Sunday, June 22, 2008

Where to Start

OK, Time to discuss your child's needs.

Does you child struggle in math? Is he in the 4th - 6th grades? OK, then something needs to be done and something can be done. It needs to be started now and it can be started now.

What you know, you can address. What you don't know or aren't sure about, you must find out. You must delve into until you do know. You must identify what it is, or hire someone to tell you what it is that your child needs help on. But I think parents are smart enough to figure some of it out.

With what does your student struggle? Ask yourself and be specific. Or ask him/her. They can usually tell you something at this age.

Is it number facts? You, the parent, can do something about that and you must. It is a lie to say that memorizing facts isn't important and doesn't really matter. It matters, and you can and must do something about that. A child in intermediate grades that doesn't know the facts, all of them, is like a kid trying to ride a bicycle with two very flat tires. He takes so long just stuck at a stand still at the starting gate, never getting very far. Knowing facts gives him a jump start in solving the more difficult, multi-step problems.

There are some very simple methods to use that will help your child learn the facts, and there are some methods that will do very little good. If this is what your child needs, speak up! I'll help you NOW.

Is it 2-digit multiplication? If so, I would bet your student has a gap somewhere in understanding the concept of place value. If you can't help him/her with that, get assistance from someone who can. Two-digit multiplication is usually taught in the 4th grade and reviewed in 5th before 3-digit multiplication is taught. Work on place value with them now. Or hire someone to do it. Students need to be able to correctly solve 2-digit multiplication quickly. And if your student hasn't mastered multiplication facts, back up and work on that with them. And then tackle the multiplication. And if it's one-digit multiplication, start there.

Is it long division? It could be because your student hasn't mastered multiplication facts once again. Division is really just searching for the missing factor. FACTS -- FACTOR -- get the connection? And long division should be mastered in the 5th grade. Two-digit long division should be mastered in the 5th grade. And it can be.

Is it fractions? Is it decimals? Is it percent? If your student is moving into 6th grade in the fall, a good, clear understanding of these 3 is a must. Get help now, over the summer. If your student struggled with any of these, hire a tutor, check out some on-line sites that will help you help them. A good understanding of fractions is the one single determiner of success in pre-algebra and algebra.

And parents, if you don't understand the four operations of fractions, converting fractions to decimals, decimals to fractions, and converting both to percent, DO NOT TELL your child that you won't be able to help them because you were never good at math.

Tell them that even though you were not good at math, you are going to learn it now so you can both work on it together this summer. Show your student that you are willing to do that. You are not too old to learn it. Go to the tutoring class with your student. Your student will take note of your decision. It will speak volumes. It will say, "Math is important in our family and because it's so important, I'm going to make sure we all know it, and that includes me."

So . . . Reality Check right now. Math troubles are real. Admit and identify at least something, something small perhaps, but something that you can work on. And do it. Don't wait until another school year starts. If you wait, then you'll be tempted to put it off another year. It will not be easier come fall. You student will begin next fall at a lower level than he finished at the end of this past spring. It just happens -- a month or two off can cause a set back, especially for a struggling student.

(This is where I wish I was your next door neighbor. Or your child's aunt or uncle. I would only need to watch him/her work for about a half an hour and I would know enough to be ready to start. Yes, it frustrates me to know that your child is there somewhere and perhaps you don't know what to do. But please try.)