Blog • Elephant Learning
It’s About More Than Just Math: Fear, Growth and Adaptation
Dec 02

It’s About More Than Just Math: Fear, Growth and Adaptation

By Elephant Learning | Math Readiness

Math anxiety — a fear of getting math concepts and problems wrong and the resulting avoidance of math because of that — is something I’ve seen many times over my life and not just in children. It’s just as prevalent in adults and, believe it or not, despite my PhD in math, I experienced math anxiety as a child, too. 

While some children allowed their math anxiety to grow into a lifelong avoidance of math, mine fueled my competitive spirit and led me to push ahead of my peers, learning advanced math concepts even when I wasn’t able to get into the advanced math classes my middle school offered.

That’s a big question mark in the math anxiety experience and one that can greatly impact your child’s future. Will they choose to avoid math for life? Or will they use math to their advantage in not just their elementary education, but also their higher education and later career? Will they have a growth mindset, or a fear mindset? Will they avoid the concepts they fear, or use their fear of math to get better at it? In many cases, these are the big questions you ask, not whether or not your child actually has math anxiety.

See, most of us have some sort of anxiety around math or another subject. The anxiety might not even be about the math itself per se. Instead, it’s the anxiety around being perceived as a bad student or as “stupid.” It just so happens that many people don’t learn math easily via the curriculum used in most schools and our society in general tells us it’s okay to not be a “numbers person” — and so, math anxiety continues. 

Related: Answers to Your Top Questions About Math Anxiety 

But if your child latches onto that growth mindset and they overcome their fear of math, the opportunities are endless. 

The Power of a Growth Mindset

When our children are encouraged to pursue math, not when they’re told that being “not a numbers person” is perfectly fine, but when they are empowered to overcome their math anxiety, everyone benefits. It’s not just about your child and their elementary school grades. Beyond that, your child and their peers could be the catalyst for a better future for the world. 

Related: Children are Empowered Through Understanding

Math skills are analytic and reasoning skills. Students who do well in math usually do well in everything else. Studies have proven time and time again that children who do well in math early on, do better in all their subjects later. A math literate society is a more successful one. 

A math literate society can produce more scientists, technologists, engineers and more who are equipped to solve the world’s problems. Math-literate entrepreneurs, politicians and creatives add their own value when they’re able to discuss the world’s issues with math-focused professionals. 

But What if My Child Simply Can’t Do That?

Some parents worry that their children are simply incapable of learning advanced math concepts or even basic math concepts, due to a learning disability. But I feel that nearly every child can learn math regardless, and here’s why. 

Every student seems to have the capacity for learning language. At Elephant Learning, we work with math as a language and if your student, regardless of learning impairment, is able to speak and understand language, then our system should be able to work for them (as it’s language based).

Related: Case Study: A 5th Grader’s Journey with Elephant Learning

Beyond Math

Similarly, just as we use language learning methods to teach math within the Elephant Learning app, the same methods we use to teach math (and the same teaching methods discussed all throughout the Elephant Learning blog) are applicable to any subject. 

For example, one of the key ways we tell parents to help their child overcome math misunderstandings is to, when a child gets a math problem wrong, instead of telling them the answer is wrong, ask them why they think that’s the right answer. When a child explains, the parent can generally pinpoint why they’re getting the concept wrong and remedy the situation. This same practice can be used when helping a child learn anything. 

Awareness and Adaptation

Through methods like this that children learn through math, children can then learn to be aware of their obstacles and adapt to overcome those obstacles. But the first obstacle you as their parent have to be aware of in order to help them adapt to overcome it, is math anxiety. Once they’re empowered and go on to becoming aware of obstacles on their own, the sky’s the limit. They can encounter a problem and rather than letting their anxiety tell them to head in the other direction, they can devise a way to solve the problem.

The empowerment children need in order to do so is possible through the Elephant Learning app and through working with your child hands-on, on a regular basis, and getting involved with their education. 

With awareness and adaptation, your child can accomplish anything — from overcoming their math anxiety to changing the world.

Children Are Empowered Through Understanding
Nov 04

Children Are Empowered Through Understanding

By Elephant Learning | Social Benefit

It is never too late to understand math.  At a young age, many of us had the experience of being told that “we are just not a numbers person.”  Books have been written on this social phenomena, and half of all Americans report Math anxiety. As it turns out, mathematics is really about learning jargon, a jargon that is so fundamental to humanity that we consider it vocabulary.

Beyond that, for a lot of people, the confidence that they develop in math affects their confidence in other areas, especially academics and the future.  Research has shown that preschool math scores predict fifth grade overall scores, indicating that it was not just mathematics affected. According to other studies, children that do more mathematics at a young age are better readers, writers, speakers, and problem solvers. Mathematics is special, in that beyond the psychological aspect, there is this problem solving aspect that occurs while engaging in exercising different modalities of the mind. For example, when a student moves from identifying how many to producing: “can you give me n objects?”  The student must hold the number on their head as they count objects and remember to stop when they get to the number asked.  It is like chewing gum and walking at the same time. Together, the psychology, confidence, and exercise work together to foster success outside of the subject.

What impact can success in math have on your overall success in life?  

The Two Reasons Success in Math Empowers Children for Life

We feel like there are two reasons for this. 

  1. When you’re performing mathematics, you’re developing mental tools.

Think about it this way: When you start using a physical tool, like a screwdriver or a hammer, you’re not automatically the most proficient carpenter there is, regardless of whether or not you have carpenter tools at your disposal. 

But, the more you use those tools, physical or, in math’s case, mental, the better you get at using them. When you’re performing mathematics, you’re practicing using these mental tools that you can then use in other areas or situations. 

For example, take one of the more basic tools that children learn when developing math skills (and a tool that some adults still cannot master!) — the ability to solve a math problem in one’s head, to work with numbers without seeing them written in front of you. When you can accurately solve that difficult math problem in your head, no paper or pen required, think of how confident you’ll feel. Which leads us to the second reason success in math empowers children for life…

  1. The more you develop these mental tools, the more confident you become.

The more that you develop the mental tools, the more comfortable and confident you are using them. 

Children are more geared toward learning language than math, but if you teach them about the language of math (as the Elephant Learning app does), then they’ll take that language and begin using the associated mental tools in everyday life. We constantly hear from parents that after their children have used the Elephant Learning app for a while, they become so comfortable and confident using these tools that they start using math to solve problems in their everyday lives. It’s no longer just an academic chore — it’s a real-life problem-solving tool that they feel empowered to use, because the Elephant Learning app helped them to understand it. 

Related: How to Evaluate Your Child’s Math Skills Based on Language

Success in Math Can Be Hindered Early

Unfortunately, getting kids to develop these mental tools and reap the confidence that follows is easier said than done. 

It all comes down to much of society’s attitude regarding math. We mentioned above how many people think they’re “not a numbers person,” but where did they develop that attitude? Does it actually reflect their ability to do math? Of course not. 

That attitude develops in the classroom. As soon as a child struggles with math, they’re given the excuse (from teachers, parents or their peers) that it’s okay, because they’re “not a numbers person.” Once they hear that, it’s an excuse to not really try to get any better at math; it’s an excuse to not practice using those mental tools. And when they never start using those mental tools, the confidence never develops. 

Here’s the catch: there’s no such thing as being “not a numbers person.” In reality, anyone can be a numbers person if they’re willing to practice using the mental tools math requires. 

The Ramifications of Not Achieving Early Success in Math

Unfortunately, if a child is passed through the system like this and they never develop the mental tools that would make them confident, they may firmly believe that they’re “not a numbers person.” This may provide the opportunity to begin thinking that it might not be such a big deal to also be “not a history person” or “not a literature person.” Suddenly, that excuse has the potential to bleed over to every other subject. 

What’s Possible if We Have a More Math Literate Society

But what if we have a more math literate society? One that is filled with students that have developed those mental tools and confidence? 

The United States actually had a heavy math literate society not too long ago. It helped the Allies win World War II and took us to the moon, and led to the advent of the internet, just to name a few accomplishments. But we’re not creating environments for those types of math literate people to thrive anymore. Instead, we’re 69% to 75% math illiterate at the high school level. Somewhere, there’s a disconnect. 

Related: Why Your Child is Behind in Math (Yes, Even Yours)

However, more and more, math is absolutely required for success in a growing number of fields. Beyond STEM fields, look at marketing. Once upon a time, marketing was an entirely creative field, but now it’s completely data-driven. Now, if you want to go into a non-math-related field, you have to choose a humanities major and statistically, those majors generally lead to lower-paying jobs. Unfortunately, because so many people are math illiterate, more and more people are entering the job market at lower-paying jobs that lead to more student debt and a lower earning cap overall. 

Apart from the individual repercussions of math illiteracy, a math literate society as a whole could offer worldwide benefits. If we produce more math literate scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians, they’d be solving the world’s problems. At the same time, if you could create entrepreneurs and politicians who could also understand the math and what these math-focused professionals were saying, think what could be possible. 

It Starts Now

To make this kind of math literate society possible, though, it has to start now — at your kitchen table, with your child. It requires that we toss out the idea of being “not a numbers person.” It means giving children the mental tools and confidence they need to succeed, whether that success comes from you working one-on-one with them on a regular basis or your child using the Elephant Learning app.

Help your child gain confidence and conquer math anxiety

Kids learn 1 year of math in 3 months with the Elephant Learning math curriculum

→Get Started←

 

What Parents Need to Know About Math Curriculum in Algebra and Beyond
Oct 28

What Parents Need to Know About Math Curriculum in Algebra and Beyond

By Elephant Learning | Curriculum

When students move into algebra, they begin using mathematics to have conversations.

Prior to algebra, everything we do is really definition. It’s teaching children what numbers, addition and subtraction are and how to think about them from different perspectives via the number line, groupings, quantities, fractions, and decimals. Then they transition into algebra, where formal mathematical language is starting to be used. They begin writing things in the language of math, the language they’ve been learning this entire time.

Sadly, this entire process often happens without children even knowing it. The algebra teacher doesn’t explain that everything they need to understand has been a prerequisite to understanding the conversations they will have. This can cause a lot of stress for your child both at school and at home. 

Related: Answers To Your Top Questions About Math Anxiety

Luckily, you can work with your child to help them develop their language, just like we did for early elementary and late elementary concepts. 

Here are two key places students are confused when faced with algebra for the first time and how you can help them overcome these issues. This is by no means exhaustive but is a great starting point for ensuring your student is ready for Algebra and beyond.

Stumbling Block #1: The Equal Sign 

One place where children have a lot of issues with algebra is the equal sign. The equal sign basically means that the quantity on both sides of the equation are the same. We notice this when students do not understand, for example, “Why we are subtracting 5 from both sides?”

A gamification of the idea of equals typically uses a balance and changing quantities on either side to show the relationship between more, equal, and less.  However, at this age, you can just work with students on the definition so they can understand it. Playing with ideas involves testing them to see if they can identify when the symbols (>, =, < ) are used in statements that are true or false.  For example: 5=5 (true), 4=5 (false), 4 < 5 (true).  

Once the student is able to communicate around the above ideas, a parent or teacher can begin to build more complicated language around it.  For example, an equation is two expressions that are related by an equal sign. An expression is any statement that you can make in mathematics such as 5x+5 or 5+4 or etc…

Because math jargon quickly builds upon itself, it is very important that there is understanding at every step of the way, because otherwise it is very easy to lose students when statements are made about more complicated objects.

Stumbling Block #2: Memorization 

Another issue is that many children at this stage are still relying on memorization skills that they may have picked up when learning their multiplication tables. They just want to memorize the steps on how to solve an equation so they can pass a test. 

Unfortunately, if you’re showing a child how to solve a problem and they attempt to memorize the steps instead of understanding why the strategies work, it will be difficult for them to achieve the goal of passing the test. Algebra is an exercise in problem solving and it uses all of the language that came prior in elementary school.  5x+4 = 9 has multiplication, addition, and needs the student to understand the quantity on the left is the same as the quantity on the right in order for them to be able to even start to approach solving the problem.

Algebra as a practice and division of mathematics deals with abstraction.  The conversations and ideas talked about are more vague (but no less precise) than earlier mathematics.  Rules of thumb that previously could be used to help students achieve no longer apply. Not everything written on paper, just with regular language, need even be true.  In fact, an algebra problem may even be a hypothesis instead of solely existing as an equation.  

Helping Your Child Overcome Stumbling Blocks to Succeed in Algebra

Helping your child to succeed in algebra starts with helping them to understand some definitions. For example, look at all the basic symbols you’ll be using such as exponents, the equal sign, or the greater than sign. The Elephant Learning app does a very thorough and rigorous job of defining these concepts to eliminate any of your child’s common misconceptions. 

After showing a child the definitions, we then test their knowledge of the definitions by presenting them with true or false statements. As they begin to develop an idea of what true and false means in terms of algebra, they begin to build their logic skills. The more students develop their logic, the more intuition they’ll have when it comes to problem solving skills, taking their math ability to an entirely new level. 

Three Steps to Success

At the end of the day, algebra comes down to these three steps: define, recognize and produce. No matter if your child is in middle school or a PhD math program, it’s all about defining (can you understand it?), recognizing (can you identify it?), and producing (can you use it to produce results or new research?). If you can help your child with these three aspects of algebra at home, they’ll be better set up for success in the classroom and the future. 

Learn 1 year of math in
3 months

30 minutes a week x 3 months = 1 year of math concepts

Elephant Learning’s match academy is a proven math curriculum for kids ages 2 – 16

>>>Get Started<<<

Later Elementary Math Concepts and Strategies: What Parents Need to Know for Grades 3-6
Oct 21

Later Elementary Math Concepts and Strategies: What Parents Need to Know for Grades 3-6

By Elephant Learning | Curriculum

When a child enters the later elementary stage of their education, considered third through sixth grade, they’ll likely be learning multiplication, division, fractions, percentages and decimals. Even though children have moved on from the early elementary topics of addition and subtraction (which they’ll need to master if they want to succeed at later elementary topics — things get complex quickly), parents will find that moving from addition and subtraction to multiplication and division is a natural step. After all, multiplication and division are essentially repetitive addition and solve problems that use grouping or splitting. A multiplication problem might represent four groups of six items, and we know that four groups of six items sums up to 24 total items. 

The Elephant Learning app teaches these types of concepts through a combination of hiding items (so your child can’t use counting to solve a multiplication problem), timing and other strategies to develop children’s math skills. 

How can you introduce and reinforce these concepts at home and throughout everyday life? What are some of the best ways to make these concepts “click” for your child? Here are a few strategies to set your child up for success in these areas. 

Multiplication Beyond Memorization

Most students learn to multiply in school by memorizing their multiplication tables. There’s nothing wrong with memorizing multiplication tables, but a child must know what the multiplication tables mean. If they’re multiplying seven by six, they need to have that picture in the back of their head of six groups of seven or seven groups of six. If not, they don’t have a true understanding of what multiplication actually is and it won’t serve them later on in life.

Take, for example, a child who knows that five times four is 20. She can solve the multiplication problem with ease. But then, she looks at a real-life problem where she could use multiplication to solve it. Maybe she’s looking at a group of objects separated into four groups of five. If she starts counting the objects one by one, this tells you she doesn’t understand what multiplication is and how to use it in everyday life. She just memorized the multiplication table, which is absolutely useless to her in the real world. 

When working with your child on multiplication, make sure they understand the meaning of multiplication. Go beyond mere memorization. 

Related: The Early Years: Teaching Young Children Math Concepts 

Division: Not So Different

Just like addition and subtraction are the same topics essentially, just the inverse functions of one another, so are multiplication and division. Traditionally, children are taught multiplication first, then division, but it doesn’t have to be this way. You could teach division first, then multiplication, and have the same success. Here’s why.

Let’s say A divided by B equals C. That means that A equals B times C. Division and multiplication are parts of the same equation. Which operation you use to solve a problem depends on what you’re looking for. 

If your child is successful in multiplication, division should be a natural step forward if you introduce division to them as the other side of multiplication. It’s nothing new, foreign or scary. It’s something they’ve already encountered and nothing to fear. 

Related: Answers to Your Top Questions About Math Anxiety

The Secret About Fractions, Decimals and Percentages

Division, fractions, decimals and percentages are all part of the same concept — proportions — so why are they taught separately? The Elephant Learning app introduces fractions at the same time a child is learning multiplication and division. After all, a fraction is division; one over four literally means one piece of a whole divided by four. Traditional instruction introduces division, fractions, decimals and percentages as separate concepts.  Neither one is more correct than another, though depending on the context people typically use one over the other. For example, money makes the most sense done in decimals, financials with percentages, and projects that require measurements are most commonly done with fractions. 

When parents themselves realize that fractions, decimals and percentages are all different ways of saying the same thing, it’s like a light bulb goes off. Many people go their entire lives not realizing it! But once they do, it seems so obvious.

Parents can help their child come to understand this by not only using the language surrounding these concepts in everyday life, but by showing them the concepts in everyday life, too. Maybe you bake a cake using measuring cups or you work on a DIY project that requires a measuring tape. Suddenly it becomes very real to your child what a quarter of an inch is. 

Fractions are often easiest to start with, as, out of all these concepts, they look and feel most like division. Then, you can step your child up to decimals. They may look intimidating, but all you’re really doing is creating a fraction where the denominator is 100 (or one plus the same number of zeroes for however many decimal places you might have). So, 0.22 is simply 22 over 100, or 0.122 is simply 122 over 1,000. Once this concept is grasped, you can move on to percentages. The percentage is just like a fraction, but the denominator will always be 100; 50 percent is 0.50 is 50/100. 

All three represent the same exact idea, just in different language. 

Normalizing Math Language

Why is there such stigma around math terminology? Research shows that children as young as four years old exhibit the concept of division all the time. Think about how they divide up their toys for a tea party or how they divide up a snack. They usually have an idea of what a half or a fourth means at that age. They’re using division, but we don’t label it as such in normal conversation. 

We need to start integrating “formal” math language into everyday talk. Using math words and terms around your child introduces them to the concepts as soon as they start learning language. It makes them more comfortable and confident around math as they get older. Do math out loud in front of them. Count on your fingers. Talk through an everyday math problem with them. Don’t be afraid of looking stupid, just because society says that counting on your fingers makes you look dumb. 

Next Steps: What Happens After Late Elementary Education?

After late elementary education, your child will get into algebra. They’ll need to understand all these concepts in order to succeed. While it is possible to teach and reinforce these concepts to your child at home, it can be a lot of hard work and very time-consuming. Elephant Learning can help. 

Learn 1 year of math in
3 months

30 minutes a week x 3 months = 1 year of math concepts

Elephant Learning’s match academy is a proven math curriculum for kids ages 2 – 16

>>>Get Started<<<

How Elephant Learning Teaches Early Elementary Mathematics
Oct 14

How Elephant Learning Teaches Early Elementary Mathematics

By Elephant Learning | Curriculum

Early elementary mathematics spans the ages of 6 to 8 years old — roughly kindergarten through second grade. Though mathematics curriculum varies from state to state and school to school, kindergarten through second is where children learn the fundamentals of math: counting, comparisons, addition and subtraction. Children are also introduced to skip counting and the number line, two strategies that set the foundation for later elementary math. 

As a parent, you already know how important it is for your child to grasp these early concepts and you may be looking for a math app to help them excel. Let’s take a look at how the Elephant Learning app teaches each of these early elementary math concepts. We’ll also discuss the frequently asked question, “Does Elephant Learning align with Common Core?”

Related: The Three-Step Method to Teaching Math

Counting and Comparisons

In early elementary education, the first concepts that we work with are counting and comparisons — that is, quantity comparisons versus what’s bigger and smaller. We might show a child an image of four objects and an image with 12 objects, and ask them to identify which has more or fewer. It’s important for children to know the difference because it sets the stage for addition and subtraction.

Addition and Subtraction

In the Elephant Learning app, there’s a seamless transition that happens from counting and comparison to addition and subtraction. This is actually why many of our young students are doing so well. We’re simply walking them logically through what you would want to teach a kid to get to the very next baby step. 

The question “Can you produce five?”  incrementally morphs into “If I have five things and someone brings one more, how many do I have now?” or “If I have five things and someone takes one away, how many do I have now?” The child learns the order of the numbers, which becomes addition and subtraction. This helps establish the order of the numbers in the child’s mind, which helps them to develop numeracy — the ability to understand and work with numbers. 

The Elephant Learning app addresses these concepts from numerous angles. One question might ask, “A farmer had 15 carrots and gave 3 to his horse. How many does he have left?” We then approach the problem from a different angle and ask, “A farmer had 15 carrots and gave some to his horse. Now he has 12 carrots. How many carrots did he give to his horse?” 

By approaching the same idea from multiple angles, we help the student understand all of the language that may be used, as well as have them solve the same problem from a different angle. When they do, they are showing they are proficient, but also they are understanding the idea on a more intuitive level. 

If a child doesn’t have both in their head when they see the written math of 15-12, they’re going to encounter problems for years to come.

Skip Counting

The other math skill that children work on during the early elementary years is skip counting — two, four, six, eight, and so on. The idea is for the child to start to see the grouping. Skip counting really is the precursor to multiplication, and the more advanced skip counting questions at school and in the Elephant Learning app look a lot like the multiplication questions. 

Related: 5 Common Math App Pitfalls — And How Elephant Learning Is Different

The Number Line

Building numeracy requires students to have an understanding of all representations of the numbers. We work on numeracy using objects, though at some point it is good to abstract to a number line. This helps students see the numbers placed out sequentially in order on a horizontal line. It allows children to approach addition and subtraction from a different angle as well as allows us to determine proficiency with numeracy. 

For instance, our app might show a child a number line and ask them “Where’s 17 and where’s 71 on the line?”  We ask this question on a number line going from 0 to 100. If the student places 17 near 71, then we know they are having an issue understanding two-digit numbers. However, if they are answering correctly, we know they have mastery of these ideas.

Learn 1 year of math in
3 months

30 minutes a week x 3 months = 1 year of math concepts

Elephant Learning’s match academy is a proven math curriculum for kids ages 2 – 16

>>>Get Started<<<

Elephant Learning Accelerates Early Elementary Math

Early elementary mathematics focuses on the fundamentals: counting and comparisons, addition and subtraction, skip counting and the number line. Using the Elephant Learning app, children can learn these early elementary mathematical concepts in a matter of two to three weeks versus two years of the standard school curriculum. 

The best part is, once a child has the understanding, a teacher can’t take it away from them. Even if there’s a difference in the way that the school teaches a concept and the way the child learns with Elephant Learning, parents can reconcile the information because the concepts are solid. Mastering these skills sets the foundation for the years ahead where children will tackle multiplication, division, fractions, decimals, percentages, and more.

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