How My Kids Develop Math Confidence Part 2

I mentioned in my previous post, How My Kids Develop Math Confidence, how Katie struggled with Math when she was in kindergarten but after tutoring her at home, she ended up finishing the first grade Math standards before she started first grade. This post is an update on her current math skills.

Before I discuss Katie’s current Math skills, I want to write a little bit about my own education. I went to private schools from kindergarten until I got my bachelor’s degree. My parents paid for everything including the books. All of the books had to be bought before school started so that everyone had everything they needed for the first day. When I was a kid, I would finish reading most of my textbooks during summer vacation. I also worked on some of the math problems in my math workbook. The math textbooks had examples in them so I was able to figure out how to work the problems. When school started, most of the topics were just a review to me. Sometimes, the assigned homework was already done during summer. I still studied for exams for subjects that involved memorization like Social Studies and Science. But since I wasn’t studying a lot, the pressure was less and I had more free time to play or watch TV. This tidbit of information about me is very important because I use the same technique for Katie.

I already know that Katie’s math skills is not as advanced as her reading skills. She was able to read and comprehend Charlotte’s Web after only 8 months of reading instruction and has been improving consistently. But in math, she struggled to memorize the counting sequence when she was only being taught in school. So, last summer, we focused on her math skills. Katie doesn’t have a very good memory but she’s very committed. I often remind her of the story of the Tortoise and the Hare. I told her if she keeps on learning math a little bit every day, then she’ll be able to learn the concepts eventually. Just like the tortoise was very slow in the race but ended up winning against the hare anyway.

It has been three months since she started first grade. She’s still doing very well in math. During the parent-teacher conference, her teacher mentioned that Katie is able to comprehend new concepts quickly, which makes me happy because Katie is no longer struggling in math. Katie also tells me that the math that she’s learning in school is easy. This is because the math that she is being taught in school is not new to her. We covered them back in summer. Currently, she’s working on second grade math at home. The advantage of learning them ahead of time is that she’s not pressured to learn them right away. She can take her time learning the topics. I have noticed that she is able to learn easily when she is not under pressure. When she becomes frustrated with a certain topic, I just ask her to pick it up the following day. If she’s still frustrated with it for several days, we move to an easier topic like geometry and let her finish that one. Then we move back to the topic that she was having a hard time with. Usually, the break allows her to gain her confidence back and makes her willing to study the hard topic again. In a school setting, when the topic is too hard, you can’t defer it to a later date. Everyone is on the same schedule. I can optimize her learning at home by having her study when it’s most appropriate for her and reshuffle the topics based on her aptitudes. We can study a topic until she gets it. We do not move on to the next topic until she has learned the one we were on. We are not on a schedule, unlike in school where you have to finish everything by a certain date. Because of her personalized learning at home, she is able to do most of her math homework from school without any help. She has also memorized her addition facts ahead of her class (except for two classmates) which is a huge achievement for her, because as I have said, she doesn’t have a very good memory. But since she has already been introduced to first grade math topics, she has time to focus on her memorization.

If you have a child who is struggling in math and you want him to do better, just start tutoring him ten minutes a day and modify it according to your child’s tolerance. The important thing is your child stops studying before he becomes so frustrated that he is unable to take in any new information.

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