Saturday, August 23, 2014

Making Math Fun for Homework and Learning

Grade-Schooler Motivation When Working on Math Problems

 
girl homework I used to dread that period after school when we entered the house and I told my daughter to take her seat at the kitchen table. It was math homework time, and apparently also temper-tantrum time.


But I don't want to, she'd mutter. You have to, I responded. It's so boring, she'd say. But you still have to do it, I said. This would go on, back and forth until I pointed out the obvious. You'd be done by now, I'd say. But I hate homework, my precious grade-schooler would scream, before flopping across the table with her arms outstretched like some martyr in a Fellini film.


With more struggle, she would eventually rush through it to get it done. Sure, it would be done, but would it do her any good...

Changing Parent and Child Attitudes on Homework
 
The first challenge was to get her to sit and complete the work. But I wanted to make sure she would retain the information - homework is a time to strengthen and practice the skills learned in the classroom, not just some mandatory task to complete so she could go to her room and work on her arts and crafts. My second challenge then was to make it fun. If it was enjoyable, she would learn. If it wasn't, then what was the point? The last thing I wanted to do was instill a sense of dread with academics that forcible homework completion can bring.

Changing My Approach
 
For some unexplained reason, my daughter seems to look up to me, and I decided to use that to my favor. I told her that not only was the dinner table her place to work on math homework, but it was a place where I could work as well. Before she comes home, I move my laptop to the kitchen table and do a little writing while she works. The situation evolves where she sees me working happily, and she is motivated to do the same. It becomes a light social time, with specific goals in mind.

Using Online Tools
 
Another issue we needed to tackle was the sometimes boring and dry worksheets she would come home with. Sheet after photocopied sheet of repeating patterns in math not only lost her interest, but mine as well. To combat this, I located an online resource called SoftSchools.com, that lets me custom build math worksheets to better catch her attention. I simply look at the lesson sent home, and rebuild it with more engaging exercises. The site has other subjects as well, and is free to use without registration.

Things are better after school, and we're enjoying our time getting our work done. Her grades have improved as a result, and she actually looks forward to the special time we share each afternoon.