Maths can be intimidating for kids and adults alike. In fact, “maths anxiety” is a condition that was first recognised in the 1950s. It’s defined as “an adverse emotional reaction to mathematics or the prospect of doing mathematics” and is thought to affect one in 10 people, who not only fear maths and avoid it as much as possible, but are so affected by this lack of confidence that it impairs their performance. So is it any wonder many of us dread doing maths homework? Primary school teacher Carolyn Curtin is making it her mission to turn the tide and teach kids and parents to embrace doing maths homework together. Here she shares her top tips and tricks.
Buy A Whiteboard
“[For] kids, whiteboards are far less scary to write on than paper because if you make a mistake you can wipe it out with your finger,” explains Carolyn. It’s for this reason she recommends every kid has access to a whiteboard and whiteboard marker at home, no matter how big or small their space. “Get them to do their working out on a whiteboard. It’s a great way to get them to show their thinking and you can intervene when you need to. Or you can draw some things that might help them model a question.”
What To Try
- J.Burrows Aluminium Magnetic Whiteboard 215 x 279mm White
- Keji Magnetic Whiteboard Eraser Small Purple
- Studymate Grip Whiteboard Markers Bullet Assorted 4 Pack
This might sound counterintuitive, but Carolyn insists that making mistakes in maths homework is actually a good thing – it can help teachers and parents see where kids are going wrong. From there, it’s much easier to work on suitable strategies and drill down on any missing knowledge. “Mistakes make you a better learner,” reveals Carolyn. “Teach your kids to make their mistakes loud and proud, so Mum and Dad know how to help. Have the attitude at home that mistakes are okay.” Once kids accept that it’s good to have a go and getting it wrong is no big deal, they’ll be much more confident to tackle tricky problems that come their way.
Find the Fun
For kids who aren’t keen on doing maths homework, a fun board game or play activity might be the ideal outside-the-box entry point. “There are lots of great opportunities for play-based learning around maths, which you can do at home or in your own backyard,” says Carolyn. “Having two dice and rolling them for addition games. Board games are another great one, particularly things like Snakes and Ladders, when it comes to moving forward and backwards and counting the squares.” Another fab idea? Using Lego or wooden blocks to make patterns and build two- and three-dimensional shapes.
What To Try
What the heck is a manipulative, you ask? Well, basically, it’s any sort of hands-on resource kids can use to help make maths concepts less abstract and more grounded in real life. They’re particularly important, says Carolyn, when kids are working on more difficult concepts like multiplication and division. “You can use things like plain counters or teddy bear counters – they’re fantastic for modelling addition and subtraction. If you don’t have those at home, you can use shells or uncooked pasta.”
What To Try
- Learning Can Be Fun Nuts and Bolts Jar of 32
- Educational Colours Craft Bowls 6 Pack
- Kadink Small Counters Yellow 30 Pack
- Kadink Small Counters Red 30 Pack
- Kadink Small Counters Assorted 30 Pack
- Kadink Craft Sticks Natural 180 Pack
- Learning Can Be Fun Animal Counters 72 Pack
- Learning Can Be Fun Wooden Cubes 100 Pack
- Learning Can Be Fun Wooden 121 Piece Set
Look For Real-life Connections
Make maths more meaningful by relating it back to real-life situations that children can connect to. “For example, if you’re looking at measurement, make a family height chart and compare your different heights,” suggests Carolyn. “Cooking is also wonderful for working on counting and measurement and making maths applicable to real life.” Find their areas of personal interest and look for ways to link maths to them. A car-loving kid will enjoy reading the speedometer, for instance, while another might love setting up shop and practising counting with coins.
Utilise Technology and Online Resources
Don’t ditch pencil and paper altogether, but find some balance by switching it up every now and again and using maths websites and apps as well. “There are some great sites, such as Matific and Studyladder. And then there are YouTube channels, like Jack Hartmann, that work on things like counting or times tables, doing repetitive rote learning through music,” says Carolyn. And what kid doesn’t love playing iPad games and watching YouTube? You can toss out the parent-guilt, too, because it’s educational and helping to boost their little brains.
Hot Tip: Apps and online games work best once your kids have fully grasped the concept. Stick to hands-on manipulatives while they’re still learning.
Remember the Basics
As with any homework, always ensure there’s space and time to sit down and do it properly. “It sounds a bit obvious, but it’s my first tip – make sure that you have a space set up at home that is designated for homework. And that the television isn’t on in the background!” says Carolyn. Get into good habits by establishing a maths homework routine that suits the family: do it all in the one night or set aside a morning before school if you’re a family of earlybirds. By making your maths study session a regular weekly thing, you’ll build momentum and increase their skills and interest.
Need supplies for your classroom? Find excellent teacher resources here