Friday, April 3, 2020

Helping Your Kids Keep Learning: Math

As many school districts close for the remainder of the academic year, many parents are struggling with several issues:
  1. If the teacher isn't doing much, what should I have my kid(s) do?
  2. What are some good resources for math curriculum?
  3. What are some good resources for math help?

What Matters Most?

A: Not losing ground. Studies show that students lose a fair amount of ground in the summer. Imagine a summer that lasts 5 months instead of 2.5! Therefore, I really care about progress. Get them to do something that is close to grade-appropriate. I just don't want them to forget how to do math.

B: Being ready. This is tougher to do, but if a student is taking a course now that has foundational content for next year's course, then I care about those foundational skills and concepts. The trick is identifying those key things. Achieve the Core has really helpful Focus documents for each grade. Look for the solid green squares. These are particularly helpful for anyone in a Common Core state. It's not always so easy to identify the key foundation content, so you might need to reach out to a teacher or curriculum person for guidance. One of the important things to keep in mind is that not everything is critical. You don't need to jam it all in there. Pick and choose carefully.

C: Liking math. If your approach to being ready results in a student who hates math, then you've created problem. I know this is tough, but you need to find a way to keep them moving forward that doesn't spoil whatever affinity they have for math. Not losing ground is more important than being ready, and liking math is perhaps most important.

Math Curriculum Resources

If you are pretty much on your own for helping your kid move forward with math, consider going to UnboundEd and/or OpenUp. They have solid content with good focus, rigor, and coherence. Please avoid entering the wild west that is Teachers Pay Teachers. TPT has a ton of issues I won't go into, but suffice it to say that I'm not a fan.

Math Help

What if you or your student gets stuck on some math topic? Note that this is really different need (and set of solutions) from the curriculum focus above.
  1. If you haven't checked Khan Academy, you haven't done a serious search. I would not use this as a curriculum, but the videos can help a learner get over a bump in the road.
  2. BrainPop is another good source of videos. There are a ton of others, and you can find many at OER Commons.
  3. Friends and family could help. Who do you know that is good at math? They are likely sitting at home, and would be happy to help and interact with someone new. Lean on your network!
Progress is important, but don't stress anyone out. The current state of affairs is inherently stressful, and math shouldn't be part of the problem. I hope math can be part of the solution -- doing some math work could fit as part of a new daily structure that provides some semblance of consistency and normalcy. 

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