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Author bio: Jennifer McGregor is the Content Director for TKL, an accredited Teacher Professional development provider (@TeachNKidsLearn / FB https://www.facebook.com/TeachnKidsLearn.) If you have any questions or comments please leave them below and Jennifer will make sure to reply.
Helping Parents in Supporting their Child with the Higher Demands of Common Core Math
Without knowing a factor from a function, the parent, more than anyone, is in a position to help the student engage in the struggle of mathematics. Parents don’t need to fear this struggle, nor do they need to take it on themselves; it is an essential and important part of learning mathematics.
If the parent accepts the struggle, the youngster can. And even more importantly, if the parent values the struggle, and sees math as more than just a series of right answers, the young person can approach mathematical learning in a way that will not only make success in mathematics more likely, but carry over to pursuits far beyond the mathematics classroom.
1. Inform parents that the struggle is okay, that it takes time to learn things.
Early on in the school year, perhaps during an open house event, be proactive in discussing the issue of student struggle and why it will be important for their child’s growth in math. Helping students understand that they are not expected to get it all right or understand it all clearly, the first time is expected. If parents believe that struggling means that their child is not capable, their child will feel a tension that gets in the way of learning. This is a message that needs to be supported throughout the school year. Try your best to find as many opportunities to discuss this issue with your parents.
WHAT TO COMMUNICATE
2. Students need to take responsibility for their own learning and their own struggle.
Believing, erroneously, that math learning comes easily to some and not to others results in an attitude of “why bother? I’ll never be good at this,” when the subject becomes unclear. If students expect to encounter confusion we can help them see that the way through that confusion is application of effort – their effort.
Encourage youngsters to dig in when it gets tough, not flee into excuses. Parents should resist the very common temptation to explain the struggle as an inborn difficulty. Parents should not say, “I was not very good at math either.” Our young people have enough of what they need to make it. The goal is to help them learn how to use what they have to meet the struggle, not to fear, avoid or abandon the struggle from a belief they cannot do it. Parents can help a youngster believe and discover he/she can.
3. Guide children to resources that can help (their textbook, their notes).
The answer to “where can I go for help?” is often sitting in the bottom of a backpack. Parents can help their child by just asking their child to see their math textbook on a regular basis. Working with their child to look for how the textbook explains a concept can greater help student in their time of struggle to know that a resource is always in arms reach. What a valuable lesson for students to discover that answers come not from magic, but from reading and thinking and struggling to understand a sentence, or an equation in a book they have ready and available.
4. Value math homework – encourage children to do more than just ‘get it done’.
If parents actively praise and value the effort their youngster makes in pursuing understanding, the youngster gets the message that the struggle is important. They can feel a pride and confidence that is significant even when understanding is slow in coming. Parents can have a great impact in helping their child by reviewing the work students are completing on a regular basis. Just asking your child to explain the work that they did can go a long way in helping them to internalize and become more comfortable with math.