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How to Develop Excellent Mathematic Students
There was a time when the United States of America had some of the highest math scores in the world for K-12 students. Much has changed since that time, and in order to help children find their way back to being good math students, parents must play an important role. Parents can help develop many of the foundational skills needed for children to be successful in math when they attend school. Parents can do things that will support schools and hopefully schools will do the rest.
In order to develop a student who has good math skills, a parent must play a key role in the learning process. In addition to parents, teachers and other family members are very important to a child’s mathematical development. Elementary teachers and parents play the most important role in a child’s mathematical development, especially in kindergarten through fourth grade. Time spent in school learning or not learning math can never be replaced. Parents should ensure that the primary math teacher is competent and a good teacher. Anything less could cause the children to suffer a huge loss. The teacher that parents should trust to teach their child math is someone who will challenge their child, regardless of age. In addition to the challenges, the teacher must encourage the children to try hard. Children need to know that their teacher cares about them and isn’t just trying to give them a lot of hard work. This teacher should believe in giving homework every night. Homework reinforces what has been taught and learned in class and gives the parent and teacher a chance to see if the child understands this information.
I have observed teachers who really challenge their students to achieve higher-order thinking. These teachers take their students from the second grade and teach them how to add, subtract, multiply and divide using only their sound. We call it mental math. When I observed a second-grade class whose students mentally answered math calculation questions, I put my own son in that class. Shortly after being enrolled, he too learned to do mental calculations. From then on, math was my son’s best subject. Teachers can really make a difference and parents can help make a difference.
The role of parents in the mathematical development of their child is very important and should start as young as possible. Teaching young children to count, add and subtract numbers in their heads without a pencil or paper can stimulate the brain to think mathematically. Parents can start the process by teaching children to count from one to a hundred. Teaching children how to mentally solve math problems should also be part of this process. They can start by asking simple math questions and progress to more difficult questions as the child grows. Parents should continually ask children math calculation questions and give positive feedback when they answer. Children love receiving positive feedback and it encourages continued growth.
In addition to mental math activities, children should be provided with grade-level math textbooks to strengthen their math skills. Parents should have these and other content books at home for additional practice and homework. These can be purchased at bookstores, teacher supply stores, and large general purpose stores where school or office supplies are sold. As children become more confident in their math skills, give them worksheets one grade level above their current grade. Help them if necessary, but when the students succeed in the higher level notebooks; their confidence will really improve. The seed will be planted early and parents can watch it grow.
A parent needs to know what level of math and any other subject, for that matter, their child achieves each school year. When children enter kindergarten and the school recommends that children know their ABCs and know how to count to twenty or any number, it is the parents’ responsibility to ensure that the child is prepared before enrolling in school. Also, when the child is in second or third grade and their child cannot add simple two-digit numbers, it is up to the parent to make sure their child gets the extra help they need to succeed. . Parents cannot wait at school every time their child has an academic impairment. Part of being a good parent is making sure your child is performing at the right academic level throughout their school career.
Another strategy is to allow your child to spend time on a computer playing math games. The computer can be a wonderful resource that supports skills in math and other areas. Software is available to measure a child’s math skill level. Some software is developed in a game format. Children will think they are playing a game, but in reality they are learning math. Technology can be great, but I have to warn parents not to let kids spend a lot of time on the computer unsupervised.
Another recommendation for parents is not to allow children to use calculators at an early age. Children must first develop their brains to be able to do mathematical calculations on their own. Constant use of calculators at a young age can stunt children’s mathematical growth. If kids develop math skills by mentally thinking about the answer to simple problems, they’ll be better prepared for everyday life, like grocery shopping, balancing a checkbook, to name a few. For example, all children should learn their multiplication tables by third grade. They must be able to repeat them, verbally, without using a calculator. Elementary school children who rely on the calculator for answers create gaps in math, which could negatively impact their math development.
In addition to good teachers and involved parents, children should be involved in extracurricular activities that support math. In the state of Michigan, students can join a school club that plays a game called Academic Games. This form of play is difficult for children. This helps them develop their academic skills as well as their math skills. Children can start playing these games in the second year. This form of play will teach children to play the game of equations, a form of algebra, at the age of seven. These skills are called higher-order thinking skills. Children also compete locally, statewide and nationally. The experience is invaluable. There are also other math games and clubs that children can participate in that will help them develop their skills while having fun. Parents should contact their local school district or state Office of Gifted and Talent Programs for this information.
Children can take courses from various organizations that will support their mathematical development. These organizations may offer courses in the summer or on weekends. Some classes can teach children how to build robots, toy cars, toy planes, etc. These classes can be in the field of engineering, computer science, or another technical field. Courses may be offered at various colleges or universities in the region. This is community outreach for colleges and universities, but children will develop social and academic skills that will carry over into their classroom and into adulthood.
When trying to develop good math students, all avenues should be tried. Parents can make additional progress by allowing children to visit workplaces that use a lot of math. Children should be exposed to as many careers as possible. Careers in math and even science should be on their list of considerations. Parents should educate children about careers that require them to have good math skills.
Parents who are positively involved with their children and want the best for them will ensure that their children maintain their math skills and succeed in school. The strategies used in this article are just a sample of the many ways parents can ensure their child develops strong math skills. The best way to help a child develop good math skills is to positively and actively involve their parents in their school journey.
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