Below, I discuss one of the five important ways that parents can help their child enjoy mathematics and do well in the subject. (1) Have a positive attitude towards mathematics, (2) Emphasize reasoning over memorization, (3) Reading is impactful, (4) Ask open-ended questions, and (5) Play mathematics games and puzzles.
Emphasize Reasoning over Memorization
If mathematics is conveyed to be about memorization then less students are able to be successful. Concepts are less likely to be retained and students number sense to determine the reasonableness of answers is diminished with a focus on memorization. Mathematics is not about how quick problems can be done but efficiency with understanding is great! Reasoning should be emphasized over memorization. There are multiple strategies for solving mathematics problems. With a basis of conceptual understanding students can become skillful in using procedures and strategies flexibly.
One way that parents can encourage reasoning over memorization is by doing number talks with their child. Through number talks students can develop number sense and their math fact fluency. Number talks are becoming more prevalent in elementary grades mathematics classes and parents can also do them at home with their child. Number talks help students develop number sense and mental math abilities. In a number talk, a mathematical problem is posed and children are given time to think to solve the problem mentally. Next, all possible answers are shared for the problem without any statement about which is correct or incorrect. Children then defend an answer by sharing the strategy they used to solve the problem. Discussion occurs so that consensus can be reached on the correct answer and for students to hear the different ways the problem was solved. Number talks can involve one problem or a sequence of related problems. For example, a teacher may pose 28 x 5 and students may use the following strategies.
A sequence of problems could involve 8 x 5, then 20 x 5, and then 28 x 5 for students to get see the strategy of partial products.
In a number talk, the goal is not to find the most complicated way to solve a problem, but to focus on strategies that build number sense, make use of related facts, and develop efficient, flexible strategies that can be used with accuracy. The table below has some strategies that parents can work on in discussing problems with their child. Having an idea of what answers make sense and how to separate and combine numbers flexibly can be developed with number talks. For example, solving 19 + 38 by taking one from the 38 and adding it to 19, making it 20 + 37, is an easier problem to solve.
Christian, author, and professor of mathematics education.