I frequently receive questions about homeschooling math, or about assisting children with math assignments at home. Since I happen to love teaching math, I’ve made it my goal to help families overcome this anxiety if I can.
Did you know a parent’s math aptitude has no bearing on how well children will perform in math class? It’s true! Like with all other subjects, children can easily succeed in math whether their parents are good at it or not.
Though an aptitude for math isn’t exactly hereditary, an apprehension about math can be passed down from parents to children. Since math anxiety CAN be transferred from teachers to students, and from parents to children, homeschool moms and dads would be wise to to hide math insecurities from their kids if they can. I know that’s easier said than done — but exuding a positive attitude about math should remain a constant goal.
Another tip is to raise kids to view math like any other subject. The worst thing is to single math out as something different, something hard, or something requiring a lot of extra help and attention from non-math-hating people. Saying things like, “Many people stink at math” or, “Most people never use math in their lives anyway” will only make things worse. As you can imagine, statements such as those do nothing to encourage or anchor positive math thoughts into kids’ minds.
Negative math thoughts plant only doubt — causing some kids to give up before even giving math a try.
Avoiding anti-math thoughts is so crucially important, in fact, that for kids who are taught that enjoying math is a matter of choice or preference; or that only those with exceptional abilities will succeed, it might be too late to ever develop a math-confident attitude.
Homeschooled kids — particularly those who’ve never experienced math-phobic teachers and students in traditional classrooms – have a great advantage in this area. They’ve been less exposed, therefore less influenced, by the way others think about mathematics. And as long as parents and others refrain from making anti-math comments, kids who view math as the same challenge as anything else, are more likely to succeed.
Finally, especially when teaching math, consider how the child learns best. Thinking about the child’s personality and his/her learning preferences is very important with math, since the fit between math instruction and the student can literally make or break the first few math experiences. Unpleasant math experiences can be overcome, but best to avoid them in the first place. Starting out with the right-fit curriculum or materials saves a great deal of time and frustration trying to turn negative experiences around.
Insuring initial wins in math successfully sets the tone for more positive math lessons to come.
With all that said, choosing a mathematics curriculum for homeschooling isn’t always an either task, either. I offer the following advice for selecting math products for homeschool:
1. Begin shopping early, ideally 2-3 months before homeschool begins. This time frame provides ample time to research all the possibilities, allowing time for returns and exchanges if products are not as expected.
2. Ask homeschooling friends what they use for each child and why — the “why” being the most important part. Hearing from other parents why they like or dislike products can help identify things you may not have thought of on your own. Listening to their stories can also help identify the kinds of products that work well for different kinds of children.
3. For younger children: Figure out exactly how to use math books and other resources before showing them to your student. Displaying an understanding of the course and confidence about the system can be the key to gaining your child’s trust and cooperation — and, ultimately, his/her success in using it. For older children: Let previous experiences with math to be your guide, but consider allowing older students to help select their own math resources or help you figure out how to use them for homeschooling.
4. Never let popularity or a product’s indisputable reputation keep you from choosing something else. If, while flipping through a math book or reading aloud some instructions to your child, your gut tells you something isn’t right, you’re probably right. With mathematics, though perseverance and hard work are important to understanding materials, muddying the waters by using a book that makes no sense to you or to your student will only make it worse. No matter how early in the year or how much money you have paid for a textbook, subscription, or online course, re-evaluating your needs and changing materials is the best thing to do.
For a list of some of the most popular math programs used by homeschoolers, check HERE. The more care you take in choosing what you use, the better off your student will start out in math overall. And a better start in math will insure a better finish every time!
Dr. Marie-Claire Moreau is a college professor who traded in her tenure to become a homeschool mom 20+ years ago. A homeschooling pioneer and the founder of many groups and organizations, she works to advance home education, and is an outspoken supporter of education reform coast to coast. Her book, Suddenly Homeschooling: A Quick Start Guide to Legally Homeschool in Two Weeks, is industry-acclaimed as it illustrates how homeschooling can rescue children and families from the public school system, and how anyone can begin homeschooling within a limited time-frame, with no teaching background whatsoever. A writer, a homeschool leader, and a women’s life coach, Marie-Claire mentors in a variety of areas that impact health, education and lifestyle. A conference speaker, she has appeared at FPEA/Tampa, H.E.R.I., HECOA, Start Homeschooling Summit, Luminous Mind, Vintage Homeschool Moms, iHomeschool Network, and other events. Her articles have appeared in and on Holistic Parenting, CONNECT, Homefires, Homemaking Cottage, Kiwi, Circle of Moms, and hundreds of sites and blogs nationwide. Marie-Claire can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.