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Helping Your Children With Their Math Questions
Many students struggle with their math questions, especially as they approach adolescence. There are several reasons for this, which I will discuss later.
However, every parent can help their child rise above this struggle – and succeed. If a student gives up, it can lead to a cycle of frustration and failure that can haunt a student (and their parents) for years.
The extra effort you make is an investment in your child’s future.
As you already know, students who understand mathematics increase their chances of being accepted by the university of their choice.
Additionally, a higher math score on standardized tests increases a student’s likelihood of receiving a scholarship or grant to pay for their education.
Math is also important for future employers of your child. Employers seek candidates who can apply math to business problems.
Many employers now give job seekers math tests. High marks in mathematics at school will not be accepted prima facie. Public schools have a (deserved) reputation for inflating grades. Employers are looking for employees who actually know the material.
Moreover, every citizen of a democracy needs a working knowledge of mathematics to vote in an intelligent and informed way. Each citizen-voter will vote on the budget and bond issues. Informed voting requires knowledge of accounting and finance.
So how can a parent help their child prepare for these things?
A parent can help their child in several ways.
1) Recognize that children are unique individuals who mature at different rates. These differences are apparent even with siblings raised within the same family.
A student’s current level of mental development will be reflected in their ability to understand abstract concepts – such as the symbolism used in algebra.
If your child can’t grasp some of the more abstract concepts in math, there’s probably no particular cause for concern. Don’t insult your child.
Just be encouraging and supportive. Wait for your student to mature a little more. Time will fix this problem.
As a parent, you have already noticed that even an extra 3 or 6 months in your child’s age will allow him to take quantum leaps in understanding.
2) Help your child master the basic math skills used in arithmetic before doing anything else.
Why? Algebra is built on arithmetic. The symbols used in algebra represent numbers. Symbols used in algebra behave the same way as numbers.
For example, 1 + 2 = 2 + 1. If you already know this in arithmetic, it’s easy to see that x + y = y + x in algebra. This will be the case for all the properties of real numbers: associative, commutative, distributive, etc.
The underlying problem is usually this: most algebra students have never really learned how to add, subtract, divide, and multiply fractions, mixed numbers, or decimals without the use of a calculator.
The techniques used in arithmetic and algebra are exactly the same. If a student can combine these fractions using arithmetic: (1/3) + (3/5), they can also combine these fractions using algebra: (a/b) + (c/d).
That’s why a parent should focus on arithmetic first. Make sure your child understands ARITHMETICS, and your child will have much less difficulty working with quadratic equations or trigonometry.
Test your child’s understanding by asking him to add, subtract, multiply and divide the following two fractions: 1/3 and 3/5.
If you don’t feel qualified to help your child with arithmetic, take your child to meet their teacher after school for additional tutoring. All of the math teachers I’ve spoken with are happy to spend as much time as needed to improve your child’s math skills.
3) Allow enough time at home for your child to study the material presented at school.
Be aware that in Grade 7, government regulations require the teacher to dramatically increase the pace of math instruction. This is a big surprise for most students. This means that more and more unknown material will be introduced at an ever faster rate.
Teachers are monitored to make sure they keep up.
Your child’s teacher will be happy to provide you with a calendar showing the schedule of topics that will be presented each week throughout the year. Be sure to ask.
4) Ask your child to take notes in class and notes on the material you are reviewing at home.
These should be detailed “how to” notes that show EVERY step in each problem solution.
Ask your child to refer to these notes when they encounter the same type of problem covered in their notes. (Taking and organizing detailed math notes is hard work. Your child won’t want to do it. Having to refer to those notes is pure torture for teenagers. However, taking and using notes will allow them to control their own learning more than anything else ever can. Without their own grades, your child will keep asking for more “help”. More help for a teenager always means: do it for me and give me the answer.)
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