By Lientjie Young, mother of a beautiful 4 year old daughter, loves the sea and the tranquillity it offers. She has a passion for students and education. Previously a teacher and deputy head of a school, currently Head of Mathematics and Sciences at Impak Education.
The development of mathematical thinking is one of the most important reasons why kids do Maths at school. It is not simply about following the steps, but also about developing problem-solving skills. Unfortunately, it is not easy to develop these skills, and it is particularly challenging for teachers in today’s crowded classrooms where individual attention is not always possible.
Luckily, parents can make an important contribution in the lower grades by doing exercises with their children.
Help your child:
Understand the question
Parents must firstly understand the reason why many children do not try to solve problems on their own. It is because they are unsure what exactly the problem is that needs to be solved. As a parent, you can help by reading through the problem with your child, guiding them to discover exactly what the problem is that needs to be solved.
Once they know what needs to be solved, let them play around with ideas of how to solve the problem.
Think for themselves
While it is important not to leave your child alone at this stage, as they might give up on solving the problem, you must also remember that the goal is not to tell them what the next step is!
Children must discover what the next step is themselves and parents can help by encouraging them to think differently and find alternative ways to approach problems. Have a brainstorming session about why certain solutions will work and others might not.
Then let your child analyse all the information gathered in the brainstorming session and decide on the best possible solution. This is very difficult, especially for young children, as they are not usually given the opportunity to make “big” decisions with consequences by themselves.
Feedback is essential
Once the decision has been made, give your child feedback. Make sure that the feedback is always supportive and motivational. This process develops problem-solving skills and can be used in any subject area.
When parents guide their children to think and work independently, it builds self-confidence and they develop a passion for learning and even for life. In practice it would mean, for example, that parents encourage their children by exposing them to sources and experiences where additional information can be gathered in order to make a connection between the knowledge they already possess and the new mathematical knowledge. Allow your children to discover and experience on their own.
Mathematics offers children endless opportunities to discover and solve problems. Make an effort to join in and enjoy your children’s Mathematical journey. Instead of simply using Mathematics to develop mathematical skills, also use it to prepare them for the future.