In general, homeschool moms are a capable and confident group of women. And no wonder! Homeschooling requires juggling many different roles and responsibilities, and it takes a lot of confidence and ability to tackle such a challenging job.
Most homeschool parents I know enjoy teaching the language arts subjects like reading and spelling and do so without much trouble. Bumps in the road come up, but trying a new approach or different curriculum usually solves the problem. So why is teaching math so much more intimidating and difficult?
I suspect it’s simply because most of us weren’t taught math very well. Whether you went to school or were homeschooled, your math education probably focused on teaching you the procedures to solve problems and then having you practice those procedures over and over (and over and over). But this approach to math misses the key ingredient to homeschool math confidence and success: understanding what you’re doing.
Here’s why understanding in math is so important and beneficial to kids:
1. Memorization in math has value, but it takes a lot of energy and time to memorize every math fact and procedure individually. Understanding helps kids learn more efficiently. When they see the logical connections between steps in a procedure, it’s much easier for them to remember what to do. Practicing to become fluent is still essential, but the fluency comes much more quickly.
2. When kids understand what they’re doing, they can use what they’ve already learned as a springboard to new learning. For example, once kids thoroughly understand the concept of multiplying whole numbers, multiplying fractions (or polynomials in algebra!) is just a further extension of what they already know–not a brand new skill to learn from scratch.
3. The habit of seeking understanding builds critical thinking skills. We want our kids to learn how to think for themselves and not just blindly accept everything they’re told by the world. Math provides a wonderful opportunity for kids to learn to ask thoughtful questions right from the beginning of their schooling: Why does this work? Does this make sense? Can I do this a different way?
Even if you don’t think of yourself as a “math-y” person, you can help your kids become confident and successful at math.