MIDDLE SCHOOL PARENT INFORMATION
We know you want to support your children as best as you can. That can be tough in an age where there is almost too much information and conflicting information! This is particularly true with our new math curriculum.
This page is here to help provide you with some information about our math curriculum. It also provides you with some activities you can do at home, and links to other great websites that can help you support your child best. Math can be fun, easy and challenging – but in a good way. It is all about how we approach it.
Minimize Math Anxiety:
For many of us math was no fun in school. It was difficult and often a complete mystery. It is easy to think that math is ‘hard’ because of our experiences with it. But for many of us, that is because of how it was taught. Our new methods overcome that. Avoid endorsing math anxiety or being “bad at math”. Students who have these attitudes towards math have more difficulties learning math than those who approach it positively.
Encourage a Growth Mindset:
We all have either a “growth mindset” or “fixed mindset” when it comes to math. These mindsets have been proven to really affect learning.To develop a Growth Mindset encourage your child to persevere through frustration and understand that mistakes are a really important part of the learning process – so are not bad but rather are very useful when we reflect on them and understand what type of mistake it was (carless mistake, misunderstanding, etc.). Also we need to remember that learning is challenging and when things get difficult that doesn’t mean there is anything wrong but rather it is a part of learning! New concepts are often difficult at first, while we are trying to connect them to what we already know and make sense of them, and then with time and practice, they are not so difficult anymore. Embrace the struggle – without great struggle there is no great learning!
Please see the helpful websites for more information on how to help your child develop a Growth Mindset and for the 10 minute TED talk by Dr. Carol Dweck, the researcher who has researched and written about this extensively.
Helping with Homework:
Many parents don’t understand why we use multiple strategies to solve the problem when only one strategy is needed. We are teaching students WHY the math works when we use different strategies so even though you may think that the strategies are inefficient there is a very important purpose to using them. Some strategies are inefficient but are an important stepping stone towards deeper understanding. Imagine an Olympic diver attempting a complex dive off of a high board without first practicing multiple small steps in a foam pit or supported trampoline. It is the same learning approach.
We use manipulatives (blocks, tiles, fraction circles) and pictures to help students make sense of what the math actually means. For example 4 x 3 means 4 groups of 3, or 4 rows of 3. Most humans gather 70%-90% of their information visually, so we are making math more visual to help more people understand it. We also use these visuals to help us find the generalizations in math that become those ‘rules’ you might have memorized. This way students actually understand why the rules work as they do and they often construct the rules themselves which means they are way more likely to remember them!
It is great role modeling for your children to see you as a lifelong learner who is open minded to trying new things. We encourage you to try to understand these different methods and visuals as this can help improve your number sense too!
If you are really stuck and can’t help your child with their homework, please send along a note to the teacher explaining so. This is more helpful than teaching them a shortcut or the traditional algorithm before they have enough deeper understanding to actually understand the algorithm or short cut. If they can’t explain why something works, then they don’t have the understanding we’re aiming for.