A few years ago, a fellow homeschool Mum hosted a workshop, where she taught other homeschool parents how to teach their kids maths in such a way that kids actually felt inspired by the subject rather than dreading it.
One of the first things the host did, was to get all us parents sitting in a circle. She said she was going to call out some simple maths problems and we were to write down our answers. She then said once we were done, she would go around the circle and we would have to tell everyone our answers and she’d tell us if we’d got them correct.
The first thing I did was get nervous and focus on how much I was dreading my turn to share my answers at the end. Then I second guessed every answer I wrote, I double checked everything (even though the questions were purposely easy and I definitely knew the answers), and I still worried I’d missed something.
I was so focussed on having to call out my answers, that even now when I think back to that day, I don’t even remember if the equations were addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division. I certainly didn’t learn anything from answering those questions - I don’t even remember them! All I remember is for that 10 minutes, I dreaded having to have my answers checked.
What if I got a basic answer wrong? Should I be smarter? What would the instructor think if I made a silly mistake and everyone else got 100%?
And the more I focussed on that, the more likely I was to overthink, miss an important question, and make a silly mistake - and not actually focus on the maths.
After the 10 minutes was up and we’d all written down our answers, it was time.
I looked around the circle, hoping there were enough people before me, that I wouldn’t need to answer a question.
I avoided eye contact with the instructor completely. I tried to become invisible.
The workshop host then announced to us:
“I didn’t tell you the truth before. I actually won’t be checking your answers. Nobody else will know what you put down as the answer to each question unless you want to show us”.
The relief was immediate.
The workshop host then said:
“How many of you were dreading this part?”
Everybody laughed and said that’s exactly how they’d felt.
The instructor then said “now imagine how kids feel when we tell them that we will be checking their maths answers”.
Ok, fair point. But if we don’t mark the students answers, how will they know if they got the answers correct? How will they learn?
The host had an answer to this:
“Parents/teachers can hand out a page with the answers afterwards and students can mark their answers themselves”.
But won’t they cheat?
“Possibly. But why would they need to? Nobody is checking. And even if they change their answer when they see they got it wrong - that’s still learning. If they realise they got something wrong, notice it, and go to the trouble of changing their answer - chances are they won’t get that answer wrong next time. They’d remember that mistake even more if they realised it themselves rather than if they just got their work handed back with a cross next to an answer”.
The instructor then passed around the answers to our questions, and we marked our work ourselves.
For me, it was a lightbulb moment.
If that’s how I felt as a grown adult - imagine how kids feel when they are in that situation regularly!
No wonder kids can end up dreading learning maths!
Whereas maths should be fun! It’s literally an entire subject about solving puzzles!
That’s why I love these Learning Wrap Ups so much.
On the front of each key, are 12 equations. Students use the attached string to connect each equation on the left side of the key, to the correct answer on the right side.
Once all twelve equations are completed, students can turn the key over, and if the string pattern matches the markings on the back, it means they got the answers correct!
If the string doesn’t match the markings, they can then work out where they went wrong, and try again.
Students will have fun testing their maths skills, and they get to self check their answers.
These Learning Wrap Ups are such a wonderful maths teaching aid for homeschooling, for classrooms, or for students practicing maths at home.
For our homeschool plan, I got my kids to keep a notebook and time themselves when completing each key. They could then write down their time in their notebook, and each day they could race against their own lowest time, trying to get a personal best.
It’s a great way to get students to practice quick mental maths!
Of course my kids turned it into a race, and rather than try to beat their own times, they tried to beat each other.
But hey - whatever works!
Learning Wrap Ups are available in addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and fractions, and are all available to be purchased either in store at Brain Spice, or via our online store.
(Learning Wrap Ups are also available to be purchased in store from our brick and mortar store if you're lucky enough to be local to Bunbury, Western Australia!)