By Allison Gardenswartz, Consulting Educator
I would like to know what I can do to help my son to improve in math. He was suffering greatly in all subjects. But I have been working with his teachers to help him improve, and he has. He is currently attending school on Saturdays, which seems to have greatly improved his grades except for math.
Fifth-grade math can be challenging and it is often the year that math skills not mastered earlier cause problems. Without knowing the specifics of the math challenges your son faces, it is hard to advise you about concrete tools.
Always start with the classroom teacher, asking what areas seem to be most troubling and for suggestions about how to help. There are several things you can do to help with math in general.
First, determine if your son is proficient in basic facts. If he doesn't, fractions and conceptual problem-solving will be much more difficult for him. He can play computer games, like Math Blaster. Practice with flash cards or exercises like Designs in Math, in which you color an abstract picture based on solutions from fact practice.
He should know his basic operations: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division by rote. He should be able to solve single-digit computations without difficulty. This will give him the tools to learn fractions, which typically make up the bulk of fifth-grade math.
Once he knows his basic facts, you need to identify what particularly challenges your son. Talk with him and the classroom teacher. When homework is assigned in class, ask the teacher to do one or two practice problems of each type with your son, so that when he gets home he has a guide to follow for each type of problem. Use after-school help if available.
Help your son read word problems and convert them into mathematical sentences. Make sure that he is able to understand what the problem is asking. Sometimes students who are capable in math still struggle because they don't know how to convert a story problem into a math problem and they are uncertain as to what the question is. This can be taught by discussing and acting out the problem. Talk through it and use chips or pennies, if needed to visualize the problem.
The classroom teacher should have suggestions for the specific math that is challenging for your son. Try to tackle the task together and support your son as he works through the problems. Assign an allotted amount of time to accomplish the goal of the day and then move on.
Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.
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