"The family makes critical contributions to student achievement from the earliest childhood through high-school."
— Anne Henderson and Nancy Berla, editors, A New Generation of Evidence: The Family is Critical to Student Achievement
We all want to be involved in our children's education. Most of us read to—and with—our children. We help them learn the alphabet and their numbers. But many parents don't know how to go beyond these activities, especially in mathematics. When their children have trouble with math problems, they commiserate: "I know how you feel. I didn't understand it either when I was in school." Or they think to themselves: "He doesn't like math because I don't like math."
FAMILY MATH, a program which was developed at the Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California at Berkeley in the early 1980s, is designed not only to help kids become more comfortable with mathematics, but to help parents overcome their own math-phobias and learn how to help their children.
The Making of a Math-phobic
"I am 51 years old, and now I am in this wonderful program, and learning things that I did not know before. How could I have helped my child without first knowing?"
How do you remember your mathematics experiences? Were they wonderful and full of success? Or did you feel like only the "smart" and "brainy" kids understood algebra or geometry? If it was the latter, you have plenty of company. For many, mathematics was something to be slogged through, something to be survived. And as soon as math was no longer a required course, usually sometime in high school, they dropped out.
What about your family? Did you get help at home with math homework? Sometimes parents— especially those who grew up in another country - were taught how to solve math problems differently than the way their kids are taught today in American schools. My father grew up in Mexico and this was a big problem for us. He would try to help me, but I would protest that he was doing the math wrong. We would both be so frustrated. The homework, of course, remained undone.
I had a sense that I was a failure in math - even when I was all grown up and teaching second grade. It wasn't until I attended a FAMILY MATH seminar that I realized that I could learn mathematics and that it could even be fun.
It doesn't have to be this way. Math-phobia can be overcome, especially when families work together.
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Text copyright © 2003 Stuart J. Murphy,
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