Thursday, 13 November 2014

Tips for home educators teaching maths

Three tips for developing maths skills in a home-education environment

No 1. Before any math work begins ask you child what they did yesterday (with maths). Have them explain as much as possible, in as much detail as possible. This helps your child develop a sense of continuity between math lessons and work. It also has been linked to significantly better learning outcomes. There is some very cool research around this (another time). Suffice to say this one difference is linked to significant increases in learning outcomes.

No 2. The pokerface. Whenever your child gives you an answer to a problem NEVER let on whether it is correct or not. Hear their answer and then say “tell me how you worked it out”. As they talk through their thinking process they do two things. Firstly, if they were wrong in the first case they may self-correct. My Masters research found that learners often self-corrected as they explained their thinking even when they didn't realise it. Secondly, the process of articulating their process will help clarify and consolidate their thinking. Finally, be sure to reward thinking and effort, not correct answers.

No 3. Use equipment as much as possible and where not possible have your children draw pictures. The nature of maths is that it becomes more abstract as it progresses but the human mind passes through stages before this is possible. Abstract thinking MUST be built on a foundation of empirical knowledge. For example if you teach a half plus one third equals five-sixths without your child being able to get a sense of what this really means or looks like in time your child will struggle to make sense of new concepts. Getting children to draw pictures to explain their thinking rocks. You can then use those pictures with your children – asking them to explain what they have drawn and why. Also, save those pictures and pull them out six months later and ask you children to explain what they think was going on.

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