Guest post by Ann K. Dolin, M.Ed.
A recent Gallup poll asked students to name their most difficult subject. Not surprisingly, mathematics topped the list. Why is math so challenging for so many kids? The answer is that it requires two very important abilities -- patience and perseverance.
Understand That Math Is a Cumulative Subject
It is the ability to reason through multi-step word problems that helps middle school students find success in math. However this is precisely when many youngsters start to lose ground -- in the middle school years. If they have a shaky foundation and are even earning Cs, they have likely understood only about half the material. They move on without truly grasping or maintaining what they have learned. They then are likely to fall further behind, lose confidence, dislike the subject, and take fewer advanced classes.
Realize That Math Isn’t Taught Like It Used to Be
Make Math Fun
Toss an inflatable Multiplication Quiz Cube back and forth to practice facts. Make up rules such as, “Catch it and say the fact your left thumb is touching.” My students are keen on this game because it gets them moving around. Another fun idea is to grab a deck of cards and play Multiplication War. Each player flips up two cards from their deck, multiplies the two numbers together and states the product. Whoever has the highest answer wins all four cards. The person with the most cards at the end of the game wins.
If you insist upon using flashcards, let your child hold the cards and quiz you. Studies show that merely allowing the student to hold the cards and take on the role of the teacher increases time on task and retention of data.
Help to Conquer Word Problems
For many students, word problems present great difficulty. This is because they have to apply their knowledge to a novel situation, not simply regurgitate facts. If your child is struggling with word problems, consider using the FOPS acronym strategy to assist her.
* Find the problem type.
* Organize the information in the problem using a diagram.
* Plan to solve the problem.
* Solve the problem.
The first step is for the child to identify the type of problem. What is she being asked to do? Next, she has to put the information she has into a diagram; in essence, she is drawing a picture as a model. Next, this information has to be put into a number sentence or equation and, lastly, she must solve the problem. Research shows that when students use the same strategy, such as FOPS, to attack each problem, they are far more likely to be successful.
For Older Students -- Make a Practice Test
Is a Tutor the Answer?
If you find that as a parent, you’re not the best teacher for your child, consider hiring a tutor to teach these study skills. A tutor comes to the table as a skilled and objective third party, without any emotional history with your child. One-to-one attention from the classroom teacher or a tutor can make the difference between grasping the material or falling further behind.
Ann K. Dolin, M.Ed., is the founder and president of Educational Connections, Inc., a comprehensive provider of educational services in Fairfax, VA and Bethesda, MD. In her book, Homework Made Simple: Tips, Tools, and Solutions for Stress-Free Homework, Dolin offers proven solutions to help the six key types of students who struggle with homework. Learn more at homeworkmadesimple.com.