child has all their foundational skills and it’s not that they have to be super speedy, that’s great if they can be, but they just need to be comfortable.
Have you ever worried that your child is under-achieving in math?
Whether your child is struggling with their math; your child seems to be “doing fine” in math class or your child is “top of the class” in math; as a parent, you’ve likely paused many a time to wonder if everything will be OK in the end when it comes your child’s math.
In fact, education research does show that student success in school increases if their parents are positively involved in their education.
Yes, your efforts count and it’s backed by solid data and experience!
However, it’s often difficult to know where to start and even worse, how you’re going to know if your efforts will pay off in the end. How can you make sure that your child will achieve LONG TERM Math success?
I’ve heard this concern from hundreds of parents over the years, so to tackle this important question, I’ve developed a free video series giving you 4 steps that you can use to guide your child to LONG-TERM math success.
You’ve come to the realization that your child needs to do some extra math, whether because they’re struggling with the subject, they could do with some extra math practise or in order to get ahead, but you know your child will likely be resistant. Find out how to overcome your child’s objections and encourage your child to do extra math using these 3 steps. The transcript of the video is below. Click here to watch the video on You Tube complete with subtitles.
Hello, I’m Caroline from www.mathsinsider.com and today I’m answering a Maths Insider reader’s question, “How can I get my child to do extra maths?”
Plant the seed that extra math is a positive thing
No. 1 is to seed the idea, so start talking to them about other children who are doing extra maths, “So, you know your friend X, they’ve started doing Kumon” or, “I heard from Y that the Thinkster Math (formerly Tabtor) program is very good” or, “I found this blog Maths Insider and it’s got some really cool ideas of how to get better at maths for kids.” So start seeding the idea and start mentioning it so that it’s not a complete shock for your child.
What math resource do THEY want to use?
No. 2 is when you decide that you are actually going to start your child doing extra maths, then get their feedback on what they want to do. So say, “Would you prefer to do some extra maths on the app?”,” Do you want me to print out some games?”,” Do you want to just do some worksheets?”,” Do you just want to use a maths text book?” Ask them what they prefer or perhaps videos. So ask for their feedback, ask for their input so that they feel this is something that’s not just happening to them, something that they have to do, but something that they have some element of choice in.
Fix a math time
No. 3 is to fix a time, just try to fix a regular time and again get your child’s input on it, when do they want to do it? In the car on the way to school? Do they want to do it in the morning or after breakfast or during breakfast? Do they want to do it straight away after school? Do they want to go to a tuition center? Do they want to do something just before they go to bed? So ask them what do they think would work in their schedule and also what kind of time frame, so say to them, “Well, okay if you don’t want to do 5 minutes every day then perhaps it’s better that we do a half an hour on a Saturday morning or an hour every couple of weeks” and ask them what they prefer, a little and often or just big chunks of time. Well little and often actually works better, but some children do work better with big chunks of time. So ask them what they prefer.
Encourage Your Child To Do Extra Math with These 3 Steps
So if I go back to number 1:
Number 1 is seed the ideas, so start talking about extra maths being something positive and it’s something that other children do.
Number 2 ask them how they want to do the extra maths, whether they want to use books or apps, videos or whatever resources.
Number 3 is to get your child to help you fix a regular time to do the extra maths.
Math anxiety, that is feelings of stress, fear and apprehension when it comes to doing math, is certainly real. In fact scientists have developed different ways to measure mathematical related anxiety including the MARS (Mathematics Anxiety Rating Scale) and the Fennema-Sherman Mathematics Attitudes Scales (FSMAS).
A child suffering from math anxiety is not necessarily “bad at math”, but the stress they feel in math class and the avoidance tactics they use to minimize the amount of math they need to do, mean that they often don’t get the much needed practise that leads to math fluency.
A research based approach to math anxiety
Fortunately, research has found that, when it comes to math anxiety, parents can offer a great deal of help and support to their children. The infographic below gives 8 science-backed, practical ways to help parents conquer their child’s math anxiety.
8 Practical Ways to Conquer Your Child’s Math Anxiety
1. Be involved
Student success in school has been shown to increase if their parents are positively involved in their education.
2. Encourage a growth mindset
Studies have shown that effort trumps ability when it comes to learning math, so set high expectations when encouraging your child.
3. Be positive about math
A parent’s perception of mathematics influences not only their child’s perception, but also their achievement in mathematics.
4. Overcome gender stereotypes
Foster math confidence regardless of the gender of your child by highlighting achievements made by both male and female scientists.
5. Learn the basics
Rote learning is essential to mathematics performance as a many higher level concepts build the memorization and repetition of the basic math facts.
6. Allow mistakes
Focus on the concepts rather than the right answer since making (and correcting) mistakes is an essential part of math learning.
7. Take baby steps
Support new topics by slowly building from the topics your child already understands. Use gradual, repeated success to build math confidence in your child.
8. Make math relevant to real life
Highlight ways in which you and your family use math in everyday life and discuss how good math skills will open the doors to a larger choice of career options.
Share this Infographic On Your Site
Please include attribution to www.MathsInsider.com with this graphic.
4 Tips to Help Your Child Learn Their Basic Math Facts
Hello, my name is Caroline Mukisa from the Maths Insider website and today I’m going to answer a question from a Maths Insider reader, “How can I get my child to learn the basic facts?”
So I’m going to first of all talk about how much effort is going to be needed to learn the basic facts and then I’m going to talk about the order in which to do the facts. Further, I’m going to talk about location, location, location, give you some good tips on where and when to do that kind of learning. And finally I’m going to give you a secret tip at the end.
Will learning the basic math facts take a lot of effort?
So first of all, how much effort is it going to take? Well, when I was a Kumon instructor, when I ran a Kumon center in London, my students were doing a lot of basic facts learning. So on the typical Kumon worksheet, say for example addition and subtraction, each student would be doing about 200 to 300 questions every day on that particular fact whether it’s +1s or +2s or a mixture of +1s and 2s. So that’s why Kumon kids are generally really, really fast in their basic arithmetic.
Now, I don’t do that with my own kids now and as a Thinkster Math (formerly Tabtor) instructor, each Thinkster Math worksheet has about 30 questions for the arithmetic section which is fine and some kids do two or three in a row so I guess they did 90. But to be frank, even if you can get 10 questions done or 5 questions done, or a few questions done several times a week, that’s brilliant, that’s better than doing nothing, okay? So don’t have in your head that this is going to be a huge, humongous task.You know, obviously if you want your kids to be really, really fast you’re going to need to put in some Kumon effort, some Kumon style effort. If you want them to be quite fast then put in some Thinkster Math effort and if you just want them to get the basic facts, then just do 10 questions several times a week.
Learn the basic math facts in this order
The next thing I’m going to go over is what order should you ask the questions? So I’ve got my whiteboard over here. So I’ve kind of got the 4 times tables, that my son was doing last week. I wrote them in order first, then in order again, and then in the next row I kind of skipped some and just wrote the odd number and then the even number times tables. So generally, try to do them in order. I would start with something that’s really easy. So if you know they’re struggling with their four times tables, start off with the two times tables. Give them that confidence by starting at an easier starting point.
So if you notice, for example, for addition, that they’re finding 8+5 difficult. (That 8+5 is the question I always ask my new Thinkster Math students. “What’s 8+5?”) If they can give me that quickly, then I know their arithmetic is generally okay. That’s just one of those facts that takes me a fraction of a second longer to get, so that’s why I picked 8+5. So if they’re struggling with 8+5, then give them an easier starting point. You could start with even the +1s and +2s and +3s and just give them the confidence to go fast. If they can do 9+3 quite quickly, then the leap from 9+3 to 8+5 isn’t that huge, but give them a running start, give them some easy work to get started with.
You don’t necessarily need to do the math facts at a desk
Taking my own advice from my Faster Times Tables website – use games to reinforce the times tables. Game board printed from the Twinkl website and LEGO game pieces custom built by my 8 year old!
The other thing I want to talk about is where should you do them. Well of course, you know, you’re probably thinking I’m going to sit in front of them and I’m going to ask them lots of questions or I’m going to make them do lots of times tables worksheets. That’s fine. If your child is happy with doing that, that’s great. My son, last week, was going through a stage where he really didn’t want to do worksheets, he didn’t even want to write the answers so I wrote the questions and then I wrote the answers when he shouted them out to me.
And I’ve got some spellings over here on the whiteboard. You can see my other son’s spellings, so he decides to write those on the board but when we practice spellings, actually we usually practice them in the bathroom and then he writes with the board pen on the shower stall. So you can use that tip or you can even use a window because some kids just like writing somewhere different.
Another great tip is to do them in the car. So this tip came from one of my Thinkster Math parents. So what she does is she gets her child to do Thinkster Math while she’s driving because that way she can hear when the child is getting questions right or wrong. There’s like an audio sound of the Thinkster Math app. If her daughter gets stuck, she can give her some advice. She can say, “Hey, watch the video or read the question again,” but she’s not actually sitting over her and saying, “Do this, this, and this,” because she can’t, she’s driving. So I think in the car is a great location. You’ll probably notice that when you ask your kids a question they’ll often look away while they think of the answer. Also, it’s kind of confrontational if you’re staring at them, “Hey, what’s 8×9?” So try that, try in the car so that there’s less pressure if they get the questions wrong.
Learn the math facts by making mistakes
And finally, my last tip, is allow them to make mistakes. It’s not a big deal, don’t react, “Ah, you don’t know what 8×9 is?!” Just tell them, “8×9,” if they get it wrong, “It’s 72. What’s 8×9?” They say, “72.” “What’s 8×9?” “72.” So just ask them a few times before moving on and then have in mind that that’s one of those times tables that you’re going to have to go and review.
Tips for learning the math facts
So if we go back to the beginning:
Do as many as you can. Lots will get through the process faster and your child will be faster at the basic facts. But even if you’re doing 10 facts several times a week, that’s fine, they’re going to get there.
Go in order, start with something that’s slightly too easy, that’s fine.
Do them in the car, on a whiteboard, on the window, on the shower stall. Just find somewhere really good to do them, somewhere different.(Actually, my son also likes playing board games so we adapted a board game and made it a times tables board game; using something we printed out.)
And finally, allow them to make mistakes.
So for more quick tips and practical advice to help your kids to maths success, go to the Maths Insider website: www.mathsinsider.com.
It’s been several years since I’ve conducted my last survey. It’s a shame and it means I haven’t done all I can to best understand and help you.
I’m determined, however, to make MathsInsider the best it can be for you, and it all starts with a brand new survey!
All answers are collected anonymously and your response will be a primary factor in shaping the future of what I do, what gets published, what the site looks like and ultimately your experience with MathsInsider.
I’m really excited, and I hope you’ll give a few minutes of your time to take this incredibly important audience survey.
I’ve already had some great responses:
How do do I keep my child motivated on a math program?
How can I help with their lack of understanding of the basics?
How can I help keep him interested in the homework that is mere repetition of the school lesson. He gets bored and demotivated?
So go ahead and fill the Maths Insider No.1 Challenge survey!
A career as an Animator is one of the math-related careers in my freebie PDF 21 Seriously Cool Careers that need math. So I was really excited when I heard that the animation superstars at Pixar had teamed up with the genius math folk at Khan Academy to bring an interactive learning experience called Pixar in a Box, showing how math is used to animate our favorite cartoon characters.
Pixar in a box in a box aims to
…show you how the concepts you learn in school are used to tackle creative challenges we face during the making of Pixar films. Along the way you’ll also learn a lot about Pixar’s filmmaking process….
Topics covered include:
Each topic includes a design activity (suitable for those ages 10 years+) followed by a math activity, some of which are suitable for 10 year olds and some which will need middle school or high school math knowledge. The Educators Guide gives suggested grade levels for each activity, as well as some additional offline activities.
There’s an active comments section under each video, where students can ask questions and there are math exercises to complete based on the particular math topic linked to the design activity(with links to additional instructional math videos).
This is a great resource for both keen mathematicians and those who are always asking “When will I need math?”
Check out the Pixar in a Box introductory video below:
After publishing the post, Thinkster Math, who are based in the US, offered me a position to work with the families from Europe, Asia and Australia who had signed up for the program, many after reading my review. Over the past 2 years I’ve had the pleasure of working with amazing families from around the world who are using the Thinkster Math program to guide their kids to math success.
Other programs and resources are definitely available and I’ve written about a whole heap of them here on Maths Insider, but in this post I’m going to offer an Insider’s guide to the Thinkster Math program and tell you how you can use even just the Thinkster Math 1 week free trial to kick start your child’s math learning.
How to get the best from Thinkster Math’s 1 week trial
Many families are attracted to Thinkster Math because of the chance to try the program without paying(tuition centres like Kumon don’t have free trials). Make sure you make full use of the Thinkster Math trial by following the tips below:
Use the Thinkster Math trial straight away
My big tip for Thinkster Math’s trial is to sign up when you have at least a few non hectic days. Your free 7 day trial will begin straight away once you’ve signed up and your child will have the chance to try a sample worksheet, take a diagnostic test, try some worksheets based on the questions they got wrong on the test and even speak to their instructor. Those families who get straight on with the Sample and Diagnostic test, worksheets and conference with the instructor will have a real insight into their child’s math learning gaps as well as into the Thinkster Math program and will be in a great position to decide whether Thinkster Math will work for their families.
Ask for the trial to be extended
Some families sign up and don’t get round to completing the Sample or Skills Assessment or they complete those but don’t get round to trying the worksheets or speaking to the instructor. In that case, it is possible to get your trial extended for a few more days by contacting the Thinkster Math support team.
Use the insights the Thinkster Math program gives you
Even if you decide to not subscribe to the Thinkster Math program, if your child has completed the Skills Assessment, you’ll be able to see exactly which math topics your child has weaknesses in through the progress report chart built into the Thinkster program (see below).
Inside the Thinkster Math instructor app
Thinkster Math instructors have an app, which we use to provide us with insights into each students math learning and to share our insights with students and their families.
As a Thinkster Math instructor, I can give written feedback and step by step solutions for each question, by either writing in the worked solution or providing corrections to the student’s working out. The picture below shows the instructors writing in red.
As a Thinkster Math instructor, I can see at a glance which topics each student is struggling with (those in red), which topics each student is confident with (those in green) and which topics each student understands, but is still making errors on (yellow topics).These insights help me to decide what work to assign to my students. Parents and students can also see the progress report on their Thinkster Math account.
As a Thinkster Math instructor, I grade and send feedback on each of my students worksheets. This is a screenshot from the Thinkster Math program. Students and parents can easily see the instructor’s feedback.
As a Thinkster Math instructor, I can see my students’ working out, how long they’ve spent writing, thinking and erasing. I can even “playback” their work. This shows me how the student has approached answering each question.
My favorite part of my work as a Thinkster Math instructor are one-on one coaching calls I have with my Thinkster Math students. During these calls we review how their work has been going and preview upcoming work. I also teach strategies for any tricky work they’ve met or are about to meet and we discuss and sort out any problems related to the math they have been working on at school.
The Thinkster Math Parent Insights app
This week Thinkster Math have released a new Parents Insights iPhone app to help parents easily keep track of their child’s Thinkster Math work and activity. The video below gives an overview of the Thinkster Math Parents Insights App which uses intelligent technology to provide further insights into your child’s learning:
I hope this post has given you an great insight into “behind the scenes” at Thinkster Math . For your 1 week trial and 10% off for 3 months, use the referral code mathinsider1 or sign up from the following link: Maths Insider Thinkster Math discount
I highlighted how cool math podcasts are in my post here on Maths Insider, Listen Up! 8 Fascinating Podcasts to Spark a Love of Math in Your Teen. I still listen to podcasts in my car but recently Mr Maths Insider bought me a waterproof bluetooth speaker which I use to listen to podcasts in the shower (too much info??). Since then, I’ve discovered more cool science and math podcasts which I share below. Some are great for young kids and some will inspire teen mathematicians. Check the descriptions below. You can also click on each of my favorite episodes right here in the post!
1. Brains On – great for kids
Brains On by Minnesota Public Radio describes itself as a podcast featuring science for kids and curious adults. My younger kids like listening to Brains on episodes as they fall asleep at night. Great for kids and adults.
Maths Insider pick: Numbers
The questions we have about numbers are uncountable – but here are a few of them: Where does zero come from? How is there more than one kind of infinity? What is it like to do math when numbers have different colors – and personalities? click below to listen to the Numbers episode.
2. The Infinite Monkey Cage – British wit + science
The Infinite Monkey Cage is a British podcast science podcast which describes itself as a “Witty, irreverent look at the world through scientists’ eyes. The show is presented by Professor Brian Cox and stand up comedian Robin Ince. This podcast does make me chuckle and is great proof that scientists do have a great sense of humor. Great for teens and adults.
Maths Insider pick: Numbers Numbers Everywhere
Although many people fear maths and will admit to dreading any task that requires even basic skills of numeracy, the truth is that numbers really are everywhere and our relationship with them can, at times, be oddly emotional. Why do so many people have a favourite number, for example, and why is it most often the number 7? Click below to the Numbers, Numbers Everywhere episode.
3. Planet Money – short, sweet and always interesting
On NPR’s Planet Money, you’ll meet high rollers, brainy economists and regular folks – all trying to make sense of our rapidly changing global economy. Each episode of Planet money is relatively short (about 15 – 20 mins long) and it’s one of the few podcasts that i listen to where I like to make sure i’ve listened to every episode as they are always really interesting regardless of the topic. Great for pre teens, teens and adults.
Maths Insider pick:The Long Run
Stories about a $50,000 loophole, what neighborhoods mean for kids, and what the Six Million Dollar Man would cost today. This is my favorite podcast episode in this post! Click below to listen to The Long Run episode.
4. Science Weekly – serious science simplified
The Guardian’s science team brings you the best analysis and interviews from the worlds of science and technology. I only discovered this podcast recently thanks to fellow Thinkster Math (formerly Tabtor) Tutor Dan Cox who shared it on his Delta Maths Facebook page. So far, I’ve only listened to the episode below, but I’ve already picked out some other episodes of Science Weekly to listen to. Great for pre teens, teens and adults.
Maths Insider pick:How maths can change your life
Mathematician Jordan Ellenberg argues that maths can help all of us become sharper thinkers. This episode has some cool insights and discussion focusing around how everyone needs math. Click below to listen to How maths can change your life.
5. The Story Collider – live science storytelling
According to Story Collider, “Science surrounds us. Even when we don’t notice it, science touches almost every part of our lives. At the Story Collider, we believe that everyone has a story about science—a story about how science made a difference, affected them, or changed them on a personal and emotional level. We find those stories and share them in live shows and on our podcast. Sometimes, it’s even funny.” I’m a fan of story telling podcasts such as This American Life and The Moth, so the Story Collider podcast with its mix of science and story telling is a favorite listen of mine. Great for teens and adults.
Maths Insider pick: Your Favorite Number: Alex Bellos is surprised that people ask him what his favorite number is, so he decides to ask everyone what theirs is.
Take a listen to the math podcasts above. Which ones did you like? Tell me in the comments below.