How to help a child develop their understanding of maths

It is no news that
children find it difficult to grasp or even contemplate mathematics as a
subject to love. This subject which is core in schools from nursery to upper
level is a bother to even the brightest kids. The issue is not how bright your
child is, because no child is really ‘dumb’ at maths. The issue is just that within particular
stages, the child is struggling. Why? Because the child lacks the basics.

Identifying the specific problem is very important because it helps to relate to the child and find out
if they are having issues at school.

Ways to help your child learn and understand maths

Encouragement and empowerment are important. If you praise a child, he/she will want to do more. Empowerment –  believing in yourself – may
be hampered by issues at school. It may be about being too fat, too skinny or
not beautiful enough. Give your child a belief in themselves and they will be more confident about learning.

Cultivate familiarity with numbers. Everything in life
has numbers in it: how many times you go out, what you buy, what games your
child loves, how many times your favorite TV show comes up in a month, and so on. The basis for good understanding of maths is to encounter figures
repeatedly.

Make it relevant. John loves soccer but
hates maths because he see figures like ‘X’ and ‘Y’ or ‘-20+10’. In situations like
this, try and make up real life events that he can relate to. If  the problem is with negative numbers, make it about soccer, with ‘X’  the Blue team and ‘Y’ the Red team. Goals scored by team ‘X’ are positive, while goals scored against them are negative. 

Reciting the times table is a good way of showing a child that one is never too
old to learn. Sometimes children who are in higher classes are ashamed of being
seen chanting ‘4 times 3 is 12’ but it’s actually very educating. It is just like
learning the lyrics to a song. It gets to a point that it becomes a part of
you. Likewise the mathematical times table. Reciting makes it easy for the
child to conquer the multiplication part of mathematics. Try getting the child to
memorize the times table and rehearse or rehash it every day for a week and
you will see changes. 

Help, but don’t criticize. Be as helpful as you
can to ensure that the child learns. Tell stories and teach him/her what you
know and how you learnt when you were at that age. Don’t criticize, it may be
difficult but do not give in to the temptation of criticism, just show joy in
the child’s attempt and appreciate that attempt.

Find out what your child loves. Some activities can
be used to enhance the learning process of children, especially when the child
loves to watch TV or play video games. There are certain number games, and
movies and shows with competitions in maths where the child can see children of
his/her age grade competing against adults or maths learning videos showing
kids dealing with figures and numbers.

Continuity is the key. There
are times when it will be hard, due to time constraints or an inability to understand, but there will also be times they will really love to try out the
figures and numbers in maths but either way, calmness and continuity
should always count, not “I don’t know”.

Recognize school effort and performance. Praise the child’s
effort at school and find ways to improve the slacking areas, even if it means
staying on a topic longer than necessary. This will increase how the child
performs in and out of school.

Be alert so as
not to miss those moments when the child would really bring up the subject in
question. He or she may want you to go through or help with the home work. Don’t make the mistake of doing the assignment for the child but help the
child do it. It is all about lending a hand so be patient and try giving relevant instances with clothes, food, or soccer, for example.

It is hard to relate
to a child who is struggling with maths unless you have actually been in that
particular situation. An experienced teacher once said that a big problem was not paying proper
attention. She said that in Maths, once you lose concentration you lose the
basics and the topic in question will be lost to you which will also make it
very difficult. Learning mathematics is a constant process, so why
not take a moment and make an impact on a child’s life by ensuring your child
or any child gets consistent help and encouragement.