Helping Kids with Learning Math
U.S. Students Falling Flat on Math
U.S. Score Below International Average
U.S. Math Education Still in the Doldrums.
Have you seen any of the headlines regarding U.S. students and their performance in mathematics? The headlines are alarming. They paint a very bleak picture for our students and the future of this nation when it comes to mathematical thinking. But if you dig a little deeper into the actual data, the situation might not be as alarming as it first appears.
The Programme for International Student Assessment, known as PISA, assesses 15-year-olds in 72 different nations worldwide. The test is administered every three years, and it works out to be given to about one out of every 50 students. Trends in International Mathematics and Science Assessment (TIMSS) is given to select fourth and eighth grade students every four years. These are two examples of assessments that rank our nation versus the rest. I will say the same thing I have said to many parents who become very concerned after one low score from their high-achieving student: This is only a snapshot of a much larger picture. In lieu of breaking down why our nation’s scores seem lower than other nations’, I would rather offer up some ideas on how we can help our children moving forward in this crucial content area.
Instead of taking a drill and kill approach to helping your student, find ways to make his learning relevant to his life and the world around him. Yes, learning basic math facts is very important as children continue to develop their mathematical skills. However, offering an opportunity for your child to make a connection between his learning and real life can do wonders for his overall education, as well as his outlook toward learning in general.
As educators are preparing students for their futures, small, tangible connections at home can help prepare them as well. Look for ways to work in mathematical thinking while you’re out running errands or even while you are at home working on your next DIY project. As adults, we solve real-world problems on a daily basis at home. Next time, include your child in the process and find ways to incorporate math.
Another way to help your child improve is to connect her learning with other content areas. Whether you are helping her on a social studies project or a science experiment, seek out opportunities to incorporate math skills she currently is learning. STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) education is not a buzzword like other initiatives that have come and gone. Researchers, educators and the top minds in the corporate world all have realized that learning skills in isolation is not beneficial for students. As parents, you can help integrate kids’ learning with cross-curricular opportunities at home.
If you dig deep into the data, you’ll see proof we are headed in the right direction. Over the past eight years on the TIMSS, both fourth grade and eighth grade results in math and science have been on the rise. Instead of paying attention to the negative, attention-seeking headlines, we need to continue to support our students in the growth and strides they are actually making.
Brandon Lewis is an Innovation & Learning Coach for Liberty Public Schools. He and his wife, Jeni, live in Kansas City with their two children, Zoey and Ezra.