Lauren joined us for Coffee Connections last Friday to give parents insight into how our children are learning math at Horizons. The approach to math instruction today is so different from how many in our parent community learned in school, so many of us are left scratching our heads when kids show us how they are learning math. A few parents commented that even in lower grades, helping kids with math by showing them what we learned seemed to do more harm than good, leaving both parents and students frustrated. But with a little background on the ideas behind the approach, everyone attending agreed, it makes a lot of sense. We also discussed some strategies for helping even if you don’t have much background in how they are learning concepts.
Kids today are learning to understand math concepts in a very concrete way before being asked to abstract to written equations to solve math problems. In the past, mathematics instruction moved very quickly to the abstraction, or in many cases, just started with pencil-on-paper problem solving. Lauren demonstrated a variety of tools/toys our teachers use to help students visualize and literally put their hands on math concepts. As kids develop a concrete understanding of things like arithmetic, place value, fractions, percentage and math operations, they move first towards pictorial representation and then develop the ability to solve problems on paper, and mentally in a more abstract way.
Here are some ideas for helping kids with math at home:
Ask your child to teach you how they’re learning. If they get stuck, help them formulate specific questions to take back to their teacher to help with the next step.
Be sure that your child understands that there are many correct ways to solve a math problem. The school is teaching a variety of strategies because some will resonate better with an individual, and some will be better suited to solve a certain sort of problem. The idea is to provide the student and multiple tools to approach math.
Know that the school is using objects (like tape diagrams and blocks) and other techniques (like number lines and “friendly numbers”) to help kids understand math in a concrete way. If you want to demonstrate a math concept to your child, approach it visually rather than using equations. Kids aren’t learning the algorithm method (what most of us learned, lining numbers up in columns by place value) until they’ve mastered concepts, modeling, and flexible thinking.
If you have concerns about being able to help with your child’s math, address it with your classroom teacher. That way you can focus on where your child is stuck and formulate a plan for how you can help most effectively at home.
Submitted by Callie Gartner