Get Them Math Instruction to Match Their Learning Style.
Think about the development of a few children you know. Did each child learn to walk the same way? Many children start with rolling, progress to crawling, and then to standing, and finally to taking those first wobbly independent steps at about 12 months old. Emmy took her own path to walking. She learned to crawl at 12 months old. She stood independently and took her first steps on the same day at 19 months old. Zoe skipped crawling altogether and started walking at 10 months old. Reyna went from standing to running in a matter of days! Just as many children develop gross motor skills differently than their peers, many children develop mathematical concepts differently than their peers.
Are you concerned about your child just isn’t progressing in math at the expected rate? Read “Does Your Child Show any of the 4 Warning Signs of Imminent Math Struggles?” for clues about how your child is doing in math. Many parents feel frustrated with the child, the school, and themselves. Unfortunately, the school system is not set up to cater math instruction to different types of learners. As children who learn math differently progress into higher grades, they get farther and farther behind.
Your child likely sees math differently than you and may see it differently than the school is teaching it as well. That doesn’t mean your child won’t ever do well in math. It means he or she needs instruction at a different pace or in a manner that is tailored to his or her learning style. With the right support, your child can learn to visualize and mentally manipulate numbers in ways you never imagined.
The “Other” 40% Get Left Out
Have you ever tried to teach a group of people something? It could be anything - a dance, a computer skill, or a game. If you teach it too quickly, only a few people learn it. If you go too slowly, people get bored, distracted, lose interest and stop trying. So you try to find the perfect balance for the majority of the group. In the classroom, the pace and approach of a lesson is designed to meet the needs of about 60% of the students. That leaves about 10% bored and 30% confused. They are the ones who learn math differently.
Shakuntala Devi, also known by the moniker “Human Computer,” and other famous mathematicians see math as more than just a subject in school. They describe math in terms of poetry, music, logic, and even the language of the divinity. They experience and approach math very differently from the way it is taught in most schools. Many struggling children just need a different approach to unlock their mathematical brain.
Types of Math Learners
Research about learning generally agrees that every person learns through a combination of listening, seeing, moving, talking, reading, writing and touching. But most people have a preferred method of learning. It is the way their brain processes the world and information best. That method is referred to as their individual learning style. Learning styles are classified as:
- Visual - Visual learners think in pictures and like math instruction with pictures and graphs. To solidify a new math concept in their brain, it helps them to write it down and draw pictures.
- Auditory - Auditory learners listen carefully, speak slowly and respond to music and rhythm. To solidify a new math concept in their brain, it helps them to explain it to others or create rhymes and mnemonic devices. “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally” is an example of a mnemonic device to remember the order of operations of Parenthesis, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, and Subtraction (don't forget to include, LTR though - left to right).
- Tactile/Kinesthetic - Tactile learners should be using their hands and bodies whenever possible. Having them physically sort objects or act out a story problem helps them solidify new math concepts.
Schools and teachers are improving math instruction to incorporate activities for all types of learners, but math instruction in our schools still heavily favors visual learners. Often auditory and kinesthetic learners are trying to learn math in a way that doesn’t suit their individual learning style. If the pace is either too slow or too fast, that compounds problems of boredom and frustration.
Mathnasium - A Solution for the 40%
At Mathnasium of Littleton we recognize every child is different. Each child learns to apply the same mathemathical concepts including:
· Proportional Thinking (comparing amounts, sizes, etc…)
Our instructional methods, however, are different from most classrooms. We don’t have to worry about teaching to a group – we teach one-to-one in a group setting. We also do not have to follow a prescribed linear order of teaching one concept before another and we teach to five learning styles: verbal (auditory), visual, tactile (kinesthetic), written (combination of visual and kinesthetic) and mental. Nor are we on a specific time frame for having to teach certain topics.
For example, Julia has a solid concept of proportional thinking and can apply it to decimal places out to the hundredths fairly quickly in her head. It was easy for her to look at 9.65 and 9.05 and say “there is a six tenths difference.” After she demonstrated that proficiency, we skipped over that section and allowed her to concentrate on grouping instead. Most classrooms don’t have that flexibility. Julia struggled with division in school because it was presented visually and she needed to touch and sort the objects to understand what 40 ÷ 8 = 5 felt like not what it looked like. After a few lessons using a kinesthetic approach to division, going at her pace, she discovered she could do division better than half the kids in her class.
Some very smart children do not learn math the way they are being taught in the classroom or they may be bored with the way math is being taught at school. We would love to talk to you about your child’s situation. Our individualized approach is a better fit for most children because we customize the instruction and pace to match the child.
Call or text us today!
Ask for Suzie