Let’s talk Math: Practical advice to combat learning loss - MetroFamily Magazine
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Let’s talk Math: Practical advice to combat learning loss

By Mathnasium

by Lindsay Cuomo

Math can be a source of anxiety for students and parents alike. If you are like me, you found yourself at a loss trying to help your kids work through math assignments this past spring, as parents across the state took a more active role in teaching during distance learning.

I could no longer simply say let’s ask your teacher tomorrow!

Parents are navigating more decisions than ever as they prepare for return to school amid rising coronavirus cases in the state of Oklahoma and the focus on learning loss is paramount.

We sat down (virtually) with Jesse Yap, owner and director of of Mathnasium North OKC and South OKC, to get important questions answered about the resources available in the Oklahoma City metro. She offers her insights to help OKC families lower their stress level about catching up, homeschooling and more.

As schools pivoted to online learning this past spring, what did you find parents were most concerned about regarding their students’ math skills?

Parents were concerned that no new content was being taught and that their child(ren) may not retain what they learned after weeks of school closures and the extended summer break. Parents didn’t want their child(ren)’s learning to stop or for them to experience a learning loss.

They feared that their child’s math skills would be stagnate or decline. Although distance learning plans were provided by school districts, some parents were not confident in being able to support their child(ren) in the subject of math, especially for the secondary grade levels. Others were busy with work and had little to no time to help their child(ren) with their schoolwork.

What would be your best advice for parents moving forward to safeguard their children’s educational growth despite the many unknowns surrounding how this upcoming school year will unfold?

Parents can be supportive and make learning fun. Parents should not stress or pass their anxiety about math or school to their children. They can seek out a program like Mathnasium to keep their child on track or get them ahead of the game while the city and world is at a standstill. This is the perfect time to take charge and fill in any learning gaps and get their children ahead of their peers.

What can parents do to help combat the learning loss resulting from the extended school break this summer? How can parents encourage learning math skills at home?

It is most important to continue to learn and practice math skills in a fun, non-pressured environment. The founder of Mathnasium, Larry Martinek, actually started our method by observing and interacting with his son. One of my favorite stories is about Larry teaching his son about fractions by using candy bars.

Here are some helpful strategies to try:

  • Parents can play games to keep math skills fresh. There are plenty of games that can sharpen math skills and keep math fun.
  • Incorporate math in their everyday life, just like most parents regularly read to their child(ren). Asking them what time is it, who’s ahead by how much when watching the games, having them count the plates and silverware to set the table or calculate the sales price while shopping are all quick ways to do just that.
  • Watch and actively participate in our free Mathnasium Facebook Live classes discussing a variety of concepts for different grade levels. The classes air every weekday at 1 p.m., but can also be viewed at your leisure since they are recorded.
  • Sign up for Mathnasium’s newsletters filled with math tips and math-related games and activities. Text your email address to 405-412-8758 to subscribe.
  • I also recommend an annual skills assessment to see what concepts your child(ren) have mastered or need to review. Addressing areas of need early can prevent anxiety and frustration. When your child(ren) show signs of low confidence, no interest, or an aversion to math, it may be an indication of foundational gaps. Reach out to us or other community resources for help. The longer it is put off, the bigger the gap becomes and the longer it will take to resolve the issues.

Some parents are opting to home school this year. What services and programs does Mathnasium offer to assist families on that path?

Our program works very well with all math curriculum including public schools, private schools as well as homeschool. In fact, we have had some adults join our program for their professional and sometimes even personal enrichment.

Math, especially in the upper grades, can be challenging for parents and even homeschool co-ops to teach. They often turn to programs like Mathnasium knowing each student has their own customized learning plan and our instructors are well trained to teach from first grade up to calculus. Many homeschool families have opted to use our program exclusively and have had great success since they have a greater flexibility with their choice of curriculum.

For families who are not opting to home school, Mathnasium is a great supplement to the instruction received in school. In addition to addressing any gaps in their foundation or challenging them with advanced concepts, we offer students understanding and help with their current class work. We also help them study and prepare for quizzes and tests. We want to partner with teachers, parents, and students to give them the best possible experience.

Math aversion is a very real thing. What are some age-appropriate strategies to combat the negative feelings some students develop surrounding the subject of math?

Not only can children have an aversion to math but many adults do too. Much like anything else, we avoid doing anything that we are not comfortable or not confident, or don’t enjoy doing.

Parents can help them combat these negative feelings by helping their child(ren) gain confidence and fluency with numbers. One way to accomplish this is teaching them strategies to add, subtract and multiply. Then, these strategies can be used in lots of fun, creative ways to help build their new math habits.

Additionally, parents can help foster critical thinking skills at any stage. When child(ren) adopt this type of thinking, they can become very empowered. Critical thinking is very important when it comes to new math problems that a child(ren) has not seen before. We teach our students to think; to use what is given to solve what is needed. It’s a fun puzzle or mystery for us and when kids understand the why behind the problems, it’s not so intimidating. It can actually be fun.

Are there any particular areas where students tend to lose confidence in their abilities?

Students lose confidence when they don’t understand. We see students losing confidence very early in their lives when they struggle to pass the timed tests. Many students don’t understand what multiplication means. They are told to memorize a table of numbers. Many do not understand fractions and percents and how they even relate. Many more are confused with integers and all the rules that comes with it. It’s important to teach for understanding. It’s not enough to just know the answer, even when it’s correct.

If your child shows signs of low confidence, if they become withdrawn, if they are increasingly disruptive in class, please seek our help. The earlier we can catch the problem, the quicker and easier it is to resolve the issues. I love seeing the confidence in our students grow and improve not only in math but in all areas of their lives and the lives of their families.

How is Mathnasium providing instruction given the restrictions and CDC guidelines due to the pandemic? How have you pivoted your services during this unprecedented time?

To ensure the safety of our staff and students, we offer online and in-center instructions. We have changed from a drop-in format where parents can drop their child(ren) off to scheduled appointments so that we can adhere to social distancing and limit the number of people in the center at any given time. We require both staff and students to wear masks, wash their hands and sanitize workstations and all materials after each session.

We require both staff and students to wear masks, wash their hands and sanitize workstations and all materials after each session.

Mathnasium@HOME is our method for online instruction for those who prefer not to come in-center. Students receive the same materials and instruction as they would in our center except over the internet. During the session, the student receives live instruction, direction and help on their customized learning plan from their assigned instructor. Students can share their homework online and work in tandem with their instructor.

Our instruction hours for both online and in-center are Monday to Thursday from 11a.m. to 7 p.m. and Friday from 11a.m. to 6 p.m. Students can attend up to three times a week and each session is one hour with our instructors.

What is unique about Mathnasium’s curriculum?

Mathnasium’s approach to teaching is unique in that we focus on developing critical thinking and problem-solving. We help our students understand the WHY behind the math as well as the HOW to effectively solve it.

It is not enough to just get the right answer. Our instructors are trained to lead our students to DISCOVERY.

It is a joy for me and my instructors to help students come to love math as much as we do. For the past nine years, it has been so rewarding to see our students grow and blossom and become the people that they want to be. I do not want math to hold back any child. It is the one subject that can open doors to so many opportunities.

Jesse Yap opened the first Mathnasium Learning Center in Oklahoma City in 2012, after working over two decades as a systems analyst. She holds a degree from OU in Management Information Systems. She is married and has two children, both now in college.  Her family enjoys movie and game nights together and to travel when they can.

Mathnasium is a math-only learning center utilizing specially-trained math instructors to help kids in grades 2-12 better understand math the way that makes sense to them. Experienced math tutors deliver a customized learning plan designed to address each student’s needs, whether they started out far behind or are already ahead in math. 

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