Helping Your Child Succeed in Math: Part Two

[This is the second part of a two-part blog post. If you haven’t done so, please read Part One before reading this. Thanks!]

Preparing for a Specific Assessment

Start preparing well in advance, not the night before. This way when you find that there are things you need help with, you’ll have time to write down questions and get that help from your teacher in time for the assessment.

Some students find it very helpful to study with a friend or a study group; students can get help from each other and benefit from each others' strengths.

If the test will be timed, you should bring a watch or timer into the test with you, not just rely on a wall clock. This can help you be more on top of the passage of time, and it can help you pace yourself.

Make sure you have a good night’s sleep the night before and a healthy breakfast that day. According to the National Sleep Foundation, children between the ages of 5 and 10 need between 10 and 11 hours of sleep each night, and children between the ages of 10 and 17 need somewhere in the vicinity of 8.5-9.25 hours of sleep each night. Are you getting enough sleep?

Make thorough use of your textbook, which often has a lot of resources for students who are proactive (answers to odd numbered problems in the back, additional practice problems, etc). Rereading examples worked out in the text can be helpful, but it’s not enough: Trying practice problems is invaluable (when the answers are available so you can self-check).

On an Ongoing Basis During the Summer

Lots of students read during the summer, perhaps play music, and maybe engage in art projects as well. But how many students engage in mathematics-related activities over the summer? I would suggest that it’s a very small number, and that’s a shame. Typically, if a student is “doing math” over the summer it’s because they’re struggling and need additional support. While it’s certainly very important for a student to get this support, I strongly recommend that all students should be engaging in some sort of mathematical endeavors during the summer. This can take many forms. Students can practice skills in any of a number of skills-based workbooks, reinforcing what they learned in the previous year. They can work on mathematical puzzles, which can be found free at a wide range of sites. They can enjoy materials specifically designed for enrichment purposes, materials that can help feed (or spark) a student’s love for mathematics. (If you haven't done so, please check out the MathFreax Feed Your Brain program by clicking on the link at the top right.) Whichever direction they choose to go, engaging in mathematical thinking, problem solving, and basic skills reinforcement should definitely be a part of every student’s summer.

Just for the Parents

Stay on top of the math that your child is studying. Express genuine interest in what they’re learning. Ask them to explain things if you don’t understand - allowing them to see you as a learner is very healthy for both of you, and through providing a verbal explanation they may find their own understanding becoming more clear. It has often been said, “The best way to learn is to teach.”

If you feel that your child is struggling, be proactive and encourage them to be proactive as well; encourage them to seek additional assistance at school, and don’t hesitate to get in touch with their teacher.

Developing mental math facility is fundamental to success in all areas of math, and one way to foster this is by playing mental math games in the car, while waiting on line, over dinner, and any time that you have a few spare minutes.

I hope that in this article you find many practical suggestions. Math is truly a wonderful subject, and success in math is attainable for all students.