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Don’t Forget to Check the Math App in Your Child’s Head! Say What?

Disclaimer:: The math experts at Mathnasium Fort Worth crafted this post, explaining how you can evaluate your child’s math skills and encourage retention and growth.

As parents, how do we really know if our children are “getting” the math concepts they need to succeed? How do we know that when the time comes to jump the two key hurdles of college entry – algebra and those tricky cousins, the ACT (American College Testing) and the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) – that our children will thrive? The app reference is applicable and certainly interesting as there are three areas of “math code” that need to be downloaded into our children’s brains as they progress through elementary school.

In some circles, these two hurdles are collectively referred to as the “invisible wall.” Children can appear to progress through their elementary education, outwardly demonstrating the conceptual, arithmetic framework necessary to tackle the algebra series, and then onto higher geometry and trigonometry, when, in fact, their incredibly talented and adaptable minds have simply stored enough information to perform adequately on standardized tests and homework during the school year. This result allows everyone to breathe a sigh of relief and enjoy the summer activities, and hopefully be excited to start the next school year. Suddenly your little one tells you they hate math. That, and the necessary full-contact evenings of homework cage fighting matches to get it done, certainly take their toll on your child’s self-esteem.

Teacher and StudentSo, what is a busy parent to do? Let’s be honest, we are lucky to get our children out the door with a breakfast in their bellies consisting of anything more than a half-eaten bagel, or better yet a chocolate popsicle (there’s calcium in there, right?) How are we to know if our children are hitting the “invisible wall” right before our eyes? Well, here are a set of questions, by grade, that you can use to check the health and overall function of that Math App currently under construction in your child’s brain!

Before you deliver these questions, here are some housekeeping items: First, the child should use “Mental Math.” This simply means they should do it in their heads without the benefit of paper, pencil, or calculator other than to write down their answers. Second, the child should take no more than a minute or two to answer each question. Be on the lookout for finger counting – this could be an early indication of future struggles. Finger counting may yield a correct answer, but it was derived with a technique that is entirely too inefficient to complete timed, standardized tests. Finally, feel free to ask the questions for the lower grades. If the child is in fifth grade, ask the questions for first, second, and third grade first. Finally, check the answers against the link below. If they are wrong, be careful of your approach. Half of the battle is understanding, the other is self-confidence which manifests in Maththe belief that you can do or overcome anything!

Why are these questions important as a critical check for conceptual knowledge and future success? Each question provides insight into something called Number Sense, the foundation of mathematics. Number sense is defined by three parts: counting, wholes and parts, and proportional thinking. These questions illuminate the missing concepts that are often lost in a never-ending array of fact memorization and the application of wrote procedures.

What now? With a child struggling in math, be sure the proposal for help does not push rote memorization or repetition alone; while math needs repetition, you are not seeking repetition of a procedure, but rather of the concept. This will help ensure a positive experience that will move the child toward comfort, or dare I say, a joy of learning math! Lastly, beware — our society has an interchangeable definition of tutor and instruction; and there is a definite difference. The typical model of tutoring fosters a “learned dependence” because the student is spoon feed the information and develops a comfort knowing the tutor is there every step of the way. Instruction is a bit different. The student is given a review of the concept and then left to independently apply the knowledge to one or two problems at that time. Course correction should be given in the same session, but only after a full application of the concept is demonstrated. One of the symptoms of tutoring is great performance with the tutor, but poor performance on tests and quizzes. The traditional tutoring model does not foster the extension of knowledge while test and quizzes often test this extension.

MathnasiumRichard is the owner and operator of the Mathnasium of Ft. Worth West location. Prior to opening his Mathnasium center, Rich spent 17 years developing, opening, and operating large oncology centers and hospitals. His previous titles have included CFO, COO, and president and CEO of major oncology programs in the midwest and east coast regions. After many years helping cancer patients, Rich is now dedicated to the development and launch of Mathnasium franchises to foster confidence and mastery in children, while reaching their ultimate potential. 

Additionally, Rich is a licensed Certified Public Accountant, as well as holds a B.A. in journalism from Arizona State University and an Executive Masters in business administration from the Gabelli School of Business at Fordham University in Manhattan, New York.

Having struggled with learning disabilities as a child, Rich is enthusiastic about helping every child in the Fort Worth community to truly understand math by teaching it in a way that makes sense to them. He has taught and tutored children of all ages, and is committed to bringing the Mathnasium Method to children in the community.

For more than a decade, the Mathnasium Method™ has transformed the way kids understand and appreciate math. Larry Martinek, creator of the Mathnasium Method, has spent 40+ years designing, developing, and refining this approach based on his extensive experience teaching math to kids. We build math knowledge upon what they already know – this helps kids learn quickly and boosts their confidence right away.

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