One of the most common and regularly heard stories is what I call “The Kitchen Table Math Story.” The players are different, but the plot is basically the same, and has been as long as I have been involved in math. My story was no different…
Scene 1 – Math homework: It was getting kind of difficult and I needed help. My father (always good in math) wanted to help and gladly offered to jump in. Thirty minutes or so into the homework a perceptible tension begins to form between father and son. Frustration mounts and begins to interfere with my ability to think.
Scene 2 – Dad is now concerned because his son is just not getting it. I want to stop because I can tell his voice is changing. My mind ceases to function; my Dad’s emotions begin to increase and I feel like he is getting angry.
Scene 3 – All pretense of civility is beginning to erode. The anger I sense in Dad’s voice has caused me to tune out and all hope of a successful homework session has just evaporated.
You may have experienced variations on this theme at some time. Please let me assure you that neither party in this episode is a villain. Men who love their children know how hard life is going to be as an adult. These Dads fear for their children when they think they are failing in important areas. Unfortunately, men tend to express fear as anger and children tend to turn fear into withdrawal or rebellion.
Before you give up (or blow up) take a deep breath and remember – you are your child’s best resource, even if you are not a “math person,” even if you are not a teacher. As parents we are a child’s first teacher, but very early in their lives they will need other people to help them master life’s many challenges. Here are some things that might be helpful as you support your child through life’s mathematical trials.
- The internet – we are fortunate to have resources like this available. Be sure to take full advantage of it of what the internet has to offer.
- Tutoring provided by the school - teachers and administrations love to see students succeed and make many opportunities available for after school help.
- Supplemental Education Services – there are several private companies that specialize in helping students who are struggling.
- Professionals – There are many resources, such as the ScottishRiteHospital, who can diagnose specific issues a child may have and suggest solutions. You may want to rule out any physical, mental, or emotional issues that can contribute to difficulties in learning. In my case a pair of glasses made a world of difference in my attitude toward school.
I may be biased, but I believe teaching to be a great calling, one that can change the life of a young person forever. A great teacher is more than someone that knows a subject well. As important as that is, a great teacher is someone who loves their subject and possesses a profound capacity to communicate. A great mathematician does not necessarily make a great teacher, but a great math teacher can help create great mathematicians.
By Bob and Becky Barnes with Mathnasium Learning Center in Rockwall. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.