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A lot of children and adults have difficulty with math; myself included (no worries, parents—I grew up to get an MBA and be a financial advisor). For some people, this struggle with math can cause a lot of anxiety. When math is proving to be difficult, and it’s making your child stressed out about it, how can you help your child with math?
Helping your child with math isn’t always an easy task, whether you’re helping with their homework, or planning some back-to-school activities to help them get ready for a new term. It can be made even more difficult for parents, even those who are good at math themselves, as the way that math is taught is a bit different now.
Even if you’re not great at math yourself, or aren’t sure how it should be taught now, there are lots of ways that you can use teaching tricks and ideas like preschool math activities and ideas for emerging learners to help your child to improve their math skills.
Help Your Child With Math at Home
If you feel lost or frustrated when you are trying to help your child with math, don’t worry (and please, don’t get frustrated with your kid). You are far from alone in struggling to try and help with math homework. For most parents and caregivers, it’s been quite a while since you last took a math class, so your skills might be a little rusty. Schools also now use a few new methods to teach math skills, so it can be hard to know how to help. If you do know some of these new teaching methods, you may have it a little easier. Lots of video walkthroughs are available on YouTube for new teaching methods.
Even if your children are struggling with math, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are bad at it. Even some good math students can struggle with some parts of math. Children need different skills for different parts of math, so they might need more help and support in one area than they do in others. If they’re struggling with one part, such as their multiplication tables, it doesn’t mean they will struggle with all Math.
Different types of math problems within the subject can require different skills; For example, some kids will do well with math facts but might find world problems much more difficult to grasp (I always struggled with word problems, but give me a formula and I can knock it out easily).
For some children, the biggest problem can be anxiety about math. Whether or not they actually struggle with math itself, they might feel anxious about the work or about math tests. They might worry about whether or not they are good enough at math, even if they are good at it. Their fear of getting it wrong can get in the way of doing well.
If your child is anxious, there are some fun and stress-free ways to help them with math at home, such as:
- Use sports, like football, to reinforce math concepts
- Read books that build up math skills
- Play board games that help young children to build skills in math
- Cook and bake together
- Look for items around the house that could be used as math tools
- Try graphic organizers for math
Teachers also have lots of great strategies that you could borrow from them to help kids learn math. Ask your child’s teacher for some ideas for what you could adapt to use at home. Try things like:
- Use an anchor chart to help with multiplication
- Use number lines to help your child to compare fractions
- Play a warm-up game before they start their homework to get their brains working
Another popular way to help children to learn math more easily is to engage their senses. Teachers use sight, hearing, touch, and movement to help children better understand what numbers and math symbols mean. You can use a similar approach to help with reading and writing, too.
Children who find math hard might struggle with abstract thinking for math problems. For example, they might have a hard time understanding amounts, like how ten cents is more than five cents.
Technology can also be a very useful instrument for learning math. There are lots of free and affordable tech tools for math, like apps and computer games. Our kids use IXL (if your child struggles with reading—try Teach Your Monster to Read!). These can build their skills, without making your kids feel too frustrated or anxious.
Feelings of frustration can be common for children struggling at school. One of the best things you can do is to talk to them about how they feel, and share with them times when you felt frustrated by things you found hard. Tell your child that everyone struggles with something, and there are ways to get better.
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