When I was a student, Mathematics was one of my favourite subjects. I was never fearful that I might fail in the subject. Every question was like a puzzle piece that needed to be solved. And I was quick to learn that mental mathematics was a skill that came natural to me.
That was more than 20 years ago. Life was simpler.
Mathematics now, like many parents and teachers will tell you, is almost impossible to learn and master. It is literacy based, somewhat technical and undeniably challenging. And these challenges begin as early as pre-primary level. Even with all the mental mathematical skills in the academic world will not help you solve a problem in mathematics if you do not understand the meaning of what is being asked. There are questions that just send your mind hurdling in a circus of jargons and statements. In the end, a simple question that seems so straightforward get stuck in your brain like a knotted string. You are always sure you have an idea of how to solve the question, but in reality you are never so certain your solution is the one that works. The ideas that seem perfectly logical ends up sending you off in a maze that always lends you at a dead end. Gotcha!
So as I watched my daughter struggled with Mathematics throughout primary school education, I started to throw all my old archaic formula book out the window and had to start all over again. I was angered, stressed out and exhausted by my high expectations for the perfect Mathematics journey once travelled and the reality that my old school Mathematics would never be useful anymore. Thankfully, those years of solving my own problems in school have helped me to persevere through 6 years of primary school.
Helping your child to succeed in school is no longer the job of the teacher. Parents find themselves being thrown into the system. When parents meet teachers about Mathematics, we are given handouts with problem sums similar to the ones our kids have to solve in school. If our children are weak in English, we fear for the future. If our children are weak in Mathematics, we fear for their lives! You second guess when you give pocket money or ask them about the time of day. You wonder if your child is actually mentally weak or just lazy to think. You start asking if it is the right or left brain that needs to be checked. I was there and I knew just how it felt.
I spent hours and sleepless nights thinking out solutions, reading keywords, juggling 3 sometimes 4 guidebooks in my hands reading and studying the answer to one simple question on algebra. One unknown one equation, two unknowns two equations. That was how I remembered being taught to me. But my daughter’s Mathematics didn’t start or end that way. So we both struggled to agree to disagree on concepts, methods and solutions. In the end, I decided to give in to her if it helped her to get the scores when it came to exams. Each carefully crafted step is a probable mark to be gotten.
Well, my daughter got a B for primary Mathematics. In the first week of secondary school, she sat for a diagnostic test and got full marks! And she is the only one in her class who had a perfect score! The right and left brains seem to be working just fine. If you ask me now how you can teach your child Mathematics at home, just remember one thing, it is not a walk in the park. It is like bushwalking in the dark and the only fun thing you probably like about it is waiting to see what’s in the open space behind those bushes, if you could only walk over it without getting stabbed by broken branches. There are no short cuts; you will get cut if you take it though.
I am interested to know if you have any problem teaching Mathematics to your child at home and would like to know how to help them in this subject. If your child is between the age of 5-12 years old and studying the Singapore Mathematics curriculum, I would like to invite you to join me this February for a workshop (in Singapore) on how to help you child in Mathematics at home. Details of the venue, time and joining will be released as soon as next week.