Most of us make New Year’s resolutions, usually focused on ways to improve ourselves. How about trying something new this year? Something that can make a difference for you and your child?
The idea is simple — become a partner in your child’s education. The key word is partner. Begin by establishing the intention to work with your child on a regular basis, and to do so in a way that encourages her to become more confident in herself. With that intention, you can focus on building the team. Here are ten steps to build a successful math partnership with your child.
1) Create agreements. In order for you and your child to become a successful learning team, you have to set aside specific slots of time to work together. Negotiate agreements on the frequency and duration of the sessions. Then make appointments on a paper calendar that you and your child will see every day, and make a mutual agreement to give those appointments the same respect that you give to doctor’s appointments.
2) Focus. During the time that you are working with your child, give her your full attention, and expect her to give you the same. That means the TV, stereo, and phones need to be turned off. Turn the phones all the way off. Phones vibrating on the countertop are at least as distracting as phones playing Top 40 songs.
3) Boost your energy. If either of you is feeling tired, take a quick walk around the block before you start. And have a snack.
4) Shed the stress. If your day has left you feeling stressed, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. If you’re really stressed out, try the “3-minute miracle.” Set a timer and take slow breaths for three whole minutes. You’ll feel like a different person afterward, and it’ll be much easier to maintain your patience during the session.
5) Observe. If your child generally knows how to do the work, but her homework grades don’t reflect that knowledge, watch her as she does problems. Chances are she is making sign errors or repeating some other specific mistake over and over. If you do find the problem, be sure to emphasize the fact that she is doing most of the process correctly and gently point out the error she is making.
6) Have a conversation. If your child does well on homework but her test grades are poor, ask her how she feels about taking tests. Test anxiety is very common, and there are lots of great strategies for addressing it. Here is a good place to start.
7) Put it in practice. If you look, you will find opportunities to practice math everywhere you go. Kids learn math better when they see it in action, so let them use the scales at the grocery, pay the clerk at the department store, and look for symmetry in flowers.
8) Make a list. As you tackle homework together, keep a list of topics that are difficult for your child. Then whenever you have a free moment, look for resources such as videos or articles on the internet that will help you explain those topics in different ways.
9) Give kudos. Look for any excuse to give encouragement to your child for her efforts. Younger children love stickers. Older children might want to pick the family movie. Almost all kids will appreciate pizza for dinner. Everybody tries harder when they receive encouragement.
10) Make it fun. In my opinion, this is the number one thing you can do to improve your child’s learning experience, and by extension, her grades. If you can accomplish this, everything else will fall into place. Most people think it’s impossible, but I promise you, it is not. I could write a whole book on this topic —oh, wait, I already did! If you need ideas for making math fun for your child, I would be honored if you were to read my book, Math Can Be Fun: A Parent’s Guide to Engaging Kids in Math.
I’d love to hear from you about your experiences in working with your child in math!