2 March 2009 02:18 PM

Celebrate National Math Month in March! (Guest Blog by Judy A. Brown)

by Dr. Rick

Judy Brown is the Math Program Manager for Sylvan Learning, a 30-year career math educator with many years’ experience teaching, writing curriculum, editing, creating web resources, and helping students and parents become successful in math.  She makes math come alive, even fun.  You should see her desk.  It’s filled with math puzzles and games that attract passers-by, stimulate their imaginations, challenge their brains, and no one even suspects – until she tells them – that they’re doing math!

Here’s Judy.


Everyone speaks the language of numbers, whether in commerce, expressing age or calculating distance. Mathematics is the only language shared by all humans - regardless of native tongue, geography, economic background or culture.


In today’s global economy, everyone, not just those who are mathematically inclined, must know how to speak math – understand mathematical concepts.  The key to lifelong, academic and economic success is the development of critical thinking skills and numerical fluency in math curriculums from pre-kindergarten through high school.


Students should begin to develop a good grasp of numbers while they are young.  Although memorizing multiplication tables and solving calculations are important, developing a solid sense of numbers is essential. 


According to the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, by focusing on mathematics – especially algebra - across all grades, we will ensure that students develop the analytical thinking and reasoning skills needed for success in school and beyond.  In essence, algebra for middle and high school students must be preceded by algebraic reasoning in the early years.


Students who successfully complete higher level mathematics courses – beginning with algebra - are at an advantage.  Traditionally, students cannot take advanced mathematics classes in secondary school until they have mastered the foundational math concepts learned in elementary school – decimals and fractions - and successfully completed Algebra 1.  Success in Algebra 1 is pivotal because it is the language spoken in mathematics. 


An understanding of the importance of math in their lives puts students well on their way to academic success.  Sylvan Learning encourages parents to play an active role in boosting their children’s number sense and discovering a love of higher mathematics.


Make math connections to everyday life.  There are many opportunities for students to see the value of math.  Think of tasks that you do everyday – rearranging a teenager’s room is a lesson in geometry and equally cutting slices of pie can teach fractions. The more parents talk about math while completing these tasks, the more students will realize its importance. 


Involve your children in real-life family decisions.  Encourage them to plan a family activity while remaining in budget.  For example, ask them to plan a night at the movies or create a budget for the family vacation.


Demonstrate your math ability.  Think out loud so your child can hear your analytical reasoning.  For younger children, count your change or discuss which measuring cup is needed when baking a birthday cake.  For older students, calculate discounts when shopping or estimate how much money will be needed to fill up the gas tank.


“Mathematize” cool careers.  Casually talk about mathematics while highlighting the types of math needed in your children’s chosen, “cool” careers.  Video game designers, architects, doctors, football coaches, musicians and chefs utilize math skills every day.


Praise your children’s academic progress.  Tell them you are proud of their math efforts even when they struggle.  When students are confident in their abilities, they enjoy learning.  That love of learning leads to a willingness to try new, academic experiences.


To better assist parents in helping their children develop the skills, habits and attitudes needed for academic success, Sylvan Learning is offering free, local parent workshops. These FREE, 90-minute workshops are part of the new Sylvan Seminar Series created to help parents become familiar with the latest educational trends in a fun and interactive setting. And, your friends are welcome too!


In celebration of National Math Month in March, Sylvan is offering "Forgotten Math for Parents.”  This seminar is designed to help parents gain confidence in assisting their children with their homework by reviewing many of the key math concepts that are introduced in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade. Parents move from station to station and are able to choose the math area they need to review in order to make homework time more manageable for the whole family.  Whether it is learning how to use a graphing calculator or brushing up on exponents, linear equations or fractions, there will be a station to fit your family’s homework needs. Additionally, each parent will be given a skill summary sheet for use at home as well as tips detailing where to find educational resources to help children conquer their math homework.


April’s topic is “Algebra Spoken Here.”  Do you ever use the phrase “I’m not a math person”? This workshop will help you learn why it’s dangerous to tell your children this and will provide fun ways to overcome your math “phobia.”  Hear the latest trends and news about math – and why it’s even more important than ever. You’ll also learn tricks to incorporate math into everyday life and discover that the foundation for algebra actually starts in Pre-K.

Contact your neighborhood Sylvan Learning to learn when the free math seminars will be offered in your community.

To obtain free educational resources to help students in grades K-12 learn the math skills needed for success, visit the “Parent Resources” area of www.SylvanLearning.com  




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