How can I help my child improve in math?
- April 9, 2019
- Posted by: SumLogix Team
- Category: Psychology
The simple answer is, “Practice, practice and practice.” While the key to getting better lies in these words, these words just scratch the surface of what it takes to become good at math. The key lies in the answer to this question, “What is your child actually practicing?”
Math problems help develop three key skills. These are:
1. Computation Skills – These are skills where you learn a process for doing something. For example, learning to multiply large numbers, doing division or learning to add fractions.
2. Conceptual Understanding – This is your understanding of the “why” behind a process, how concepts are linked and how a concept relates to real life.
3. Application and Problem Solving Skills – These skills require you to use computation skills and conceptual understanding to solve real world problems.
Rote exercises are generally meant to reinforce concepts and computation skills. While several math programs focus on rote exercises, these exercises do not help a child develop conceptual understanding or application and problem solving skills. For example, while learning a multiplication table, a child is hardly thinking of the concept of multiplication or the situations where he/she can apply it. On the other hand, conceptual exercises and word problems assume that the child is proficient in computation skills and focus on helping a child develop an understanding of the relevance of the concept and its application in the real world.
For a child to improve in math, the practice time needs to balance the development of all three skills. Initially, when a new concept is being introduced the emphasis should be more on rote practice of computation skills, and development of conceptual understanding of how a concept fits into the existing knowledge base. Gradually, the focus must shift to the application of concepts.
The practice time has to take into account the changing needs of the learner. The speed at which the balance shifts and the type of application problems that a child is exposed to depends on each child. At one end of the spectrum, a slower learner might spend more time doing rote exercises and working on simple application problems. At the other end, a gifted learner might spend more time working on challenging and contest level problems. The key to achieving the right balance is to provide a child with problems that build his or her skills and confidence, and challenge him or her just enough to make them get better at problem solving and application.