With recent reports showing Australian performance in Mathematics has stagnated over the years, Dr Catherine Attard from Western Sydney University believes the new school year is a time for parents to take the extra step to help their children succeed academically.
Dr Attard was last year recognised with a prestigious Award for Teaching Excellence in the 2016 Australian Awards for University Teaching, and is the creator of the board game Mabble, a numerical twist on Scrabble.
“There are many things parents can and should do to help their children learn mathematics, particularly before they begin school and during their primary school years,” she says.
This academic year, Dr Catherine Attard extends the following tips to parents:
- Be positive about maths
- Develop a positive working relationship with teachers
- Know what maths your child is learning
- Make maths part of everyday activities
Dr Attard’s research on student engagement has revealed that parents who demonstrate a negative attitude towards maths often impact their child’s decision to continue studying the subject in high school.
“It is important for parents to be conscious of displaying positive attitudes towards mathematics, even when it’s challenging,” Dr Attard says.
“Using encouraging statements and acknowledging that mathematics is challenging, but not impossible, is key to helping children succeed academically.”
She says there are many free online support courses such as Jo Boaler’s YouCubed website or a variety of mathematics apps.
For parents opting for tutoring, Dr Attard stresses the importance of finding a tutor that knows how to teach for understanding rather than memorisation.
“The traditional method of drill and practice won’t help a struggling student to understand important mathematical concepts,” she says.
Instead, Dr Attard urges parents should find a tutor who understands the curriculum and can tailor a program to work alongside what their child is learning at school.
“The way mathematics is taught has changed significantly over the last few decades. Talking to their child’s teacher can help parents understand what their child should be learning. Alternatively, mathematics curriculums are accessible online,” she says.
Dr Attard believes that it is still important that children gain fluency when dealing with numbers.
“Children need to understand how numbers work. In other words, they need to be numerate, and have flexibility with numbers,” she says.
(Source: Western Sydney University)