Educational Articles

The following newspaper articles were written
by Cheryl Feuer Gedzelman,

Director of Tutoring For Success, Inc. Check back often to read newly published
articles.

Fun With Math

By Cheryl Feuer Gedzelman, MA

What is Math? Your third grader might answer, "Adding, subtracting,
multiplying and dividing." In elementary school, most students are
learning how to compute; however, computation is just a subset of Math.
Actually, Math as a whole has much more to do with logic and the relationships
between numbers and variables, as well as spacial relationships. People
who are good at Math can do amazing things in the fields of Engineering,
Physics, Statistics, Computer Programming and more. The problem for many
children is getting past the computation to see how amazing Math can be.

Many
children profess that they hate word problems. Math is word problems! This
is how you apply your skills in real life situations. Many schools have
new text books that emphasize thinking problems which include two or three
steps (e.g., adding up the prices of different objects to buy at a store,
and then receiving change). This is the kind of practical, thinking problem
that children need to learn. However, many children have been bombarded
by mostly computation and not enough thinking problems throughout elementary
school; these students have difficulties when studying Algebra and Geometry,
which require logic and thinking skills. In Geometry, students must prove
postulates and theorems, which they may not be prepared to do based on
their previous Math training.

What can we do to encourage a love and proficiency
for Math?

Show your child that Math can be fun. I
have a "fun" workbook
I use with children to end the Math lesson on a good note. Here is a typical
problem:

Choose a number. Add 9 to the number. Double the
sum. Subtract 4. Divide the difference by 2. Subtract the original number.
What do you get? [The
answer is always 7.] (Source: "Scratch Your Brain Where it Itches," Critical
Thinking Press and Software)

Kids get a kick out of this. They can try it
with all different numbers. They are amazed. You can find "fun" Math
workbooks at teaching stores or large book stores.

Show your child how to be logical. Talk through real life situations of
your own that require Math or logic skills. For example: "We need to
buy enough pizza for eight of us. How many slices will each person eat? How
many pies do we need? If the pizza costs $12.99, how much change will we
get from a $20 bill? How much tip should we give the delivery man?"

Involve your child in household decisions that
involve Math (or make some
up). For example, "We are planning to buy a new carpet for the den.
How many square feet do we need? Let's measure and find out."

Use
manipulatives. Lower elementary teachers and tutors use manipulatives all
the time. To teach place value, we use counters of different colors. To teach
time, we use a teaching clock. To teach fractions, we use plastic or cardboard
cutout shapes. To teach negative numbers, we use a number line. To teach
area and perimeter, we use a ruler or a tape measure. For children of any
age as well as adults, it is much easier to understand Math when the concepts
are clearly demonstrated with these kinds of tools.

Teach children how
to generalize. When helping your child with homework, don't think of each
problem as its own entity. Think of each problem as a type of problem, and
teach your child to do that type of problem. Then together you can think
of other examples that require the same concept. Remember that if your child
has the right set of Math skills, he can complete many different kinds of
problems. Teach him how to use skills and concepts to complete more problems
independently.

Repetition is key. No matter how well your child seems to
understand a Math concept, most children need a great deal of repetition
before they understand thoroughly. You want your child to be fluent in Math,
and like Reading, this takes practice. It is very important to complete all
Math homework. It may get boring, but most students won't mind if it is also
becoming easier. Even better, do extra problems. And when studying for a
test, do more problems and check the answers.

Do not let your child become
too far behind. Math continuously builds on previous skills. Gaps in Math
skills can cause serious problems later on. For example, your child may have
trouble with Algebra because she never really understood fractions. If you
notice that she is falling behind, don't wait. Help her with the skills she
seems to be missing or find someone else who can help.

Most of us will agree
that Math is an important part of being functionally literate. In addition,
Math can be fun and exciting. If you don't enjoy Math, try to find someone
in your family who does, who can convey some enthusiasm to your children.
Sometimes

it all boils down to a positive outlook and patience. Your child
is smart enough to understand Math. He only needs the proper tools and assistance.