Ah, math. Chances are your children either love it or maintain an active disdain for it. Perhaps you, yourself, have a great comfort or discomfort with all things mathematics.
Math is on the mind this year. Many parents are concerned about their children’s academic progress after completing a very challenging school year during a pandemic. Many are considering whether they should homeschool their children next year. Whatever they decide, the importance of helping their kids with math seems an important part of, well, the equation.
I asked John Bianchette, associate vice president of education and training at the math tutoring company Mathnasium about common struggles with math and how to overcome them, as well as his advice for parents who will endeavor to teach their own children math.
The Epoch Times: Math is one of those subjects that some people love and some people dread. Many parents want to help their children who fall into the latter category, but don’t know where to start. What do you think causes people to struggle with math?
John Bianchette: Mathematics is the universal language, and it explains the world around them. Students should look at the understanding of math as empowering; however, most students will inevitably find something in their math class confusing.
Some get past it, but most start to become intimidated by something they simply do not understand. The unfortunate thing is that it is all within their grasp, they just need the proper support. We cannot expect children to continue to persevere in an environment where they consistently feel badly about their own ability. Our role as educators is to meet them exactly where they are and build their confidence by supporting their development in every way they need.
The Epoch Times: What strategies would you recommend for parents who would like to help their children obtain a strong grasp of math fundamentals?
Mr. Bianchette: Parents should work toward having a knowledge of what the key learning outcomes are for each grade level. Using that information, be prepared to have your child work on math every day to meet those outcomes—whether it be resources you find online, a workbook you purchased, an interesting article you found you want to discuss, or simply having math conversations with them.
Being a strong math student doesn’t happen by accident, it takes work. As a parent, you have to be prepared to support the child and answer questions as they arise. If that is uncomfortable, then you should seek outside help as that is the best for the student’s development and your relationship.
The Epoch Times: With a variety of school reopening strategies being tossed around, many parents are considering homeschooling their children for the upcoming school year. When it comes to math, what advice do you have for homeschooling parents?
Mr. Bianchette: A great education does not happen by accident. The math curriculum you choose must support learning objectives consistent with local, state, and national standards. The curriculum must be accessible to the student. The textbook, assignments, and what is used to evaluate their understanding (quizzes and tests) has to be easy to internalize. Someone must be available to “unlock” the material, teaching it in a way that is easy to understand and answer questions as they arise. That critical feedback in the exact moment they need it is essential for their development. Don’t assume that passive online resources will be an adequate supplement for actual instruction; they need to be able to ask questions of a live person.
The Epoch Times: What resources does Mathnasium offer for homeschooling families, in particular?
Mr. Bianchette: Mathnasium will meet your student exactly where they are in their development, pinpointing their needs through a comprehensive assessment process and developing a customized learning plan to fill in any foundational gaps as well as the topics they are encountering in their homeschool curriculum. Mathnasium also provides full school support, meaning students will receive help with their assignments, even quiz or test preparation, to make sure they are successful in their homeschool program. All of this comes with the support of a caring instructor who will build their confidence. The beauty of a program like Mathnasium @home is that an instructor is there to make sure the student has a strong understanding of the topic at hand and is receiving the support they need in that moment.
The Epoch Times: Some are calling the loss of learning that may have occurred during the shutdown “the COVID slide.” Mathnasium is offering a new program to help. What would you like parents to know about this program?
Mr. Bianchette: Mathnasium did a thorough evaluation of standards and curriculum frameworks as well as relied upon years of experience in the field to put together a series of assessments that target critical skills a student may have received little or no direct instruction on over the last few months of the school year. Mathnasium’s Kickstart program not only makes certain a student’s foundational gaps are addressed, if any, but our highly trained Mathnasium instructors will provide direct instruction on those critical end of year topics. With an uncertain 2020-2021 school year ahead, this program is perfect to make sure your child is well-positioned for success in the future.