Maelynn Sakina November 26, 2020 Worksheet
The first secret you need to discover is that your children will follow your lead. Not a big secret to most parents, but sometimes we are unaware of the influence we have on our children. How often have you sat faced with a list of figures – balancing the check book, credit card statement or filling out tax forms – and muttered about how much you hate math, how hard it is, how you just don’t have a head for math? You need to stop yourself right now! What you are telling your child is that math is a horrid chore, a difficult task, and one that you either have the talent to do, or you don’t. You are making your child anxious about a school subject that they will have to do for many years – and a skill that they will need for the rest of their lives. You are also telling them that if they struggle with math, it just means that they don’t have the talent for it – and it is therefore not their fault, and there is nothing they can do about it.
As a parent, I’m very aware of what my own children are learning in school. For the most part, I’ve been happy with their progress, but as they rise in grade level, I’m starting to see more emphasis on a loose understanding of the concepts and less emphasis on skills–particularly skills with arithmetic of fractions. The main problem with what I see with my students and my own children is that kids are taught ”concepts” and are not taught skills–unless they’re lucky enough to have a teacher who knows better. Most particularly, children are not taught mastery of arithmetic with fractions. Unfortunately, virtually all of their future math education depends on being able to do fractional arithmetic.
Thus, the math worksheets which you get for your kids should include interesting word problems that help them with the practical application of the lessons they learn. It should also present the same problem in a variety of ways to ensure that a child’s grasp of a subject is deeper and comprehensive. There are several standard exercises which train students to convert percentages, decimals and fractions. Converting percentage to decimals for example is actually as simple as moving the decimal point two places to the left and losing the percent sign ”%.” Thus 89% is equal to 0.89. Expressed in fraction, that would be 89/100. When you drill kids to do this often enough, they learn to do conversion almost instinctively.
Numerous research studies have found that when students are actively engaged with the content, they have a much better chance of understanding and remembering what they have learned. Unfortunately, math worksheets tend to bore most students, especially those who need the most help in math. Engagement entails much more than rote repetition of a procedure. Math worksheets tend to present very similar problem types over and over, leading to mundane practice of disassociated skills. For students who understand the material and successfully complete an assignment, another worksheet becomes meaningless. On the other hand, for the students who don’t understand the material, an alternative method of instruction is what’s needed. Another worksheet simply adds to the student’s frustration, or worse, contributes to a belief that ”I’ll never understand math.” A cute image or a ”fill-in-the-blanks” riddle does nothing to increase engagement or learning (and let’s face it, those riddles are not funny!). Instead, teachers need to increase engagement by providing students with exercises in which they discover patterns and relationships, solve problems, or think creatively about math relationships.
I will admit that there is one type of worksheet that I used in the past and found relatively beneficial, although it had a different kind of flaw. For my Basic Math, Pre-Algebra, and Algebra classes, I had several books of ”self-checking” worksheets. These worksheets had puns or puzzle questions at the top, and as the students worked the problems they were given some kind of code for choosing a letter to match that answer. If they worked the problems correctly, the letters eventually answered the pun or riddle. Students enjoyed these worksheets, but there are a couple problem areas even with these worksheets. Some students would get the answer to the riddle early and then work backward from letter to problem answer, so they weren’t learning or practicing anything.
It’s easy to see how free worksheets can save you money. If you want, you can skip buying math books and just use worksheets that you get for free on the internet. All you need to do is use a ”scope and sequence” book that tells you what your child needs to be doing in math by age and grade. This book is essential when you homeschool. I recommend getting one of these books when you first begin homeschooling and use it as a reference throughout your homeschool journey. Regardless of how long you homeschool, you’ll always have doubts and questions about how your child is performing.A scope and sequence book can put your mind at ease.
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