Learning math can be scary for a lot of students. Math is a cumulative subject, and it’s discouraging when you don’t understand a single concept -- everything just gets more confusing from there. In high school, I excelled in math subjects with one teacher and struggled with all the others. In her classes, I felt confident enough to try difficult problems and even made mistakes without feeling bad. What made her different from my other teachers?
It’s important to come from a place of understanding when teaching math. Students can become easily discouraged when they can see that their peers understand something that they don’t. My reaction was to shut down and stop paying attention once I realized that the class was moving beyond my comprehension.
Get excited for your child when they grasp a concept.
Foster an atmosphere that encourages knowledge and understanding over competition and speed. Get excited for your child/students when they grasp a concept. When students are comfortable with a subject, encourage them to demonstrate their understanding for you, or, if they are confident, for the class or friends.
Everybody learns in different ways. Experiment with different teaching methods to figure out what your child or student connects with. Learning math concepts in different ways also helps your student remember and understand an idea. Young students typically engage with either visual, auditory, or physical demonstrations, or some combination of these.
Although memorization is a helpful way to remember multiplication tables, it’s important to understand the concept as well.
For auditory learners, repetition and mnemonic devices help with memorization. Write simple stories around each multiplication problem. Rhyming and rhythm are effective. “Seven met five the day he turned thirty-five.” “When nine met eight he said how do you do, multiplied together we make seventy-two.” Although memorization is a helpful way to remember multiplication tables, it’s important to understand the concept as well. Talk the concept over with your student and have them repeat it back to you in their own words. Do they understand it or are they still confused?
For tactile and visual learners, using a set of math tiles or small household objects (paperclips, dry beans, marbles) to show multiplication can be helpful. 7 sets of 5 beans each = 35 beans total. Real objects help students to touch and see numbers in different forms. Write the numbers and have your students trace them with their fingers.
Draw a picture for your visual learner. Use something that they enjoy -- is your child a baseball player? What does it look like when seven baseball players are holding five bats each? How many bats are there altogether?
When you make or use multiplication flash cards, bright colors will help your visual learners engage with the numbers and repeating the cards out loud will help an auditory learner remember the problems.
Playing games can connect different learning styles, as well as make a frustrating subject fun. When your students are comfortable with a subject, set up a game of Jeopardy where they can answer multiplication questions. For a simple game, make each category a number from the upper multiplication tables and make each question harder as you descend the table (if the category is 7, the answers would be 7 x 6, 7 x 7, 7 x 8, etc.). For a more physically engaging game, write each answer on a piece of paper and lay them on the floor. Roll a pair of 10-sided dice and have students multiply the numbers and find the answer on the floor, standing on the paper.
A real-world application of math concepts might help to drive the concept home for a student. We all use simple math every day without even thinking about it.
- I am at the grocery store. I have an hour to get home before traffic hits. If there are 8 people in front of me in line and they each take 6 minutes to check out, will I make it??
- I use public transportation to get to work. If it costs $9 every day, how much does it cost in a week of work (5 days)?
- When you fill up at the gas station, ask your child how much filling up a tank of gas will cost. If it’s $3/gallon and you get 7 gallons of gas, how much will it be total?
If your child is scared of math, don’t let them be overcome by feelings of inadequacy. Use a personal touch to help them understand difficult concepts. Once you figure out the most effective way of teaching your child a concept, they will be more engaged and excited about the subject as a whole!