Monsters in My Math

Forget the boogie man under the bed. There’s a bigger problem out there. “My child is scared to try new things that are hard for him.” At DreamBox, we hear this quite a bit. And I believe it’s a problem all parents should attack with muster. Why? Because learning to persevere through a tough problem is a life skill that will serve every child well, now and forever. So how does a parent address this? Every child is different. We’ve come up with ideas to help you find the best way for your child to learn.

Show Your Child that Learning Math can be Fun

  • Answer a question with a question. Child: “What am I supposed to do here?” Parent: “What do you think you should do here?” or “Is there anything here that will give you help?” When your child is able to answer a question on her own, let her know. “Wow! I’m impressed. Did you know you already knew the answer?” (Note: In DreamBox, we provide different levels of instructions in most games. Click Help once to receive a quick recap of the instructions. Click Help again and you’ll receive more detailed, explicit directions. Teach your child about this feature.)
  • Latency – wait for your child to respond. Often we (parents and teachers) start answering our own questions before a child has had an adequate amount of think time. Give your child the think time she needs. If you don’t, your child learns that by waiting a little while, you’ll answer the question and provide more help, whether she needs it or not. When teaching, I taught myself to wait for over a minute for some responses. This feels like an incredible amount of time, but it’s the amount of time that some kids need to consider a problem and respond to it.
  • Don’t hover. Are you a “helicopter” parent? Do you swoop in and rescue your child at the first sign of a struggle? If this sounds like you, put some distance between your child and her struggles. I’d also suggest reading one of the books in the Love & Logic series.
  • Be present, but not attentive. Some kids are comforted just knowing a helping hand is available. Sit nearby with a book. Eventually walk away for 2 minutes, then 5. Whenever I introduce a new computer game to my daughter, I’m always nearby for the initial experience. As she gets familiar with the game, I decrease my attention and proximity to her.
  • Don’t be present. Some kids are willing to experiment more and make mistakes when a parent or sibling isn’t around. Basically, they don’t want to make mistakes in front of anyone. Let them. Provide earphones so you don’t hear every wrong answer.
  • Model behavior by sharing your struggles. Let your child know that you have to solve hard problems too. Talk about this. Let her know how good it feels when you’ve finally completed a difficult task through hard work and perseverance. Also, let her know when you almost gave up but didn’t.
  • Limit the time spent on one activity. Some kids have a hard time self-regulating how much is too much. They start to break down when an activity has lasted too hard. Stop the activity and refocus your child’s attention.
  • Think out loud. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t help your child. Of course you should. Just make sure you’re giving the right kind of help. Try to verbally express what you’re thinking as you help your child. Share even the smallest details. Two fabulous books are this are Comprehending Math: Adapting Reading Strategies to Teach Mathematics, K-6 by Arthur Hyde and Strategies That Work: Teaching Comprehension for Understanding and Engagement by Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis.

Have you figured out that this isn’t just a problem in math? It’s a problem that must be addressed in every subject, including social time. Use these same strategies to help your child solve problems with a playmate, when reading a new book or putting together a new Lego set.