In any school system one finds children who excel in Maths; but one also discovers that an equal or even greater number of school children fare poorly – probably because of their failure to understand basic math concepts at a very early stage.
In this article I would like to ventilate the following tips to help children, young and slightly older ( teens in their junior and middle High School years ) ones who have difficulties grasping math concepts, resulting in them not doing what they are inherently capable of achieving in general mathematical performance.
Tip # 1: INTRODUCE MATHS CONCEPTS PROGRESSIVELY with emphasis on developing manipulative skills and activities-based learning.
It is vital that children in elementary schools be taught the fundamental math concepts involving the usual operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division) and fractions, proportions and percentages. Early Maths education should be as activity-based as possible: from simple additions ( putting objects together and counting them ), subtractions ( removing articles/items from a certain number of such articles/items ), multiplications ( linking addition to the ultimate concept of multiplication ) and division ( dividing a certain number of objects equally among say 2 or 3 or more children ).
Tip # 2: EMPHASIZE both THE PRACTICAL IMPORTANCE OF MATHS and the INTERESTING ASPECTS OF MATHS – hands-on and practical approach.
Many children would question why they have to learn Maths concepts like fractions, percentage, decimals, etc.; they demand to know why they are in a sense compelled to learn sometime apparently ‘useless’ and ‘abstract’ topics. It is therefore incumbent on the teacher or the parent or anyone who is interested in the child’s Maths abilities to try a hands-on and practical approach, at least at the beginning stage of learning of the more abstract topics. This necessarily requires that the learning of these ideas be associated or linked with everyday, commonplace activities.
Children could be brought to markets, both traditional and the modern ultra-modern hypermarkets – to see and experience themselves first-hand activities and visual stimuli that involve math: fractions, percentages (e.g., on signboards in departments that offer discounts), geometrical shapes of bottles ( perfumes and toiletries department ). Slightly older children could also pay visits to local banks to find out the meaning of interest rates, exchange rates, etc. – practical matters that bear some relation to what they learn in classes.
Tip # 3: EXPOSE THE CHILDREN TO THE POSSIBILITIES OF MATHS: make attempts to encourage and stimulate children to think of areas which could make use of Maths concepts.
Although children with some form of learning difficulties in Maths are generally not whiz-kids it does not mean that they all are lacking in imagination and enthusiasm. It takes a dedicated, qualified, well-trained and inspired person ( usually an educator ) to motivate these seemingly less Maths-inclined children; with appropriate approaches and methodologies, it is not impossible for educators to unearth the potential abilities of these children.
Suitable strategies can be drawn up in attempts to pique the children’s curiosity as when the teacher poses the interesting question of how Maths concepts like game theories and stochastic processes are used to forge new and novel designs in both weaponry and machinery. Children could also be guided to navigate the huge resources offered by the Internet – with its several hundreds of thousands of useful math websites; to look for interesting, interactive Maths programs that teach basic math concepts. The possibilities offered by Maths are therefore quite limitless though not immediately tangible and practicable. By encouraging children to freely voice their opinions and suggestions (however naive and improbable) on the use of Maths concepts, they realize that learning Maths can be fun and Maths is not a dull and abstract subject at all!
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