What's the problem with math? - Part 1

Classes , Curriculum , Education , Home School , Homeschool , Homeschooling , Math Add comments

by Penny Ross
AHEAD Partner Blogger

What’s the problem with math?  The students in our homeschooling group struggle in this area. Standardized test scores confirm it in the elementary grades, and it is further validated as our students tackle algebra and higher math in the upper grades. Furthermore, I get many questions from other homeschooling moms concerning math. And recently, when I spoke to another homeschool group, one of their leaders mentioned math as a struggle for many in their group as well.

What causes this math problem?

1. The homeschool teacher is terrified of math because she struggled with it herself. Just because you clashed with math in school does not mean that you can’t teach it now. You’d be surprised what 20 years and some life experience can do. Your difficulties may have been related to learning style issues not being addressed: trying to learn a concept before you were developmentally ready to master it, poor teaching, daydreaming, or any number of other issues which may not plague you now. Why not give math another chance? Long division or fractions might make much more sense to you now after spending some quality time with the teacher’s guide or some how-to videos than they did in 4th grade.
2.The student is learning the concepts, but not to the point of mastery. For example, if you tied your shoes this morning, you probably did so without thinking; you may even have carried on a conversation or planned a grocery list (or both) while tying them. But when your children first learned to tie their shoes, it probably took their total concentration while they mentally rehearsed each step of the process. No way could they talk and tie at the same time! Mastery happens as the process becomes mentally ingrained to the point of becoming automatic. Sometimes, we homeschool teachers in our desire to avoid “drill and kill” don’t give our students enough practice to fully master a concept and move beyond mere learning. The end result is that each step requires so much mental energy that the whole process can become self-defeating.
3.The student needs more instruction. While studying some topics, your student may need an explanation over and over again, using multiple examples discussed in different ways. Merriam-Webster gives two different definitions of teaching: 1) to give lessons about a particular subject and 2) to cause to know something.  Particularly for math, we need to implement definition #2. Our job as teacher is not accomplished until our student KNOWS it. Don’t just move on because you’ve finished that particular section of the curriculum. The average American elementary math textbook covers 30 concepts in one year. Your student may very well need more focused teaching for one or more of those skills.
4. The student needs more time. Though children generally move through the same sequence of learning stages, they reach each stage on their own unique timetable. Have you noticed that we are not concerned when all children do not begin walking on their first birthday? Some do it sooner; some do it later. Can we not give similar allowance for other skills?  One of the major advantages of homeschooling is your ability to teach to developmental readiness of your student. If a concept seems particularly difficult, consider moving on to something else and coming back to it later.

Is there a math problem in your home?  If so, it’s time to seek a solution.

Read Part 2

Copyright 2014. Used by pemission of the author. Originally published at the Penny Rose blog.

A former career woman who never planned on being a stay-at-home mom, Penny Ross quit her job when when she was eight months pregnant with baby number one. God blessed her and her husband Greg with three children whom they homeschooled from kindergarten through high school graduation. She served in a variety of leadership positions with Hope Chapel Academy, a homeschooling program in Hermosa Beach, California, and is now encouraging and supporting homeschool families through her own business, Tools for the Home Educator

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