Everyone struggles with math, whether learning the multiplication tables or trying to figure out how to stretch the monthly income to pay bills. Some find mathematics easier than others, just as some find spelling easier. Some use mathematics extensively in their work, just as some make more use of hammers. Everyone, though, uses mathematics daily, and limited math proficiency leads to limited success with the dailychallenges of our society. As Sutton has said, "one of the most significant things parentscan do is to help their children understand the normalcy and the value of struggle inmathematics".
What Are Children Learning In Math?
The widespread adoption of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSSM) presents an unprecedented opportunity for systemic improvement in mathematics education in the United States. The Common Core State Standards offer a foundation for the development of more rigorous, focused, and coherent mathematics curricula, instruction, and assessments that promote conceptual understanding and reasoning as well as skill fluency. This foundation will help to ensure that all students are ready for college and careers when they graduate from high school and that they are prepared to take their place as productive, full participants in society. Project Appleseed has supported national standards since Goals 2000 was launched nearly 20 years ago.
How Can Parents Help?
Set the Example. Project Appleseed engages parent involvement in schools. One of the most important ways parents can help a child in math is by exhibiting attitudes and values supportive of learning. "All children have twowonderful resources for learning-imagination and curiosity. As a parent, you can awaken your children to the joy of learning by encouraging their imagination andcuriosity" (Ravitch, in Kanter, 1994). Sutton (1998) offers the following suggestions:
Accept the Struggle as a normal part of doing math, just as you accept the struggle to become better in sports. Help uncover difficulties, and offer suggestions for over coming them.
Encourage Mastery. Just as it is important to repeat fundamentals again and again in sports until performed automatically, it is important to see practice in mathematics as developing mastery, not a chore or form of punishment.
Look Beyond the Grade. Math grades are often calculated on percentages of correct answers on tests and assignments accumulated during a grading period, so they may not reflect under-standing that has developed over the course of a grading period. Help focus on understanding and being able to identify specific difficulties.
Discover the Textbook. "Reading" math can be difficult, and math textbooks are often used as collections of assignments and homework problems. Help your child learn how to "read" the math textbook, see the underlying structure, and learn from the examples provided.
Help Children See the Math Around Them. Help children recognize the use of math around them in daily life, and engage them in games and activities that foster familiarity with numbers and mathematical thinking. A guide, "Helping Your Child Learn Math," is available online. The guide suggests many activities that parents can do with children (grades K-8) at home, at the grocery store, or in transit. The activities generally make use of playing cards, coins,containers, or other simple materials around the house.
Provide A Place and Resources to Study. Project Appleseed believes we must provide children with convenient,quiet, and comfortable work areas, along with whatever resources are needed to study math and complete assignments. Encourage the use of reference materials (such as dictionaries and encyclopedias), and provide a computer and calculator if possible. If a computer is not available in the home, plan regular visits to a public library or community learning center where access is available.
The computer has become a common and essential tool in learning many school subjects, particularly mathematics and science. You and your children can use the computer to:
Produce reports and assignments using word processing programs, spreadsheets, and other software.
Find information from reference materials.
Use commercial software packages that teach math skills in interesting and enjoyable ways.
Access the abundant math and homework resources and assistance freely available on the Internet.
Help With Homework. Teachers assign homework for a variety of reasons: to help students review what has been learned; to help them prepare for the next class session; to extend student exploration of topics more fully than class time permits; or to help students gain skill in self-directed learning and using resources such as libraries and reference materials.