Be not afraid of going slowly; be only afraid of standing still. – Chinese proverb
If you’ve ever wondered how much time you should spend on Math-U-See each day, then this blog post is for you.
There’s no doubt about it; we live in a very time-focused and fast-paced society. The evidence is everywhere, from one-hour dry cleaners to fast food restaurants. We always seem to be watching the clock. It’s easy to allow time to dominate our lives, including our homeschooling. There’s definitely a place for time-watching in our educational endeavors. For example, in the Spelling You See program, we encourage the use of a timer to limit the dictations to 10 minutes, but what about time limits for math? What are the reasonable expectations, and what factors should be considered?
Developmentally Appropriate Attention Span
Regardless of the subject, respecting the developmentally appropriate attention span for your child’s age is essential. Many parents, myself included, often have unreasonable expectations. In my early days of home-educating, I was spending up to two hours per day on math with a six-year-old! I was too naïve to realize this was not appropriate, even though that is how long it was taking to finish the curriculum’s daily plan. There were tears daily, and sometimes my son cried, too! According to a blog post on Day to Day Parenting, the attention span of a 5- to 6-year-old is only 10 to 15 minutes (5 to 10 minutes for an uninteresting or difficult task without adult guidance). In general, your child’s age can be used as a starting point by allowing one minute per year of age.
However, many other factors can impact your child’s attention span. If your child is tired or hungry, he will not be able to focus as long. If the environment is too noisy or too quiet, this could be distracting as well. Both you and your child will also appreciate if you plan your day to alternate stationary and active pursuits.
Know When to Stop
When you see signs of frustration and stress, it’s time to stop at least temporarily. Productive struggle is beneficial in the learning process, and the ability to persevere is a key element to academic success. Stress, on the other hand, is one of learning’s worst enemies. “Stressed people don’t do math very well. They don’t process language very efficiently. They have poorer memories, both short and long forms.” (Source) Trying to continue on with your child’s math studies after the stress hormone cortisol has reared its ugly head will risk additional frustration and the development of a dislike for the subject.
Why Do We Study Math?
What is the purpose of studying math? Here at Demme Learning we believe it is to create confident problem solvers, people who are able to apply math knowledge in their daily lives. In order to accomplish this, it is important to take time to master each concept. Rushing through lessons too quickly does not allow your child to internalize concepts and make them his own. Just because your child “can” seem to focus long enough to complete an entire lesson in a day doesn’t mean he “should.”
Meet Your Child’s Needs
Like other aspects of the Math-U-See program (and homeschooling in general), how much time you spend each day should be individualized to best meet your child’s needs. Challenge your child, but don’t frustrate. Just as if she were reading a good cliffhanger, allow her to leave the day’s lesson wanting more. If necessary to reach academic goals, complete multiple short sessions rather than a single long one. For example, you might watch and discuss the Math-U-See video segment together, take some time for physical education or recess, and then come back and work through some practice problems. Your student might complete the front of a worksheet, move on to a science experiment, have lunch, and then finish the back of the worksheet. Remember, there’s nothing to fear in moving slowly; it’s still progress.