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Here's Why Math is Making Your Child Cry and What You Can Do About It

August 9, 2021
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Written by Kira Gavalakis


It’s understandable that we, as parents, don’t want to grade our kids harshly or give them criticism. We want them to be happy, and feel good about themselves, especially as a student. As a result, we may avoid chatting with our kids about their grades, or even simply brush it off as a bad teacher. But what’s actually happening is that we’re making math more difficult for our kids through our manifestation of denial.


To our kids, our denial might look like anger, frustration, or sadness, making those math tears come even quicker.


I’ll put it simply: math is making your child cry because we as parents are making it difficult.


I know, it’s probably a little hard to hear at first. But in this article, I’ll give you some steps on how you can alleviate those math tears and set your kid up for math success.


Passing vs. Getting the Right Answer

We all want our kids to do well. But in math, there’s a difference between doing well and actually understanding the concepts.


There are two real ways to look at how your child is learning math.


  1. Did they get the answer correct?
  2. Can they explain how they got that answer and how to apply it in real-world examples?


Typically, even if a child is getting #1, the tears are coming because #2 isn’t helping them get to the problem on their own. Since mathematics is very abstract, it can be tough to pin down the concepts that guide math exercises and problems. 


For instance, even if your child has memorized their multiplication tables, they may not really understand why 4x3 is 12. They’ve just memorized a series of numbers, so when they move onto the next lesson, they’re missing a fundamental understanding of why two numbers multiplied together equal their product. This can snowball, creating much bigger issues later on, sometimes even years into the future. 


So now, it’s back to us as parents. If we aren’t able to allow our children to make mistakes, get things wrong, and ask questions, they’ll never stop to ask for help. They’ll motor on through math classes, missing basic concepts, and struggling unnecessarily as a result. They’ll be so focused on impressing us, that the root of the mathematical problems will fly out the window, and you’ll both be wondering why math is so frustrating.

Looking at Math Differently As a Parent

When we’re not allowing our kids to fail because of our own fears, we’re sacrificing their learning process. It’s actually one of the reasons I created Elephant Learning; to provide kids with abstract problems put into real life terms and situations, and to give them the opportunity to be wrong.


What our platform does is give kids the opportunity to fail. Since a gamification platform doesn’t hold emotions, it won’t feel upset, angry, or guilty if a student gets a problem wrong. Instead, it’s trained to continue pushing concepts that kids are getting wrong more and more into their game, so they can keep practicing until they’re mastered.


Related: Emotion is Holding You Back as a Homeschooling Parent


When we as parents are too emotionally involved in our kid’s learning experience, we project our desire for them to be right so badly that we sacrifice their own ability to understand the process behind the math they’re doing.


So… how do we change this thought process?


First, we need to recognize that our fear of “wrong” is what’s making our children frustrated with math. We’re showing that getting an answer wrong and learning from it is worse than getting an answer right and not understanding it.


Next, we need to follow Thomas Edison’s words: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” This means looking at your children’s failures as practice rounds and learning opportunities, instead of letting it trigger your natural fear of your kid not understanding something. If you’re looking for your child to have big successes as Thomas Edison did, you have to allow those 10,000 mistakes, failures, and wrong answers without any hesitation. 


Kids especially have to be able to play with ideas in their heads, go through trial and error scenarios, and uncover different solutions without the fear of disappointing you. If we as parents are getting in the way of that, we’ll continue making learning math harder than it needs to be.

How to Look at Math Differently


 A lot of parents want their kids to be able to ace a quiz or test, and may not bother checking that they fully understand the concepts at play. And ultimately, what we’re impressing on our children is our own fear of being wrong,  which in turn, will teach our kids to fear being wrong. We’re training them to fear “wrong” -ness more than a lack of understanding, to their long-term detriment.

How to Start Practicing This in Real Life

  1. The first thing you have to do is accept the reality of how your child is performing in math class, and say it out loud. “My child isn’t understanding the deeper meaning behind the math they’re learning in school.”


  1. Next, find a learning tool or an expert in this field like Elephant Learning that can help teach your child a deeper understanding of the concepts, instead of just getting the questions right.


If you decide to join us here at Elephant Learning, we start students older than 5 in a placement exam, which was designed to start behind your student and catch up to them. For example, if you chose the third-grade exam, we’re actually testing them on second-grade concepts like addition and subtraction to see if they’re even ready for third-grade material they’re being given in school. 


This way, you’ll get a good idea of what your child understands and what they don’t understand. Then, we’ll start building the language. Because even if they don’t understand the procedures and processes, they’ll understand the underlying concepts.


It’s important to view Elephant Learning as a tool, regardless of the other academic programs they’re utilizing (tutors, after-school programs, etc).


The involvement on the parent’s part is minimal. And sometimes, that’s just what our kids need to turn tears into 10,000 successes.


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