Inside: A helpful guest post sharing tips to help your child with math as you’re homeschooling or helping with virtual learning, especially if you’re not great at math yourself.
Hi everyone, my name is Julia, and I’m really bad at math.
Honestly, sometimes I am a bit ashamed of myself. It takes me a good couple of seconds to do even the simplest bit of division in my head.
However, I try not to let the fact bother me. I accepted long ago that words were my metier, not numbers.
But then we had kids. And the kids started doing some proper math in school. And I suddenly found myself in the very deep end of a parenting pool I was not prepared for, agonizing over math homework.
Luckily for all of us, my husband is brilliant with math (as he should be, being an engineer). Until the pandemic, we were perfectly fine with daddy being in charge of all science- and math-related homework issues, while mum was there to read, and help write, and for any number of creative fancies.
When we started homeschooling, I realized I needed to read up on the best ways to help your child with math – and particularly, tips on helping them if you suck at it.
Here’s what I’ve learned and put to the test.
Don’t Tell the Kids You are Bad at Math
Which is naturally what I did, way back when numbers first arose.
I’ve learned since that saying you are bad at something is counterproductive (which I should have realized). By telling our kids we are bad at something and that we never bothered to learn, we are giving them a way out. They don’t have to be good at it either.
Now, our kids certainly don’t have to be brilliant at everything they do, that’s not what I’m advocating here. But when it comes to math, which is itself challenging, we should adopt a positive mindset. More of “it was difficult for me too, but I managed with hard work”, rather than “I don’t get it either, but it’s so very important”.
Have Them Teach You
This works wonders when they are younger. And I think it’s what really worked for us.
Having established mummy was bad at math, the girls were more than happy to teach me everything they’ve learned. I am not totally hopeless, so I understood what they were talking about perfectly well, but it gave them a sense of accomplishment.
It also allowed them to grasp all these concepts and processes better, as teaching is in fact an amazing way to gain a firmer grasp of something.
Since math has changed a fair bit since we were kids, you might also discover there are new ways of doing things, and that you actually will be learning something new.
Enlist the Help of Other Media
When we first knew we were going to have to homeschool the girls, the first question I asked their teachers was how to handle the math.
Both of them said the same thing – do math that doesn’t look like math.
My younger girl’s teacher suggested we play some of the following games (she also sent out a lot of other useful information and suggestions throughout the year):
The other math teacher in our life suggested we try to get them to play math-based games. We naturally found that there were other very educational games out there, so I’ll provide a list of the ones we’ve tried.
- Khan Academy – great in every respect, and really fun to use, even for parents
- Let’s Play School – also great fun, and they also have some workbooks you can use
- Science 360 – created by Nat Geo, so you know it’s got to be great!
- Spelling Stage – my personal favorite, but the girls like it too
Me being me, we also read a fair bit of books that were related to math and numbers. Here’s our list of favorites, in no particular order:
- Counting on Frank by Rod Clement
- How Big is a Foot? by Rolf Myller
- Mr. Archimedes Bath by Pamela Allen
- A Remainder of One by Elinor J. Pinczes & Bonnie Mackain
- My Grandmother’s Clock by Geraldine Mccaughrean & Stephen Lambert
Practice Makes Perfect
My final piece of advice is rather simple – just practice.
Math may not be simple, but it’s not impossible to grasp. True, it may not be interesting either, but we should all be able to handle the basics until we are old enough to disregard math on our own (so no sooner than college).
Explain to the kids that even the boring and uninteresting stuff needs to be done sometimes, and that hard work pays off. Math can be an excellent primer for a lot of later struggles in life.
Make it as fun as you can, but just keep at it – you and the kids both. Even if none of you like doing it, at least it’s a bit more time you can spend together. Try to make each other laugh and be as silly as you like, as long as the homework (and schoolwork) gets done.
How do You Practice Math?
I’d love to know how math is done in your family! Let me know, maybe we can improve our little routine even more!
Julia is the mum of two girls and two pups, a work-from-home wife and an expert librarian who can always find a book her kids will love to read next. She has always been a writer at heart and has finally found a way to let her creative side show – you can read some of her work on Medium.