Teaching maths doesn't have to be scary
Parents have the full responsibility of their kids resting on their shoulders, every moment of the day. They need to be aware of their child's safety, food, environment, health and most importantly, their education. Sometimes all that pressure can be a bit much!
As of early 2022, where we have all experienced disruptions to our learning environments, whether it be school lockdowns and restrictions making at-home learning a new adventure, or as a seasoned home educating parent that has had to navigate the new COVID learning environment.
It can be tough teaching maths! And frustrating, annoying and overwhelming. Especially when you haven't had prior experience teaching maths (or if you don't remember what you were taught in school) arithmetic can be a hard subject to teach your kids.
However, there's no need to stress out. By finding the right tools, resources and step-by-step process that will support you, you will be able to confidently teach maths to your students - no matter what age, grade level or learning ability. Yes, these methods even work for those with learning differences.
Are parents feeling anxious about teaching maths?
Nearly a third of adults struggle with everyday maths, and some say it makes them feel overly anxious. Homeschooling during lockdown has highlighted the problem for many adults, who say they find maths the hardest subject, Sky News reports.
Meanwhile, 39% also say trying to figure out maths problems makes them feel anxious.
The ground breaking poll1 found 31% of the 2,000 adults surveyed struggled with basic problems and 29% would avoid doing maths.
The problem has been highlighted during coronavirus lockdowns when parents have tried to help their children with schoolwork. Student's learning environments have been impacted significantly, and the COVID lockdown ripple effect has transferred the job of teaching to the parents. According to UNESCO, by the end of March 2020 over 1.5 billion pupils or 87 per cent of the world’s student population across 165 countries had been affected by school closures caused by COVID-19.2 In Australia, K-12 schools have experienced interruptions in every state and territory, although the extent and period of closures have varied significantly across jurisdictions.
Even if parents haven't had any prior experience teaching the numerous subjects included in a general school prospectus, maths is generally the hardest subject to teach.
Some parents are struggling to help their children with maths
Nearly three in five parents (59%) said they found maths the hardest subject to provide help with. The same proportion said homeschooling showed their own lack of confidence in maths and anything involving numbers.
As a parent of five daughters, I also used to struggle teaching maths. I came from a nursing/midwifery background and although I did well at maths in school, I never learnt it well enough to teach five kids - all at different ages and levels of understanding. I learnt formulas for maths, and remembered enough equations by rote to pass the tests as they came up. But it didn't help me with real life.
That's the real parameter - do I know maths well enough to use it in everyday life situations? Ask yourself that, and ask your kids the same question. If the answer is no, if your kids are still finger counting, struggle with Place Value, don't understand algebra or have started hating maths, you can be assured that something isn't working.
If you can pass a maths test in school, you're good until you've graduated school. After then, you get stuck. Jobs, employment opportunities, study options and even volunteer positions all require a complete understanding of maths and how to use numbers.
Even a simple shopping exercise requires maths! Weight, measurements, fixing your front door or measuring out a recipe requires an understanding and a familiarity with numbers, and knowing what you are doing with those numbers.
How do I support my kids learning maths properly?
The first place to start is right at the beginning, with Place Value. Learning Place Value is often a struggle and both parents and teachers alike often feel frustrated. There are two good reasons for that!
1. Place Value is often taught as one of the first concepts of maths, and if it is not taught in a way they can understand, the student is likely to "shut off" because they don't understand what you are trying to teach them.
2. Especially at the beginning, it is crucial that students are taught maths using hands-on tools and resources to show numbers concretely. If numbers are introduced as abstract squiggles on a page as the first introduction to maths, students will struggle. If they don't understand what a number is, learning that the same number in a different place has a different value (Place Value) is something they can't comprehend!
That's where I've found the solution that worked for all of my kids, and made it possible for me to teach maths as a trained nurse! It's possible, and I want to share these tips that really work with you too.
Using hands-on manipulatives is the most important thing when teaching maths. All the way through, from primary to advanced maths and algebra, maths needs to be taught in a concrete way. Students need to have access to a physical, hands-on object that shows them what that number is and how it is different to any other number. If not, they can easily get confused. Is it a 6 or a 9? Why is the 4 in 243 meaning "forty"? Isn't it just 4?
Having a strong foundation of Place Value through teaching with hands-on manipulatives means you're setting your child up for a lifetime education in maths. It's definitely worth it taking your time!
How do I teach basic concepts like addition and subtraction?
All maths concepts build on each other. Addition builds on a strong knowledge of Place Value (if you don't know which "house" you are adding the number to, the answer becomes scrambled with all the wrong numbers in the wrong value) and then comes subtraction, multiplication, division and so on.
1. Addition (adding numbers)
2. Subtraction (the opposite; taking numbers away)
3. Multiplication (fast-adding or skip counting numbers)
4. Division (dividing numbers)
As you can see, all of these concepts build on each other. If your child doesn't know addition, there's no way they can start multiplying (which is fast-adding). That's why they will continue to struggle, because foundational concepts have been missed right at the beginning. That's why a sequential approach to maths is crucial.
Teaching your kids basic concepts of addition is easy when you have a step-by-step guide to follow. The popular Math-U-See program provides in-depth instructions for you as the teacher, lesson-by-lesson instructional videos and student workbooks to support your child learning maths. That's my best advice - get a program that works for you, at your child's pace, with easy to follow instructions, hands-on manipulatives and specific methodology that is incorporated within each lesson. The Math-U-See program has all of this, and that's why it's so effective at supporting students to achieve the best maths results.
Once your child has mastered these concepts, extra practice with worksheets, online drills and extra freebie printables is always a good idea. I always used to print everything off at the start of the week to make sure I had enough work for the kids to keep busy for each lesson. That little bit of organisation meant that I could know that they were achieving a certain amount of maths time each week and at the end of the week, we would take a short test to see what they had learnt and where we needed to spend more time.
Want to check your child's maths understanding?
We've already talked about a few important reasons why maths is such an essential subject for your kids to master. There are so many important things I've talked about in this article that can further support you to identify where your child is struggling and what you can do to support them learning effective maths.
Here's a great resource you can use to check your child's maths understanding. The Online Placement Test will test your child's understanding on a range of maths topics and concepts, and give you the final result of where to start with their maths.
If you are looking for more support in teaching maths to your kids, we have a Parent-specific Online Training Course that walks you through step-by-step all the essential parts of maths and how to teach them to your kids. It's a more thorough, in-depth version of what we've just talked about, and includes more important maths tips.
Good luck teaching happy, maths-confident kids!
1 The survey, conducted by One Poll, questioned 2,000 UK adults, including 632 parents of school children between the 4th and 6th May. This poll was comissioned by National Numeracy UK.
2 UNESCO, UNESCO rallies international organisations, civil society and private sector partners in a broad Coalition to ensure #LearningNeverStops [press release]. 26 March 2020. Available from https://en.unesco.org/news/unesco-rallies-international-organizations-civil-society-and-private-sector-partners-broad