Updated: Apr 8
Real Math for Real Parents
Let’s cut right to the chase: Teaching our kids math is not rocket science. Yes, it could be rocket science, but if you are reading this, you and your child haven’t reached that level of math yet, so relax, get comfortable, and keep reading.
Too many math texts and “how-to” books written for homeschoolers present math in a way that is not readily accessible to the average parent who has little time, limited funds, and no real passion for math. Let’s be honest, math is often boring, difficult, and hard to remember after years of being out of school. Not to mention, when we aren’t completely confident about our own math skills, trying to teach our kids is not just inefficient, it often doesn’t get done.
We may or may not get to math and put it off like every other unpleasant task that we do not want or do not know how to deal with. Days of overlooking math turn to months, and months of little or no math add up to significant gaps in mathematical development. Math skills are built over time. They are cumulative and they are developed through practice. Simply assigning pages from a textbook and hoping that the child gets it, is a lazy and highly risky proposition.
So what can you do?
1. Play games daily
Yes, everyday! Board games, card games, dice games, computer games. If it is fun and gets your child playing with numbers, it is good. Use it.
2. Do stuff with your kid
Cook, sew, build stuff, plan trips, make change. Slow down and let your kid do all the mundane math-rich crap that you do yourself. Yes, it takes longer and it can be frustrating to painstakingly walk your child through a task that you have done a million times. However, it is an investment well worth the return. In time, your child will be adept enough to do the tasks just as well (if not better or more efficiently than you). That doesn’t just benefit your kid academically, it frees up time for you to do more important things like write books about homeschooling.
3. Outsource it
Just because you homeschool does not mean you have to do everything yourself. Homeschooling is like running a business. The most successful are those who do what they are best at, and delegate the rest to people who are the best at what they do. If you hate math, don’t curse your student with your piss-poor perspective. Instead, delegate the task of teaching math to someone who loves math and will teach it well. Which leads me to my next point….
Attitude is Everything!
So what do you do if you are a homeschool teacher and a math-phobe? How do you ensure that your mathematical neurocese aren’t rubbing off on your students? First, you should learn math with your students. Programs like Family Math involve the entire family in fun mathematical activities. Family Math groups and similar programs can be found locally. Read and play games together and most importantly, NEVER speak negatively about you and math EVER. Instead of math being a deficiency, make it a work in progress. Learn along with your students and promote cooperation, perseverance, and the joy of learning together. Even those students who enjoy and excel at math naturally are not impervious to our negative influence.
Remember, you know your children best and YOU are their BEST teacher!
A Word to the Math-Phobes Out There
Between you and I, I have spent most of my life living as a math-phobe. I didn’t like math, I’ve found it difficult. It is a throwback to my school days when math was uncool and anyone who did like it either hid it, or were ostracized. My loss really, and yours too, because math is pretty cool, and those who can do it, are pretty smart. As a recovering math-phobe, I feel it is my place to inform the others that we are single-handedly screwing up our children’s chances at math.
I realize it is purely unintentional. We all have the best intentions, but intentions do not teach math. Consequently, our attitudes, whether expressed or otherwise, have profound effects on our children’s developing minds. When we say or believe that we “suck at math,” we are inadvertently telling our children that they will too. When we hesitantly present math and qualify our instruction by saying that we “were never any good” at it, we are setting the stage for a life of math insecurity for our kids. Yes, our words and beliefs make a difference!!