Regardless of what profession our children will chose as adults, the ability to be persistent, and to analyze, generalize and come up with the most efficient solution to any problem is a skill that they will always need.
“Why learn math? Because it develops orderly minds,” said 18th century Russian mathematician Mikhail Lomonosov. It would be ideal if schools could guarantee our children’s orderly mind development through top quality math education delivered by top quality math teachers, governed by top quality math standards and using top quality math textbooks. Until that happens, and while policymakers debate new standards, tests, and methodologies, families can do a lot to foster orderly minds at home.
• Develop your child’s reading comprehension skills. Many students freeze when facing a word problem with four or more sentences, due to a lack of reading comprehension skills. Help your child become a good problem solver by summarizing and re-telling books you read together.
• Play math games as a family. The 24 Game is excellent in developing number sense. You can start at any level – from basic addition to fractions and exponents. The game SET develops number sense, spatial visualization and logical reasoning.
• Let your child experience the joy of a challenge. Learning how to “attack” a difficult math problem is a lesson in persistence. Encourage your children to do math outside of school and participate in Math Olympiads to get a “taste” of advanced, thought-provoking, non-routine problems.
• Instill in your child a strong belief that effort is the only variable we can control. Children are very sensitive to “unfair” praise just as they are sensitive to unfair blame. Praise children for not giving up on a difficult problem and newly acquired skills. Focus on earned accomplishments rather than on natural abilities.
Alla Korinevskaya has nearly 30 years of experience as a mathematics teacher and administrator. She is a graduate of UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and has served on the California State Board of Education. She is a contributing writer to Kiddish Magazine.