The Psychology of Learning Maths

By Chrizelle Prinsloo

“I can’t help my child with maths. The maths kids do these days is far more complicated than what we did at school. I have never used algebra since leaving school.”

This statement might sound very familiar and it is mostly used when children need assistance with homework or studying for a maths test. It becomes more popular when parents are not able to understand the concepts themselves or the textbook examples just don’t seem to help.

Here are some guidelines for assisting your kids with their maths studies.

Parents, mind your language!

Telling your child that you can’t do maths sets your child up for failure. It is the same as telling a child that you do not like broccoli but still expecting them to eat broccoli with their dinner.

However, just as presenting broccoli with a cheese sauce increases the likelihood of the disliked green being eaten, so too does the way you present your opinion on maths determines your child’s attitude towards the subject.

Get real

You might not use algebra or the laws of exponents in every day life, but you do have to solve problems, plan tasks systematically and follow step-by-step instructions.

Show your child how maths is used in everyday situations. Let your child calculate your restaurant bill and show them how to calculate the tip.

When driving too and from school ask your child to make the biggest and smallest number possible with the three digits on passing number plates. For example, if the registration number is 592, the smallest number will be 259 and the biggest number will be 952.

The grand scheme of things

Mathematical concepts are linked and introduced systematically. Children are taught how to add one-digit numbers, then two-digit numbers and once that concept has been established, addition with regrouping or “carrying over” will be introduced.

If a child is unable to keep up with the pace at which new concepts are introduced, it leads to a snowball effect of falling behind.

Show your child how concepts are linked, for example use ten counters and let them explore the different bonds that can be created. Demonstrate how the same group, 1 and 9, can be used to calculate 1 + 9 = 10, 9 + 1 = 10, 10 – 1 = 9 and 10 – 9 = 1.

Like a rebellious teenager, maths is not (being) difficult, it’s just misunderstood. After all, it is as easy as 1, 2, 3.

Chrizelle Prinsloo is the owner of Kip McGrath Education Centres, Walmer. She has a background in psychology and has taught in mainstream and special-needs schools both locally and abroad. Chrizelle is passionate about helping children gain confidence in their own abilities and about finding different ways to help them learn.

Contact Chrizelle on 081 707 9822 for a FREE assessment.