In honor of National Pi Day, let’s talk math.
What if you had a decision looming that, depending on what you choose, will have a monumental impact on your child’s future? You would insist on having some time to discuss options, do some research, and perhaps even talk to some experts, before making the decision, right? Thus is the importance of the math class in which you enroll your middle or high school student for next school year.
Unfortunately, the school pre-enrollment form often comes home in a packet with twenty other forms and flyers on a Tuesday when you have soccer and piano lessons. And, the due date? During 1st hour Wednesday morning!
To help avoid last-minute dilemmas, consider booking time with your student’s current teacher to get guidance on what math class to choose. After all, your child’s chances of scholastic success in middle school, high school, tech school, or college can be affected by this decision.
Choosing the Most Appropriate Level
Math courses, starting in 7th grade, are taken in a typical order, to build on foundations laid in the previous course. This math progression is:
- General Math
- Algebra I (or Pre-AP version)
- Geometry (or Pre-AP)
- Algebra II (or Pre-AP)
- Trigonometry/PreCalculus (or Pre-AP)
- Calculus (or AP Calculus, which can earn college credit)
Public school testing results from 5th and 6th grade can guide parents in choosing the best math level for their student. If your math student masters concepts easily, a teacher may recommend skipping a level or two in the math progression.
Skipping a year is not always recommended, though. Only if your student has the desire and motivation to work hard to cover any gaps, as well as support at home, should skipping a step be considered.
Homework: the Value of Taking the Long Road
Homework is how students learn. Through trial and error, they eventually master a concept. It allows for attempts and mistakes to be made and corrected before a quiz or test. Think of it this way: you wouldn’t expect a student who has potential in sports or music to be ready for a big game or recital without having put in hours of practice.
Learning math is no less challenging. And, completing homework is essential. It is how students start to recognize patterns and make connections with previous lessons learned.
Strategies for Math Success
Math homework requires a study space – generally without distractions, television, internet, or phone. Some kids need extra stimulation to get their brain in an aroused state of focus, so listening to music can be beneficial, as long as they aren’t stopping to change the music often.
It’s vital to stay caught up in math, and especially important to complete homework on time because every day new concepts will be added. If a student starts falling behind, the amount of overdue work can become overwhelming. Parents may need to step in and help the student and teacher make a plan for getting caught up.
When to Bring in Reinforcements
When your student is stuck, there are resources online for almost any problem (see these top ten math sites). These resources can help by showing videos and examples of how to work a problem. However, the student will still need to do the hard work of thinking and understanding the solution. That way, they will be able to solve similar problems.
Helping a struggling math student can be hard for parents, but don’t give up. Provide support for your student and encourage them to keep trying. If problems persist, contact the teacher and express your concerns. The teacher may be able to suggest specific strategies and tools to help.
Laying Math Foundations for Younger Students
For pre-school and early elementary age students, reinforce math through activities like:
- assembling puzzles of geometric shapes (geometry)
- counting by 2s, 5s, 10s; grouping into sets such as 5 cars + 5 cars = 10 cars (multiplication)
- measuring things with a ruler, yardstick, or tape measure (the number line)
- measuring ingredients in cooking (fractions and units)
Relationships – the Great Equation
Math frustration can lead to a tense relationship between you, your student, and their teacher. To help protect these relationships, practice honest communication and be proactive when problems arise. Your student working steadily at math + support at home + a determined math teacher can = math mastery and a gateway to future learning and opportunities.