Jeannette Noor November 27, 2020 Worksheet
This issue of NOT practicing mistakes is extremely important. Parents shouldn’t give worksheets as busy work and teachers should only use them if you are going to have a non-math teacher substitute. White boards with supervision are always a better way to practice skills. If you need some time to do chores, your child will get much more benefit by helping you with the chores. And maybe you can work in a little discussion of numbers or counting while you do chores together.
When I was growing up we didn’t have home computers let alone PlayStation to entertain ourselves. Handheld camcorders were barely coming to the retail market by the time I was in 8th grade, but still a long ways away from the YouTube and Facebook arena we now see today. Times were extremely different back then and so was school. From a teacher’s perspective our competition is tough. Passing out a handout of 30 problems that are all in a format of 534×25= is not as stimulating in the students’ eyes as playing games such as Grand Theft Auto and Resident Evil. Granted, that will always be a tough uphill battle for math to win out over most video games, but the point is, students today are much more immersed in technology than ever before. So even if you need to pass out a math worksheet to review concepts and formulas, it will greatly benefit your cause if you design the worksheet to be as stimulating as possible.
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.
Rather than using worksheets, a better method is to use individual size white boards and have the child writing entire facts many times. Having a child writing 9 x 7 = 7 x 9 = 63 while saying ”nine times seven is the same as seven times nine and is equal to sixty-three” is many times more successful than a worksheet with 9 x 7 = ___ and the student just thinks the answer once and then writes that answer on the duplicate problems.
No matter what materials you choose, it is most important that you supervise your child constantly so that mistakes get caught rather than practiced. I learned this particular lesson the hard way. When my daughter was young, she did something that needed ”attention.” I no longer remember what it was that she did, but I told her to write the sentence ”I will not disobey my parents again” 50 times. I should have known better, but I didn’t check on her at the beginning and then I got busy. So, sometime later, she brought me 50 sentences of ”I will not disobey my parents agen.” She had just practiced misspelling ”again” as ”agen” — 50 times! I’m not certain that we ever really got that fixed.
Of course, there is a place for math worksheets. After some instruction has occurred, math worksheets can provide extended practice and support development in fluency, provided the teacher is engaged with students as they work. Teachers who are effective at grouping students can use math worksheets as a springboard for discussions, discovery, and communication. So the next time you do a search for curriculum materials, skip the worksheets. Instead, consider resources that provide interactive experiences or consider sites that provide students with challenging problems. These sites will more likely engage students, foster discussion, and build a true understanding of the purpose and joy of learning math.
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