Helping a child with mathematical skills

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Helping a child with mathematical skills

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Review of "Helping a child with mathematical skills"

published 22/09/2006 | thingywhatsit
Member since : 30/11/-0001
Reviews : 633
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About me :
Pro Every child needs help
Cons A child not helped is an adult with little understanding:
very helpful


Many years ago, I taught children with learning difficulties and invented ways in which their parents could help these children to understand subjects such as mathematics. The problem stems to a certain degree from the inflexibility of the education system which caters for the majority, rather than those to whom words like "minus";,"plus" and "division" mean nothing without simple explanation. Being a child that had this problem myself I devised ways in which a child could relate to the experience of using mathematics that does relate to their life, rather than being an obscure mystery.

For example, one child that I taught had missed the boat completely and at the age of 11 years old could not perform even the most basic of mathematical skills, and no matter how much I tried to explain in simple terms, pen on paper, the traditional methods drew a blank, and his parents despaired and teachers had seemingly accepted that the child was not gifted in mathematics.

Amongst the many children I taught; this child was probably the biggest adventure for me, as he really did not understand. I began to talk about his life, to find out the things that were relevant to the child, and little by little was able to develop lessons that his parents could use and practice with him, and between us, we managed to catch the child up with the rest of the class.

Understanding how mathematics are applied to everyday life is important to a child that sees no relevance in the subject matter. For example, the child could read but could not tell the time. Applying a small rule that we learn what time means to that child, we managed to show the child how to look up television programs, what time they were on, and to use his knowledge of time to his advantage. Of course, time is not really a mathmatical problem, athough all teaching has to begin somewhere and this seemed a good place.

Addition and subtraction:

Without wanting to make the child feel stupid, we began teaching basic adding skills with marbles. He knew his numbers but did not know how to apply them. We had separate bowls with marbles in them, and worked through the sequence of addition and subtraction, introducing the actual words after the child gained a good understanding of what happens when you take two marbles away from four, etc. Performed in a fun way and one that was practical, he began to gain confidence, and little by little, we introduced the idea of tables. It took patience although once the means of teaching that worked was established, following the same pattern for other mathematical tasks proved fruitful. A child, even on the simplest level, can understand the relevance of paying for items and knowing that the shop give you the right change. By performing simple tasks, and by patience and understanding that if the child failed to understand, it was our teaching methods employed for that particular child that were at fault, lessons could be adapted to suit the child, and confidence gained.

Division and fractions.

Division was a pretty simple task, once we understood that the equivalent word that the child understood was "sharing". He had always understood the concept of sharing and had been taught to share since being very small. Taking an item that was interesting to him, such as a Mars Bar or a cake, or even something as simple as pokemon cards, we performed sharing exercises and only introduced the word "divide", once he had understood the concept of what division was, i:e: sharing. This method worked very well, and was applied to fractions, i:e: cutting the Mars bar in half, and understanding that cut in half again, we had created quarters. He actually caught on very quickly to the concept of fractions and division and was extremely quick in his calculations and being able to put on paper that which he learned with practical exercise. It is important to strike the balance when understanding is achieved, and to carry the lesson through to written work, since marbles are not readily available in a real life situation, although waiting until a time when the child had grasped the concept before putting pen to paper was advantageous.

What to look out for as a parent.

Of course parents take interest in their children, and the education of their kids, although many dismissed their childs lack of understanding of maths, because they excelled in other areas and didn't think maths that important. In fact basic mathematics are applied as adults to our lives almost on a day to day basis and are essential as a life skill. Keeping an eye on your childs progress is essential and parents can help by making the lessons appealing and fun, by remembering that not all children can learn by traditional methods, and I feel it important never to write off a childs ability in certain subjects because often it is the teaching method employed that is failing, rather than the child. Schools do their best, though that one child that slips through the net and does not learn may just be a statistic to the school, but could be your child and learning to adapt and to help a child see that the subjects that they see as blanks can be made both stimulating and interesting can make the world of difference to that child's future. Be inventive, and it actually stimulates great understanding between a child and a parent and is beneficial to both. I hope that this article helps someone with a child with learning difficulties.

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Comments on this review

  • motherjoanb published 29/10/2006
    Some very helpful information there, Great review. Joanx
  • scream4bruce published 23/10/2006
    Great stuff, nicely dealt with. About the last paragraph I agree that there is not enough help to deal with a child's weaknesses. I'm doing well with mathematics but I wish I had more support with my English then!
  • muttleythefrog published 20/10/2006
    Smashing review with sound advice. The basic understanding of the maths documented is so fundamental to the way we live that to fail children on this count (pardon the pun) is madness in education. Visualisation of maths is so important... the use of cakes to demonstrate division does this. It is also important in more complex, larger scale or more abstract maths where self trust in basic understanding of the subject becomes important because the problem to be solved can lie outside human frames of reference or the real world. What we should never forget is that we have created a numerical environment that is very inconsistent... telling the time or date is quite bizarre for example when the child is being bombarded with the decimal system. Even though maths is my really strong subject area, I often misquote the time if I read it in 24 hour format. This isn't surprising and I wonder, if I am to be controversial (I do try), if teaching young children to use things like watches, clocks, calenders or explaining how computers compute is appropriate until an understanding of what number systems are is understood (unfortunately most adults don't understand that but they need to tell the time and Well done, Pete xx
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Listed on Ciao since: 22/09/2006