Monday, February 28, 2011

When Tutoring Math Do Not Take It Personally

I am continuing my math series for parents with this message. I have had this conversation with parents who love math and those who are math phobic. When tutoring your child in math, never take their problems or your challenge in working with them personally.

Working on math can be hard for parents who love math and those who fear it. Anyone who falls on the spectrum between those extremes may have also felt challenges in working with math with their children. Homeschooling and parents who send their kids to school may have these moments.

One issue that arises is communication. People process math differently. When working with kids it is important not just to reflect on your own processes, but to learn how the child is trying to process the material, too. This is where breakdowns often occur. What is logical for some people is not for others. What is a simple way "to see" a solution is actually more complicated for another person. This can be frustrating to the person who is attempting to help and the person getting help. This leads me back to my original advice do not take it personally. This is not a rejection of you or a reflection of your intelligence. This is about learning to communicate differently.

Even for people proficient in math, I suggest getting some math resource books to develop a common language. I like the Great Source series because they are visual and written which appeals to different styles of learners. They cover a range of learning levels to help students and parents through the various stages of math. Scholastic also publishes books that can help. Programs like Everyday Math often come with a math resource book that some schools send home. Make use of it if your school provides one and learn new ways to approach the material with your child. This is no reflection on your ability to do math. This is about learning a new way to communicate to help your child also be confident about his/her math skills.

Do not be afraid to use manipulatives. Some people express fear that Johnny will be carrying around linking cubes when he is thirty. While some programs fail to help Johnny make the connection as well as he should between traditional math and using manipulatives, using them should not hinder independence. In fact, they should help develop understanding, not provide a crutch to avoid learning math facts. When Johnny understands place value, fractions, geometry, and math concepts using manipulatives it is easier to help him make the connection to traditional written forms of recording these problems.

It is important to realize that not all manipulatives work for all kids. While some kids do well with linking cubes for addition, others do well with coins, stamps, coloring, or other methods to manipulate numbers in order to "see" how numbers function. One advantage tutors or homeschooling parents have over a teacher with twenty students is experimenting with manipulatives to find the one that works for a child. Fractions are another hurdle for children. Pattern blocks, circles split into pie sections, and squares with fraction labels are traditional manipulatives. However, parents have found lots of other methods using cooking, tools, and other methods to teach children about fractions that are not easily available at school. Finding the right "tool" to reach your child is mostly trial and error. Try your favorites, but again do not feel rejected if your child needs something other than what worked for you.

1 comment:

  1. "People process math differently." This is so true, and that fact can cause so much frustration for both parties involved.