Consider the following questions:
- Have you noticed your student is having a more difficult time recently?
- Do they seem to be struggling with a specific concept?
- Are you considering taking a step back to review previously learned material?
- Is it possible that your student is simply going through a rough patch with their learning?
If you've answered yes to one or more of the above, your student may need a break from maths.
Why do students need a break from maths?
Most often, the reason for needing a break from maths - or any subject for that matter - is because it's not being taught at your student's pace.
If something is too complicated and skipped over, it creates further pressure and maths anxiety for your students. I remember when I was doing maths using the Math-U-See program, I knew numbers and could confidently use my maths understanding to get good marks, as well as use my maths in everyday life. That's the ultimate goal, yeah? To be able to use what we spend so many hours and hours learning in class.....
When I reached highschool, I attended a public school and that put me into maths class. Because I had no previous score to back up my maths knowledge, I was enrolled in the General Maths class. That means you'll get by and you might get a good score at the end for the HSC, but you weren't going to to be doing anything great with maths. The nerds were in the Advanced Maths class.
I decided not to say anything, and just turned up at class. I was pretty confident I knew what I was doing with numbers - much better than most adults around me!
I was shocked with the way maths was being taught....
But..... I was shocked. The maths that was taught in class was advanced and University level maths, and nothing was explained. We had 45 minutes to complete two pages in the big maths teacher book at the front of the class, and we just perservered until we got through it. I though, surely, at some point, someone is going to stop and explain these concepts to me.
But no, no one ever did. We kept toiling through endless maths sums, division of decimals and percents, geometry and algebra - in a Year 6 classroom!
I stayed behind in maths class, spent my recess and lunch time with the teachers to work on the sums. But nothing helped. I kept going round and round in circles.
We didn't learn sequentially, so I had nothing to base the concept from. We didn't work with hands-on manipulatives, that way the Math-U-See program does. We didn't go at our pace, and I felt rushed, overwhelmed and frustrated.
I felt so much pressure to achieve the same standards as my classmates. Why did these formulas and equations make sense to them and not to me? What was wrong with me?
Years later, I found out that pretty much everyone in my class failed maths. They didn't understand the concepts and had faked it the whole way through.
That made me feel a little better about my own experience, but then I thought to myself
"Why does maths have to be hard?"
My struggle, tears and frustration WASN'T with maths. It was with the way that it was being taught. I had both the Math-U-See integrated, mastery approach and the school system's sporadic and random attack on numbers. Well, the latter certainly doesn't work, and with research that has just come out, ACARA has officially stated the National Curriculum isn't working. But they don't know what to do about it, so they might leave it that way for a few more years.
The answer is simple. Teach using simple, hands-on and mastery-based approach. Teach at the student's pace. Allow maths and numbers to make sense to them, so they can enjoy the subject, not have a meltdown every time they open their maths workbooks.
Here's what you need when teaching maths
There's a few key components for teaching maths properly. Each maths lesson must include these key components in order to be successful:
Good news. The Math-U-See program ticks all of those boxes, and more. The program uses step-by-step instruction materials and online videos (so you, as the parent or teacher, know exactly what to teach and how to teach it), has student workbooks for practice of each concept and has end-of-lesson tests so that both the teacher and student know which topics have been mastered and which ones need a bit more work. And.... my favourite part - the Math-U-See program uses hands-on manipulatives in every lesson. It's the best part because it gives you that touch and feel of numbers in a really tactile way.
It's a tried and proven way to teach maths, and is used by thousands of Australian parents and families, as well as school and tutors. I think the results speak for themselves - happy parents and happy kids!!
Maths activities can help re-engage your student
Remember, maths is made to be used. There's no point learning a whole stack of numbers and formulas and equations if you don't do anything with them.
So, here's your answer. Use maths games. Incorporate learning in an engaging, hands-on way. Your students will love you - and these work if you're teaching at home or in the classroom.
What are some fun maths games?
You can use games that use numbers, like these:
- ThinkFun Math Dice
- Prime Climb by Math for Love
- Head Full of Numbers by Learning Resources
- Cashflow by the Rich Dad Company
- Tenzi Dice Game
- Farkle by Legendary Games
What are some maths stories?
Bedtime stories never got so educated with maths versions!
Here's a few you can read to your kids:
- Math-terpieces: The Art of Problem Solving
- The Grapes of Maths: Mind-Stretching Math Riddles
- Math Potatoes: Mind-Stretching Brain Food
Here's also a few of our favourite activities that can all be done outside the classroom, using everyday items. We've put 100 Maths Activities into an easy, downloadable list. You can download it here:
Let us know which activities you and your students liked best!
Hope it helps,
The Team at Maths Australia