'Kids don't hate math; they hate being frustrated'
Entering high school math can bring up anxiety for both the student and the parent. Algebra, geometry, trigonometry — the course titles are the same, but believe it or not, the way these classes are now taught in school can look a lot different from what you might remember. Here are a few ways to prepare yourself — and, more importantly, your student — for a successful school year:
The best way to support your student as he transitions to these upper-level math courses is to keep an open dialogue with him about it.
"When Common Core came in, it shifted the focus to include an understanding of everything," said Amy Lee Kinder, who has worked as a math specialist at the Bridgescape Academy in Humboldt Park. "It's more about the process to get there. That's very foreign to how people were taught in the past. It's more about investigative learning and students going through a scenario and understanding a concept completely."
Kinder said students are now asked, "Why do you think that?" and, "Where does that come from?" They are required to explain how they came to the answer, instead of just spitting out a number.
A great way to prepare your student for the classroom is by asking the same types of questions at home.
"Question, question, question," Kinder said. "Stay involved, as hard as it may be. From the teacher's perspective, it takes a team of people to assist these kids, and support outside the classroom is huge."
If your student is nervous about a new math class, try building up his confidence by revisiting basic concepts, such as addition, subtraction and fractions.
"The issues kids face in algebra aren't necessarily about algebra, but a lack of understanding about what a fraction is — things that precede that higher-level class," said Mark Kriston, owner of two Mathnasium learning centers in Chicago.
It's always good to know when to ask for help. And with more difficult courses that build upon previous concepts, it's probably best for your student to get help sooner, rather than later, if he needs it.
"We don't get calls for tutoring until October or November," Reber said. "That's usually when they've had their first hard test."
But Kinder, who also works as a private math tutor, cautioned: "Once a kid gets behind, it's way harder for them to get caught up." She suggests going over the syllabus with your child as soon as school starts. She said students should be presented with a calendar of what's going to be expected of the class; some teachers will post this information online.
"The more proactive parents can be about getting involved, the better," she said.