How a Parent Can Be a Math Teacher for Younger Kids

As a parent, your role in your child’s education is incredibly important. When you spend time teaching your child, you’re laying the groundwork for a successful academic career. It’s particularly important for parents to actively teach young children mathematics. You don’t have to be a professional math teacher to help your child learn the basics of the field, and by regularly practicing math problems with your child from an early age, you’ll be much more adept at spotting weak areas that need more attention in the class room.

For many parents, the most difficult part of teaching a young child is knowing where to start. If your child is in school, your at-home practice should coincide with in-school lessons. If you try to rush kids into new lessons to quickly, they might become frustrated, which won’t be conducive to learning. With that being said, it’s alright to let your child progress at his or her own pace. You’ll have to closely monitor your child’s progress to see whether he or she is struggling with particular lessons, and fortunately, it’s easy to do this when you’re working with the right types of tools.

Using Technology To Stay Ahead

Computer software can be your best friend when you’re acting as a math teacher to your child. Modern math programs are capable of presenting kids with dozens of different types of problems and adapting to their learning styles. What’s more, good math software will allow you to easily track progress, which can be particularly useful during the first few years of your child’s education.

The biggest advantage of online math programs is that they keep kids interested in mathematics, which is one of the biggest challenges of teaching math at home. Kids love playing on computers, and when math programs present colorful, video game-like graphics, they’ll want to stay glued to the screen for hours. Limit practice time to half an hour or so per day and you’ll be able to keep your kids consistently interested while supplementing their in-school educations.

Why Adaptive Learning Is Important

Your child’s math teacher might occasionally mention adaptive learning and many online math programs will discuss adaptive learning techniques in their sales material. The term basically refers to a system of lessons that progresses at a child’s own pace. New lessons aren’t introduced until the core concepts of the previous lesson are fully understood. Older lessons are occasionally revisited to ensure that the material is solidly understood.

Adaptive learning is important for mathematics, as many kids will struggle with their lessons if the lessons aren’t introduced in a logical way. Younger kids who move from one lesson to another too quickly will often lag behind the rest of their classmates, and as kids learn in very different ways, it’s important to use differentiated techniques when teach math at school or at home.

Try to find an online math program that uses adaptive learning techniques. Look for programs with good reporting capabilities and make sure that lessons are presented in a gradual, intelligent way. When you’ve found a good program, you can introduce it to your child’s in-school math teacher for a great in-home and in-class educational experience that will compel your child to learn in a natural way.

Technology In The Classroom: Proceed With Caution

Recently, I wrote about the concerns some teachers had about technology in the classroom as revealed by a Pew Research study, especially the concern that many new technologies serve to distract more than teach. However, this was not their only concern. 71% listed distraction as a concern but another 58% said that new technologies were making it more difficult for students to learn to write well.

My wife teaches at a major university where students are required to write in APA format. She frequently complains about the deplorable grammar students employ as they get tired or draw too close to an important deadline. Their prose begins to take on the qualities of their texting, which be sheer practice has become their default writing style. Even though this may be a university problem, it is easy to see how this trend would extend to the lower grades as well.

48% of teachers said technology actually lowers the quality of homework. It should come as no surprise that students prefer Facebook, YouTube and video games by a wide margin, leaving precious little mental space for their studies. No homework yet invented can compete with the life and death struggle of Halo or the social lure of Facebook. We can only hope something that fits that bill will be developed in the future. (Some programs are coming close and show real promise.)

Another challenge involves critical thinking skills. Clearly there is no shortage of opinions on the Internet, though they are not equally well informed. Many programs on the Internet are specifically designed to feed you a constant stream of what you have already expressed an interest in, which means those who spend a great deal of time on the Internet may not see diverse opinions or learn to distinguish between qualified voices and those that are simply wishful thinking.

While these concerns are valid, technology also shows a promising future for those who employ it correctly. The same teachers who expressed concerns about the downside of technology also saw the promise inherent in such programs; 99% said the Internet offered a wider selection of resources than schools could otherwise offer, 76% were mostly positive about search engine results and 65% felt a connection to the Internet made students more self-sufficient. And those are just a few of the powerful incentives for digitizing the classroom. The challenge, therefore, will be to find ways to move ahead in such a way that we maximize the benefits while minimizing the potential hazards.

The future of education will likely be far different from anything we have seen in the past, with the potential for huge advancements. But we need to proceed with our eyes open as we carefully evaluate the results from each step of the process. We simply don’t have the time, money or resources to proceed with anything less than getting it right the first time.

Teaching Over Technology – How to Talk to Your Digitally-Distracted Student

Word Association is a fun game. Player #1 says a word – banana, for example – and Player #2 says the very first word that comes to mind – split – and so on. If I were to start this game with any given parent or teacher, it would very likely go something like this:

Me: Black…
Parent/Teacher:…Berry!
Me: Face…
P/T:…Book!

And so on. Years ago, the word “black” would most likely have triggered words like “white” and “board,” but today the more likely association is “berry,” referring to one of the leading brands of do-it-all devices making their way into the hands of people all over the world. Here in the United States, some of those people are school-aged children and teenagers, members of a generation born well into the computer age. Consequently, both teachers and parents are finding it increasingly difficult to fight – let alone win – the battle for kids’ attention against an opponent that is constantly growing, improving, and becoming easier to access: technology. As students gain better knowledge of – and easier access to – devices such as MP3 players and smart phones, they focus more on their digital activity than on their schoolwork, whether at home or in the classroom.

Often referenced since its publication earlier this year, a study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that “heavy media use [among youths aged 8 to 18 years] is associated with several negatives, including behavior problems and lower grades…confirm[ing] the fears of many parents whose children are constantly tethered to media devices.”

Unfortunately, the prevalence of these devices in our society is growing by the day, and the younger generation is gaining the upper hand as they enter into adulthood, thanks to a familiarity with modern technology gained far earlier in life than is the case for their predecessors. Nonetheless, many (if not most) adults use some type of media device on a regular basis, and of these adults, it’s the parents of very young children who seem to be the cause for concern – at least for child development experts.

Fear not, parents and teachers! While technology is inevitably reaching more and more children each day, your ability to help these children, these students, is as strong as ever. In fact, there is no need to think of your effort as a fight, and no need to think of technology as an opponent. Remember, you have the advantage of knowing how society was able to function without smart phones, MP3 players, and laptops, as well as how society is able to function with them. This frame of reference gives you the ability to teach your kids what you already know: As much as society grows and changes in order to better itself and preserve its existence, there are certain things that remain the same over time, like the foundations of a well-rounded education.

Consider using educational games and learning aids to help you get started – work on them with your kids at home, or your students in school. Did you know that you can use the newspaper to teach reading skills? Brush up on current events while spending valuable and productive time with your child. It’s simple, effective, and beneficial for everyone. Why stop there? By teaching children to think critically about the commercials they see on television, along with other types of advertising, you’ll help them develop the media literacy that will, in turn, help them develop into better-functioning adults.

Finally, remember that in order to reach students on this level, you must lead by example. More often than not, “do as I say, not as I do” proves to be an ineffective approach to both teaching and parenting, which in this case means one thing: Put down the BlackBerry!