Math is more than just a daunting and yet an invaluable subject, it is in fact a life skill! Yes, you read this right. Math skills and math confidence are critical to being successful today. This is because math helps almost every career today, now that we live in such a technology and data-driven world. From pulling off seemingly impossible feats like landing on the moon or making sure that one’s finances are in place, math has applications in every walk of life, leave alone careers! Even your child with aspirations to become a fashion designer is going to need basic math skills and more importantly, math confidence.
Fun fact: Fashion designers use math-based computer programs to help manipulate flat garment patterns into three-dimensional shapes
Math & Middle School – The Important Connect
While math is the subject of concern for many students, it is surprisingly fun for so many others. The difference lies in the way a child’s perception is built about the subject. This perception building is most impactful during the middle school years. This is because middle school is an important time to prepare for high school.
The problem-solving skills and other habits and routines formed during this phase, pave the way for preparing a child for future success. It is middle school when your child will make or break their confidence in math. And, many core concepts of math that are taught in middle school are all the more fundamental to learning higher-level math in the future. If your child is a middle schooler and is showing signs of struggle or diffidence in math, the first step is to correctly assess.
Signs of a Math Struggle in Middle Schoolers
Your child may be struggling with math if they display two or more of the following signs:
- General disinterest in math or avoiding math whenever possible
- Lower grades in math but good grades in other subjects overall
- Trouble applying math concepts to real-world problems
- Making negative comments about math, for example, “math is boring”
- Trouble connecting various sub-disciplines within math (e.g. algebra applied to geometry problems)
You Can Help Build Your Child’s Math Confidence
Mathematics is often considered to be one of the most challenging subjects in school. Recent surveys report that 37% of teens aged 13-17 found math to be the most difficult subject – the highest ranked overall. Many students end up feeling incompetent or not good enough when their struggle with math pulls them down.
It is important to note that a struggle with math at some or the other stage of schooling is common. It should not demotivate your child and should be re-pivoted to a more rigorous learning experience. Here is what you can do as a parent
1. Get your child interested in math organically
First and foremost, to build your child’s math confidence, it is important to maintain a math-positive environment at home. If you display any math anxiety yourself, your child will mirror you. Read and discuss fun facts like these that revolve around numbers and math in general. Talk about your own middle school experiences with math that they can relate to. For example, a statement like this could do wonders to your child’s math confidence “I too was scared of algebra initially but then I started with identities and played with them. Soon algebra was my favorite with a practice of six months!”
Even if you’ve hated math all your life, it’s not a great idea, to be honest about that with a child who’s struggling already. Always make sure to use only positive statements about math in general while talking at home.
Fun fact: Galileo Galilei once said, “If I were to again begin my studies, I would follow the advice of Plato and start with mathematics.”
2. Applaud the mistakes more than the wins
There goes a saying for math – more the mistakes more the learnings! Like in any other learning journey, celebrating mistakes is the best strategy while learning math! Don’t reprimand your child even when they make the silliest of mistakes in math. Your child may lose a lot of confidence with a single peer remark about a mistake.
You can reverse the damage by giving constructive feedback and by telling your child that mistakes are okay! Encourage them to think of at least two to three different approaches to solve a math problem. Ask them to back-calculate and re-verify their answers by plugging it back into questions to understand their mistakes better.
3. Make math and its applications more evident in daily life
From the kitchen to the supermarket to the online store, you can find applications of math for your child everywhere. Instead of rushing through the queue at Target next time, ask your child to walk you through the discounts and the final price for each product you pick. Engaging them in meaningful yet fun math activities on a daily basis will also, as a bonus, strengthen your bond with them!
Here are some more ideas for you to try out at home with your child:
- Play mental math games with your child
- Teach them multiplication tricks and quick math hacks
- Teach them useful conversions like kilograms to pounds, kilometers to miles, etc.
- Make math evident in your interest areas – solve math puzzles in front of your child
- Ask your child to apportion ingredients based on a recipe while cooking (example, if rice and corn flour have to be mixed in 2:1 ratio, how much rice should we take if we want to cook only half the portion?)
Basically, make math a part of your daily life at home and watch your child’s comfort and confidence in math leap by bounds!
4. Get them interactive tutorials and math games
You can kindle a new love for math and hence boost math confidence in your child by gamifying math. And wait, you don’t need to innovate! There are a zillion interactive math tutorials, quizzes, and apps available today on the internet for free. It is entirely up to you to make the most of them for your child. Start with simple math games like BeGenio – Race to Infinity. The University of Cambridge website Nrich contains many high-quality tasks to teach and engage children of all ages and abilities.
Also read: Why should my child learn Vedic math?
5. Get them the right help
Getting your child a qualified and experienced math tutor can make a deal of a difference to their math confidence. This is especially true when your child is struggling with math or has general anxiety about the subject. A tutor can not only help your child overcome their fears and weaknesses, they can also bring in the necessary discipline.
A routine and continuous practice are extremely important with subjects like math. This is because math as a subject is based on sequential learning – i.e. simple concepts lead to complex ones in a systematic manner. Getting your child a solid foundation in math with the help of a professional tutor is a great way to build their math confidence.
Don’t know where to ask for help?
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