A little rusty on your ‘jump strategy’? Forgotten what a ten sided shape is called? You know you’re in trouble when you’re puzzled by the kids’ maths homework!
How on earth can you make learning maths fun for the kids when you don’t understand the sum of it all?! Not surprisingly, new research by maths e-learning app Matific has found many kids suffer from maths anxiety. The good news is that kids who participate in fun maths activities are more likely to be engaged and learn. And you don’t need to be a mathematician to do it!
Here’s a few tips for parents to sharpen up their numbers and easy ways to multiply the fun factor by 100 …
1. Brush up on what your kids are learning
Confession: I had no idea what a ‘jump strategy’ was a week ago. I couldn’t recall how many sides a hexagon had, or what an interior angle was. I had totally forgotten 12 years of maths lessons. So when I sat down to help my 8-year-old son, Maxwell, we weren’t off to a good start. My advice? Have a chat to the teacher. Find out what they are learning about in class. You can also find the info’ at Australian Curriculum, which sets the expectations for what all Australian students should be taught from kindy (Foundation) to Year 10. It’s a great overview, although a little formal!
For parent- and student-friendly explanations of ‘caterpillar counting, compensation strategy, cylinders’ and a load of maths terms I’ve never heard of, head to School A to Z. This is the maths bible – and powered by the NSW Government. Here you’ll find definitions, examples, worksheets and tips for Mathematics as well as English, Technology, Health and more.
Ask your child’s teacher for more references, as each state and school will vary in the resources they use (and add your tips in the comments box below!). Another independent site (not run by the education department or state government) is A Maths Dictionary for Kids, which has maths definitions as well as illustrative examples.
2. Make maths a part of everyday conversation
“Whether you’re shopping, cooking, driving, playing sports outside or watching a movie, there is going to be maths involved,” suggests Brent Hughes, educator at Matific. “Parents must highlight this, but the key is to do it in a way that makes kids feel like they’re not being tested.”
Brent says instead of asking a formal question like, “How many grapes are there?” parents should ask, “How could we count these?”
“If they are counting by 1s ask them to try counting by 2s or 3s,” suggests Brent. “When they finish, simply ask, ‘how many would there be if there was two bags?’ Or, ‘what if we shared these with Daddy?’”
3. It’s not about whether the child is correct
Our kids aren’t working for the International Stock Exchange or NASA, yet, so don’t make the learning process all about the ‘end figure’. It’s about the journey, not the destination!
“Maths homework isn’t a gruelling exam to test whether a child is a genius,” explains Brent. “It is about promoting mathematical thought and showing kids that maths is everywhere. E-learning has created more ways for parents to make this possible.”
Yep, you can officially use the ‘screen time’ addiction to your advantage, with educational apps that offer learning games, entertaining episodes, worksheets and lesson plans – disguised as ‘cool kids stuff’!
“A great example of this is in Matific’s Spy-A-Meerkat counting game,” says Brent. “It is often very hard to count moving objects one by one, so it is better to mentally collect them in smaller groups (3, 2 and 1).”
Brent says while it’s always important to ensure kids have limits to the amount of screen time they have each day, screen time can convert into a learning experience that’s a fun and engaging way to grow their love of maths. “Much like the games our kids are comfortable playing on these devices, the short episodes available on Matific and games not only keep your kids entertained but are proven to help kids grow their understanding of maths.”
4. Encourage kids to explain their train of thought
How’s your logic? “Maths is not just about answering questions, but also illustrating the steps it takes to get to the solution,” says Brent. “Parents can get kids involved in thinking this way during regular travel time. For example, on the way to and from school each day, on the way to extra-curricular activities on weekends and during holiday road trips.
“These conversations help kids think about addition and subtraction, an understanding of time and reasoning skills around traffic, speed and distance. All of this can be done by young children comfortably. Even if they aren’t totally correct, it doesn’t matter because they are engaged in meaningful maths conversation, which will mean when their teacher shows them a similar problem in the classroom, they have a method for solving it.”
5. Show kids that maths is everywhere
How many apples are in the fruit bowl? How many minutes of reading do they need to do before they score free time? How many times do you need to ask them to brush their teeth?!
“Maths is involved in so many day-to-day activities, and it is important kids keep this in mind,” says Brent. “The best way for parents to do this is to find something kids wouldn’t ordinarily think would involve maths and point out some fun facts. Sports like soccer, AFL and basketball are all great illustrations of this.”
“Beyond looking at the scoreboard, everything from the number of players on the field, size of the pitch to the shape of the ball itself can be considered. A simple question about why kicking the top of the ball makes it roll across the field faster gets kids thinking about larger concepts that involve maths. When parents highlight this in a way that is casual and conversational, kids won’t be so scared of mathematics.”