"I Was Never Very Good at Math Either." "My child just isn't a math person."
Have you every uttered one of these phrases to or around your children? No shame...it's a common perspective in our culture.
But research has been incredibly clear in recent years...there is no such thing as a "math person." This article from KQED does an excellent job at providing an overview of that research. While we may not all approach a problem solving task with the same tools and background knowledge, anyone can develop their skills at recognizing the patterns that exist in the world around us and using those to think mathematically. One way to encourage your child is to respond to their understandable frustration to challenging tasks with the word...YET. They may not understand it...YET. They may not feel confident...YET. But they can learn and understand and grow, and together we can help them get there.
OK, But How Do I Help My Kids With Their Math Homework?
In our class, homework is assigned on Monday and due by Friday. I recognize the importance of students' home lives and extracurriculars and do not want homework to impede on those important parts of growing up. It also isn't graded on accuracy but on effort/completion. We are still learning the material so it is expected that there will be errors and misunderstanding and we will be discussing those on Fridays.
Our homework will follow a 2-4-2 format. The first two questions will cover the material that we are presently working on. Videos will be posted each week under "Topics this Week" and can be helpful (along with our class activities and weekly notes) in answering those questions. The next four Flashback questions will look at material we have learned earlier in the year. The Interactive Notebook will be your child's best resource in refreshing their minds on prior material.
The final two questions will be application questions that challenge your child to apply their new learning to an unfamiliar context. This is where productive struggle becomes so important. Allow your kids to work through what is and isn't making sense to them. Drawing visual models, creating tables of information, and other mathematical tools can be very valuable in better understanding the problem. This article discusses five good prompting questions that you may want to keep as a handy tool for these problems:
- Question 1: What is the problem asking?
- Question 2: What do you already know?
- Question 3: Where have you seen something like this before?
- Question 4: Can you brainstorm 5 different ways you could try to solve this problem?
- Question 5: Can you make a guess? How would you know if it was right?
Your child is also welcome to come see me during homeroom if they have a question on which they would like some assistance.
What About This Common Core Business?
There is a great deal of misinformation circulating on Facebook and throughout the internet about what is meant by Common Core Math. While West Virginia has officially separated itself from the Common Core standards, the Mathematical Habits of Mind are based upon the CCSS Standards of Mathematical Practice and continue to represent the foundation of mathematics instruction. Those habits are what I seek to strengthen through our classroom experiences:
- Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
- Reason abstractly and quantitatively.
- Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.
- Model with mathematics.
- Use appropriate tools strategically.
- Attend to precision.
- Look for and make use of structure.
- Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.
Although our standards do not align perfectly with the Common Core standards, they continue to influence over math instruction in our country. If you want to better understand the strategies and thinking being explored in your child's mathematics courses, I recommend Christopher Danielson's Common Core Math for Parents from the "For Dummies" series.
Resources for Improving Mathematics Talk in Your Home with Younger Children