Stop the math madness for your tween
Even if you don't crunch numbers with your breakfast cereal, you can teach your middle-schooler how math fits into everyday life skills and ways to get homework done.
By GreatSchools Staff
Is an evening of math homework with your unhappy middle schooler about as appealing as listening to a symphony of fingernails drawn across a blackboard?
Who can blame you?
If math was never your favorite subject, diving back into the world of cryptic textbook instructions can raise those old familiar feelings: sweat prickling on your brow and the urge to run into your bedroom, slam the door, and play guitar badly. If you consider yourself a natural mathlete, helping a tween who doesn't share your enthusiasm for delectable pi or irresistable asymtotes can drive you to equal levels of distraction. It was all very well breaking down the steps of long division and simple fractions, but as the math gets more difficult so do the challenges of the parent just trying to help.
What can you do to rescue a middle-schooler muddled by math? The answers are as simple and elegant as the Pythagorean theorem, but implementing them is no less weighty.
Keep in touch with the teacher
Email makes staying in contact much easier than when you were in school. Don't be shy about letting your child's teacher know that you're concerned about her progress in math and whether she's falling behind. "Savvy, experienced teachers regularly communicate with parents," says Francis "Skip" Fennell, president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.
Develop math-oriented traits
To succeed in math and college-level classes, your child needs to take responsibility for his education and learn to persevere when tasks are time-consuming and complicated. He can start now by:
- Working independently
- Reviewing and correcting his own work
- Using available resources — class time, tutoring, study groups — and seeking help when necessary
- Trying a variety of approaches to solve a multi-step problem
"Plenty of faculty have told me that if their students came in with these attributes, they could teach them math," says Bill Moore, director of the Transition Mathematics Project, a private-public partnership in Washington state that is working to make sure students are prepared for the transition from K-12 to college math. The project has developed a list of college-readiness math standards, which includes
Look into tutoring
Talk to the teacher, counselor, or principal if your child is struggling. Ask about after-school or community tutoring options. Or get together with other families and share the costs of hiring a private tutor who can supplement classroom instruction. Don't delay in hopes that the problem will resolve itself. Math is cumulative, and the further behind your student falls, the more discouraging it will be for him to try to catch up.