To be successful in high school math, most kids need the same things to be in place (unless your child is highly math-oriented). Below are 5 simple things that anyone can put in place to greatly increase learning and reduce stress during the high school math experience.
1. Math must be done every day. Beginning with algebra, the math becomes too abstract and difficult to learn if done in an inconsistent way. Students cannot expect to learn algebra (or beyond) by only doing a few lessons a week, taking days off in between, doing multiple lessons at once to catch up, etc. Consistency is a big key to success.
2. There must be daily, bite-sized instruction. This is essential. With modern technology, this can now be achieved through a video course. I highly recommend students use a pre-recorded video course for high school math. Taking an algebra course at a co-op where they get only one or two days of instruction per week is a very difficult way to learn math for most kids. While they may have an experienced teacher instructing them, they are still missing the daily instruction component that is so important.
3. There needs to be a physical book with notes and worksheets. Algebra is very difficult to remember. It flies out of the brain at an alarming rate. Everything being completely “online” with no textbooks or worksheets sounds enticing, but the physical act of working problems on paper and being able to look back over the notes or problems from a previous assignment is essential for helping students remember the material and move it from working memory into short-term (and eventually into long-term) memory.
4. Students need to understand that algebra is skills-based and builds on itself. This means that when they do a math lesson, they cannot just passively watch the video and do the assignment just to “get through” the lesson for that day. That will come back to bite them later in the course. They need to understand that there is a particular “skill” being taught in a lesson and therefore they need to “actively” watch the lesson for that day (pausing, rewinding, etc.) to actually learn the skill before moving on to the assignment. It’s important for students to understand that things learned in previous lessons are needed for future lessons.
5. Assignments need to be checked immediately. When students do an assignment, they are not done until their work is checked. Regardless of who does this (the student, parent, tutor, etc.), the checking needs to be immediate so that corrections can be made right there while it is still fresh on the student’s mind. This is where some of the best learning can take place, but it is often lost because work is checked much later (or sometimes not at all).
All 5 of these suggestions are very easy to implement and are not curriculum specific. Remember, you don’t have to immediately implement all 5 of these at once. Pick one to tackle and put into place, then another, then another. Take it one step at a time and you will find that high school math does not have to be a pain point any longer.
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David is a full time homeschool dad of 5 daughters. He has been teaching math for over 20 years. He holds an undergraduate degree in math education, and a masters in Curriculum and Instruction. He taught public school for 11 years and has been teaching in the homeschool and private school world for the last 10 years. He writes his own math curriculum and runs a business “Denison Algebra.”