Larry’s Math Do’s and Don’ts

Oct 18, 2012
In December 2004, the Wall Street Journal reported that American kids are "Economic Time-bombs" because they are not learning enough math to be the good problem solvers the nation demands. With this in mind, how are your children performing in math? 

Most American children lose ground to students all over the world who are preparing themselves for success in the future, which includes, like it or not, a lot of math. And why is this happening?

Unfortunately, this is because year-after-year students are put in classes for which they do not have the prerequisite knowledge necessary for success.  Under these conditions, it is difficult, if not impossible, for teachers to ensure that students are acquiring the number sense in elementary school and the solid pre-algebra skills in middle school needed to be successful in Algebra and the higher math classes required in high school and college, regardless of their choice of majors.   To ensure your child is on track, I have created some simple Do's and Don'ts. Do's:
  • Do "math" with your children just as you read with them
  • Do make sure your children get their math homework done in a timely fashion
  • Do meet with your child's math teacher from time to time so you know what is going on beyond the report card. Work with your child's teacher to set realistic goals for current school year and for the future.
  • Do check to see if your child (one major tip per grade level):
    • Second Grade: Is "fluid" with single-digit addition and subtraction.
    • Third Grade: Can find half of even and odd numbers.
    • Fourth Grade: Know times tables "by heart."
    • Fifth Grade: Can order fractions using benchmark numbers.
    • Sixth Grade: Is able to mentally calculate percents using "friendly" numbers.
      • 7% of 300 = ? are "friendly" number, whereas 7.132% of 321.097 = ? ain't so friendly!
  • Seventh Grade: Is able to convert fractions to decimals to percents.
  • Pre-Algebra: Can effortlessly add and subtract positive and negative numbers.
  • Algebra: Is able to solve simple equations "by inspection."
Don'ts
  • Don't let your negative experiences in the math classroom influence your child's education.
  • Don't let your child use a calculator until he has developed genuine Number Sense.
  • Don't let your child be put in a math class that he is not ready for, that is, a class where he does not have the prerequisite knowledge necessary for success in the class.
  Following these Do's and Don'ts will not solve everything, as students need to continuously nurture their math skills and Number Sense with practice. However, use these as guidelines that will help steer your child in a strong direction.

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