Math and Parents - the Fears That Don't Add Up
For many parents, mathematics can conjure up some pretty negative emotions. At the very mention of the word, some of us are transported back in time to a moment of public humiliation -
"Seven times eight, please."
"Don't know it?" [Insert 1970s sarcasm here...]
Is it any wonder that we become anxious when faced with the prospect of helping our own kids with math homework?
In this article, I'd like to explore some of the reasons why parents might dread math and demystify some of the K-5 math topics we fear most.
Reason 1 - The math confidence trap
The first reason for fear I'm going to call "The Confidence Trap". It's powerful, invisible and you can happily live with it all your life. You can tell if you're in the confidence trap when you hear yourself say, "I'm useless at math".
The truth is, the vast majority of people who say this aren't really useless at math. In fact, they're probably OK but they just don't know it. My friend thinks she's "hopeless at math" (her own words), but wow, you should see her work out special offers at the grocery store - in a matter of seconds she can work out which offer is better between 3 for 2 or 20% off.
That's different, I hear you say, but it isn't. In fact, working out shopping offers is just math, and it isn't far off high school level.
The confidence trap can be harmful when you become a parent because it's very easy to inadvertently pass it on to your kids. It would be a great shame if your kids thought it was okay to be "useless at math" before they reached their potential. We all know how many careers need math, so opting out early on could seriously damage their future options.
Reason 2 - The unfamiliar new methods
Math education has changed over the past 30 years and that makes our generation feel a bit out of the loop.
One obvious aspect that's changed is the way our kids are taught some simple calculations. The changes came about because educators felt operations like long multiplication and division were too unclear and that learners were simply following the various directions to get the answer without any sense of how the answer came.
It's hard to disagree with them - but the change has left parents out in the cold. Take a look at these two new methods that are sure to confuse parents -
Division using Partial Quotients
Reason 3 - New curriculum topics
One thing that unsettles some parents about helping with math homework is covering new topics that they didn't study at school. Data handling, sets and some aspects of shape and measure are fairly new to the curriculum.
The thing you have to bear in mind is that these topics are usually taught pretty well in class. So if you don't know the difference between a rhombus and a cuboid the chances are you won't need to. What's important is that your child has a really solid grasp of math, particularly mental math, which is something you can help with.
Reason 4 - The learning plan
Knowing what to teach your kids and in what order is difficult for parents. If you're just helping your kids with homework this isn't a concern because the teacher has this in hand. But if you need or want to go further in helping your child you'll need to find a plan.
Some math topics come after others and learning them out of order can cause problems - but don't worry, help is at hand!
In Komodo we've created a math learning app for ages 5 to 11 that provides parents with an effective, rewarding and enjoyable way to help their children master math at home. It complements school studies by focusing on essential skills, like mental math, that really benefit from extra practice.
Importantly, we realize that learning at home is different from school, so we've designed a few clever ways to ensure you can keep your child motivated and you're always in the loop with what's being studied - even when you're still at the office.
On sign up, each child does a short diagnostic test and a qualified math teacher assigns an individual learning plan based on your child's level and needs.
I'm Ged, co-founder of Komodo, ex-math teacher, and dad. If you have any questions please get in touch.
About Komodo - Komodo is a fun and effective way to boost K-5 math skills. Designed for 5 to 11-year-olds to use at home, Komodo uses a little and often approach to learning math (15 minutes, three to five times per week) that fits into the busy family routine. Komodo helps users develop fluency and confidence in math - without keeping them at the screen for long.
Find out more about Komodo and how it helps thousands of children each year do better at math - you can even try Komodo for free.