You probably can’t do the math — but at home, “you are a math teacher.”
So it’s time to ditch the negative attitude toward numbers and support your kids in the one subject that students across the province most struggle with, says Lynda Colgan, an education professor at Queen’s University who for years has researched how to make math more engaging.
Colgan, who taught with the former Scarborough board for years, has created a tip sheet for parents for the education ministry that will be distributed province-wide in September.
She said parents are often confused and frustrated by the math their children are learning because it looks nothing like what they were taught.
Learning times tables, Colgan notes, begins in Grade 1, with kids “skip counting” — 5, 10, 15, 20. Kids don’t “borrow” or carry” in division, they regroup.
“A lot of times parents want to rush in and teach kids how to do things … saying, ‘my way is a lot faster and a lot better…’” but in the end that only causes confusion.
As well, parents must stop bad-mouthing math “and not talk about their bad experiences with math. We need to develop positive math-itudes,” she added. “The public in general has very negative attitudes toward math.”
People forget that drawing, paving stones, even sports incorporate math, and parents need to show kids the connections.
Among her suggestions:
• “You are a math teacher … parents, grandparents and caregivers (need to) recognize and value the different types of mathematics that they are doing every day, support math learning at home and instill both a love of mathematics and awareness of its importance in their children’s lives.”
• Don’t talk negatively about math. “Each time you share a colourful tale that centres on a negative experience with math, a math teacher or test, you are planting the seeds of math anxiety.”
• Use grocery store scales when shopping for fruit, estimating its weight, and keep a running tally of the grocery bill.
• In the kitchen, talk about measuring and how to double recipes, or how to cut pizza into eight equal pieces.
• Schedule math homework time at the same time every day, same place, and be there to help.