How to Teach Math Even If You HATE It (Like Me!)
Despite the fact that I work for Demme Learning, math is one of my least favorite subjects. In fact, it was probably the greatest barrier for me beginning a homeschool experience, but also the reason I became a homeschool parent.
So many adults dislike math, don’t understand it, and are uncomfortable with it. Why? After almost six years of being a placement specialist with Math-U-See, I believe it is because we were not well-taught. Sometimes the most difficult conversation is to admit to yourself that math makes you uncomfortable.
How do we keep ourselves from visiting that discomfort on our children?
For me, the more complex the math became, the harder it was for me to stay engaged with the process. It wasn’t until I was a Math-U-See parent, that I realized that the reason math was hard was because I didn’t have my fundamentals covered.
Here is where Math-U-See excels because we begin with teaching the fundamentals. Instead of teaching you a variety of different things all at once, we teach you one thing at a time until you know it well enough to be able to teach it back. That gives you a leg up and an advantage.
There is a growing field of research that says using math manipulatives give children a paradigm to be able to frame their understanding and allow them to move forward mathematically. If we view math instruction as a continuum, beginning with manipulatives makes sense, and helps foster understanding. In the Math-U-See world, manipulatives don’t supplement – they are central to instruction.
Why would that be the case? Here are two reasons that make our manipulatives different:
1) Multiple Modalities
When you use math manipulatives, they give you as many modalities as possible to be able to understand something. Modalities, you say? What I mean by that is as many senses as possible. I am a very visual learner. That is my learning preference. We all have a preference, but that does not mean we cannot use ALL of our senses as we learn something new.
I have kids who are auditory; they learn differently than I do. Somebody who’s really visual says, “Oh, I see.” Someone who’s more auditory would say, “Oh, I hear you.”
Regardless of how you come to the table, the Math-U-See manipulatives level the playing field because they give you the opportunity to work until you understand. When I’m teaching a Math-U-See problem, I’m seeing it, I’m speaking about it, and I’m touching it. I’m using as many senses as possible to teach math.
Often math instruction is like this: “Here is the expectation; you should have it now, and we’re moving on.” That’s a challenge for those of us who did not fully understand what was instructed. When you revisit it later, in a more complex situation, you don’t have full recall, so it becomes much harder to learn.
Flash forward to adulthood where we develop a bunch of coping mechanisms. Or we say we just are not “mathematically minded”. What if we stopped blaming ourselves and placed the blame on the way we were taught? What if we could unlearn the anxiety we have developed towards math and really understand?
That’s what Math-U-See does.
Math-U-See gives your students the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of mathematical concepts and then move forward. Your students don’t need to be stuck doing a hundred problems just because someone decided that a hundred problems was enough. If you can demonstrate understanding, then you can move on to learning something new.
2) Time Spent on Math
The second thing that makes Math-U-See separate from any other curricula is the amount of time you spend in a lesson in a day.
This so vitally important—we want to take our adult paradigm of how long something should take or how long you can stay engaged in a task and apply that to a student. I am the poster child for that. I’m an only child; I was born a tiny adult.
Our children have much shorter attention spans because developmentally, their prefrontal cortex is not complete. In fact, learning theorists say your child has an attention span of their age, plus 2-3 minutes.
If I’m asking my 10-year-old student to do an hour of math a day, he has been successfully engaged in the process, provided that there has been no anxiety, for 10-15 minutes. The other 45 minutes are just an exercise in perseverance.
If we tailor our expectations to meet students at their best, and move forward, then we find that they can be successful.
Math-U-See Sets You Up For Success
Steve Demme (author of Math-U-See) sets you up for success in his instruction. The DVDs are designed to be the how of instruction. How do you use the manipulatives to practice the concepts presented. The instruction manual is the why of what you are doing. You need both to be successful.
If you teach math concept by concept, laying a solid foundation, then you can be successful mathematically, and that makes all the difference in the world. You can even unlearn the mistaken belief that you are not “mathematically minded”, and that means both you AND your children will have mathematical success.
How Can I Help You?
Thank you so much for reading my blog post! I hope it was valuable to you.
If you would like personalized assistance, please feel free to schedule an appointment.