How Parents Can Help Students With Learning Disabilities (page 3)
Research shows that the level of parent involvement in a child's education is strongly related to the degree of success in school (Henderson & Berla, 1994). "Families play a vital role in educating children. What families do is more important to student success than whether they are rich or poor, whether parents have finished high school or not, or whether children are in elementary, junior high, or high school" (Robinson, in Paulu, 1995). The importance of family involvement in education led the U.S. Congress to add the following goal to the National Education Goals: "Every school will promote partnerships that will increase parental involvement and participation in promoting the social, emotional, and academic growth of children." The following are ways in which parents can help their children with mathematics learning disabilities (Sutton, 1998).
Set the Example
One of the most important ways parents can help a child in math is by exhibiting attitudes and values supportive of learning. "All children have two wonderful resources for learning—imagination and curiosity. As a parent, you can awaken your children to the joy of learning by encouraging their imagination and curiosity."
Accept the Struggle
Struggle is a normal part of doing math, just as you accept the struggle to become better in sports. Help uncover difficulties and offer suggestions for overcoming them.
Just as it is important to repeat fundamentals again and again in sports until performed automatically, it is important to see practice in mathematics as developing mastery, not a chore or form of punishment.
Look Beyond the Grade
Math grades are often calculated on percentages of correct answers on tests and assignments accumulated during a grading period, so they may not reflect understanding that has developed over the course of a grading period. Help focus on understanding and being able to identify specific difficulties.
Discover the Textbook
"Reading" math can be difficult, and math textbooks are often used as collections of assignments and homework problems. Help your child learn how to "read" the math textbook, see the underlying structure, and learn from the examples provided.
Help Children See the Math around Them
Help children recognize the use of math around them in daily life, and engage them in games and activities that foster familiarity with numbers and mathematical thinking. A guide, "Helping Your Child Learn Math," is available online at www.ed.gov//parents/Math/index.html. The guide suggests many activities that parents can do with children (grades K–8) at home, at the grocery store, or in transit. The activities generally make use of playing cards, coins, containers, or other simple materials around the house. Here are some other ideas that the guide offers.
- Wrong answers can help!
- Be patient; incorrect answers tell you that you need to look further, ask questions, and figure out what you do not understand.
- Sometimes a wrong answer is the result of misunderstanding the question.
- Ask your child to explain how they solved a problem; responses may clarify whether help is needed with a procedure, the "facts" are wrong, or a crucial concept is not understood.
- You may learn something that the teacher would find helpful. A short note or telephone call will alert the teacher to possible ways of helping your child.
- Help your children become risk takers. Help them examine wrong answers, and assure them that right answers come with understanding.
- Problems can be solved in different ways. Though a problem may have only one correct solution, there are often many ways to get the right answer.
- Doing math in your head is important. Increased use of calculators and computers makes it increasingly important that people be able to determine whether an answer is reasonable.
More activities and games for strengthening specific skills and concepts are provided online in a "Guide to Helping Your Child Understand Mathematics," provided by Houghton Mifflin's Education Place (see www. eduplace.com/parents/index.html); select "Parent's Place," then "Parent's Resources." Suggestions are also provided for things to do in the grocery store, in a restaurant, while shopping, and on the refrigerator door.
Provide a Place and Resources to Study
Provide children with convenient, quiet, and comfortable work areas, along with whatever resources are needed to study math and complete assignments. Encourage the use of reference materials (such as dictionaries and encyclopedias), and provide a computer and calculator if possible. If a computer is not available in the home, plan regular visits to a public library or community learning center where access is available.
The computer has become a common and essential tool in understanding many school subjects, particularly mathematics and science. You and your children can use the computer to
- Produce reports and assignments using word-processing programs, spreadsheets, and other software.
- Find information from reference materials on CD-ROMs. Many are typically available from school and public libraries.
- Use commercial software packages that teach math skills in interesting and enjoyable ways.
- Access the abundant math and homework resources and assistance freely available on the Internet.
© ______ 2006, Merrill, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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