Budgeting. Flossing. Exercising. Studying. Healthy sleep hygiene. In so many aspects of life, whether we experience success or not depends on our habits.
Math is absolutely on the list because here too, success lies in the HABITS. Students do need a good curriculum that is sensible and sets them up for success (small bite-sized lessons, video teaching, physical notes and assignments, robust solutions manual). But that alone won’t be good enough unless it is paired with good learning HABITS. And that is the hardest part to change when it comes to learning math.
You might hate math. Your student might hate math. There might be fights, tears, anger, and anxiety built around math. Math might make your student feel dumb, and who wants to do something that makes them feel dumb? So bad habits like avoiding math lessons, skipping days, rushing through lessons, etc., start to develop. But if you can change these habits (slowly), combined with a sensible curriculum, then you will see a huge improvement in learning math.
When trying to change habits, my advice is to go slowly and work on one at a time. Here are 7 steps that you can slowly put into place that will transform your math learning at home:
Step 1: Find a sensible brain-friendly curriculum (small bite-sized lessons, DAILY instruction, video teaching, physical notes and assignments, robust solutions manual)
Step 2: Commit to doing math EVERY DAY. Make it a part of your daily school, even on crazy-busy days. On those days, just do half a lesson. Or spend 5 minutes looking over the previous day’s notes just to keep it fresh in the mind. If the curriculum is sensible and well-taught, doing math daily will not be miserable.
Step 3: Learn to use the pause button during lessons. Actively engage with the lessons and understand that there is a skill that must be learned during that lesson. So, pause the video as you go along, giving yourself time to process what was just taught.
Step 4: Check the answers to assignments immediately after the assignment is finished (or as close as you can). This is one of the best learning opportunities. So, CHECK THE ANSWERS. Do not let multiple assignments pile up and then check the answers at the end of the week. This ruins almost any chance of actually learning the skill. Students need immediate feedback. I prefer a student check his own answers, but sometimes it’s better if a parent does. Regardless, make it a part of the assignment. Answers must be immediately checked.
Step 5: Do not do more that one lesson per day. Don’t skip lessons, and then try to do 3 or 4 lessons in one day (or even 2 lessons in a day). To really learn math, you need to do only one lesson per day, or split up a lesson over 2 days if you are having trouble with it.
Step 6: Make it a point to copy every method the teacher shows you EXACTLY as the teacher does it. Don’t try to come up with a “shorter” way or insert personal preference. Teachers show particular methods because they know what is coming down the pike, and how students need to be prepared. So become a copy-cat and copy the methods exactly. It pays off big-time.
Step 7: Start changing the way you talk about math and have your student start changing the way they talk about it. You don’t have to love math. But encourage your student to stop saying things like “I hate math” and “I’m terrible at math.” This is seemingly insignificant, but is actually huge. What comes out of your mouth tends to be how it goes.
If you can start changing habits one baby step at a time, you will see a vast improvement in your student’s math learning, as well as their self-confidence in math, not to mention the peace in your home!
P.S. Have questions about upper level math for your homeschool student? Visit our resources page for a guide to planning high school math.