How can you help students who are struggling with math?
For many, learning math can be a challenge. This subject requires strong analytical, problem-solving, and investigative skills coupled with determination, perseverance, creativity, self-confidence, and intellectual rigor.
Below are some tips and tricks for helping CAN's students build confidence and academic success!
From New York Times article
Listen to What's Going Wrong
Figure out what exactly it is that they don't understand. Instead of getting to the root of what it is they don't understand, we are more likely to tell children something like "No, that's not right, try it this way instead." The better response to a wrong answer begins with asking the child to explain her thinking.
For example, take a simple problem like 49 x 5. Many children will incorrectly write the answer 405, and great math teachers know why. They have used the correct algorithm, lining up the numbers, carrying (or "regrouping") the 4, etc. But they have them in the wrong order, first adding 4 + 4 to get 8 and then multiplying the product by 5 to get 40, instead of multiplying 5 x4 to get 20 and then adding 4 to get 24.
Seeing this deeper misunderstanding in a child's wrong answer allows you to combat it, showing the child not only the right steps, but why the wrong ones don't make sense.
Do Math Out Loud
Many people use math in their jobs without realizing it. Dairy factory workers use it to figure out how to pack quarts of milk efficiently onto trucks; cashiers use it to make change and calculate prices; even those of us who are customers have to think about how to calculate a tip, compare prices, and confirm we've gotten the right amount of change.
Math is not a disconnected process, but a manipulation of real numbers that exist in the real world and make real sense. If you open up these everyday problems for your students to think through with you, you won't just be helping them to see how math makes sense in the real world, but you can also get some help figuring out the tip!
Reclaim the Dreaded Dots!
One of the math exercises giving adults indigestion these days is the idea of asking children to draw and count dots in order to solve addition and multiplication problems. Motoko Rich reported for the Times on a couple vexed by "the pictures, dots and sheer number of steps needed to solve some problems." Without any sense of why these exercises matter, they can be tedious.
But, it's important to note that drawing dots can also help children think more deeply about math. The trick is no just to have them draw, but to think. The students should be structuring arrays to help with understanding multiplication (which they are building up to when learning addition).
Combine Memorization with Understanding
While understanding how and why an algorithm works are important, there is also a lot of value in memorization, which can speed up the problem-solving process.
Take some time to do flash cards or find some games online that can aid your student in memorizing basic math facts. One way is to try choral counting -- counting by 3s, 4s, 5s, or even larger numbers (forward or backward). This exercise helps children see that multiplication is truly only repeated addition, and it also helps them see patterns in numbers, making multiplication something to memorize and to understand.
Introduce Big Ideas Early
Some lessons/activities introduce elementary-age children to the building blocks of algebra, starting with addition and multiplication problems.
For example, instead of simply asking a child what 3 + 4 equals, they are encouraged to figure out what plus 3 equals 7. "What number," of course, is the first step to imagining variables like "x".
Taking that next step deeper into understanding is one of the most underappreciated goals of the Common Core.