As parents, we often compare the way we learned a topic to the way our child is learning that same topic. In an increasingly digital era, this can be not only confusing and frustrating, but it often fails to take into account the advancements in educational theory and technology.
We recognize the incredible challenge of educating a child in the modern era where learning is often a blend of (a) things learned from teachers, (b) things learned from parents, and (c) things learned online. To help you navigate this new approach to learning, we offer the following considerations.
Why Do the Puzzles Seem Repetitive?
At a glance, many of the activities may seem to be the same, but there are important differences between them for a child just learning that subject. Since we teach mathematics conceptually, it’s important that we ensure that the concept is understood before moving on. This is why we often present several variations of an activity. Each presentation offers a different view of the concept, emphasizing it in a slightly different way.
For example, consider learning to count. Adults have been counting for so long that we forget all the subtleties that go into it. Your child must learn that the numeral 6 means the same thing as six objects grouped together. They need to understand that it doesn’t matter how those objects are arranged. Six objects arranged in a line is the same number as six objects arranged in a circle. They need to understand that the type of object doesn’t matter either. Six apples is the same number as six oranges, which is the same is six fingers they could count with their hands.
And that only covers different representations of a number. They’ll need to learn how the numbers relate, counting out objects from one to two to three and so on. This is a different skill from counting backwards (say, from ten down to six), or counting by different steps (say, counting to six by twos). There’s a lot that goes into counting!
It’s easy to forget all of these subtleties, since we’ve been counting for so long, but remember that your child is still getting used to this process. Our activities are designed to test these differences, and make sure that your child is getting all of the training that they need. Though the differences in the activities may be small, each step is important in ensuring that the concept is fully understood before your child moves on. These questions will also increase in difficulty, so that we can ensure that your child really understands, and isn’t simply making guesses.
Why Doesn’t My Child Understand?
When your child doesn’t understand a mathematics concept, it’s important to try to address it from their current level of learning. This is incredibly difficult for an adult to do, and is something that teachers spend years learning.
While you’ve been using math for many years in a variety of different settings, your student is likely being exposed to these concepts and ideas for the first time. They need help understanding the terms before they can begin to learn the concepts. These misunderstandings can take many forms with a child and as a parent, it’s best if you try to figure out exactly what the child is struggling with in this moment.
Thanks to our technology, we’ve made it easy for a parent to drill down into the specific challenge instead of needing to guess what’s going on with their child. To do this, we recommend the following steps:
Log into the dashboard (https://v2.elephantlearning.com/#/dashboard), and then scroll down to the Active Curriculum section. This will show you an explanation of what your child is learning right now and how much time they’ve spent playing that subject.
Below this section is the Topic Milestones section. In this part of the Dashboard you can see a list of activities your student may need help with, and can even play them for yourself in Parent Mode (which, to be clear, won’t affect your child’s score or reporting).
You can then have your child answer questions in “Parent Mode” (by handing over control to them) and watch how they answer the question. If they answer incorrectly, simply ask them why they thought that was the correct answer. You may be surprised at how they answer! For example, one parent realized that when their child was asked to figure out which number was “older” the child thought the questions was asking which number was “taller” and they were struggling to determine which number was “taller” because the numbers were all the same height! Sometimes the language alone (older vs. taller) can cause confusion – especially in younger children. Once it was explained that “older” meant a “bigger” number, not a “taller” number, the child immediately knew the right answer. By asking your student to explain “why” they answered the way they did, you will get the chance to explain the question in a way that your child understands. Regardless of your student’s specific misunderstanding, we’re confident that you will be able to help them because you’ve now pinpointed the exact element of learning your child where your child needs help.
If you’re still not sure what to do, you can always reach out to our Student Support Team at email@example.com, and we can help. Our team is ready, willing, and able to give you the guidance you need to feel confident about your child’s learning.
Is My Child Learning? How Can I Be Sure?
It can be difficult to measure a student’s progress in any subject. When you were growing up, it’s highly likely that your parents’ only proof of your mathematics learning came in the form of either report cards (delivered a few times a year at best), parent-teacher conferences of an equally infrequent schedule, or a call from your teacher if things were really bad!
We wanted to take advantage of the incredible advancements in technology and personalized education to give you realtime, ongoing insight to your child’s learning, which are provided in three ways:
We built a series of powerful reporting tools directly into our system so that you can view your child’s progress as it occurs. You can learn more about our comprehensive dashboard here.
Weekly Progress Reports
We also keep you informed by emailing you a Weekly Progress Report. Unlike a traditional school setting, we want you to receive regular updates on your student’s progress so that you have a clear understanding at all times of exactly where they are in the learning process. In the past, parents would regularly show up at school for conferences or receive a report card, only to find out that their child was falling behind or struggling in a subject and the parent had no idea. We believe that this type of “reporting after the fact” is a huge problem and is unacceptable when it comes to learning in the modern era.
Our Weekly Progress Reports track:
Minutes Played – so you can confirm if they’ve completed the recommended 30 minutes of use per week
Subjects Learned – so you can see how many different subjects they were studying this week
Subjects Completed – so you can see which specific subjects they know understand
Improvement to Date – so you can compare the progress from where your child began (Starting Elephant Age) to where they are now (Current Elephant Age)
Real Time Alerts
Our algorithms also track your student’s progress in real time as they play. If we notice your student struggling with a concept, you will automatically receive an email alerting you to the area that needs attention. Think of this as the modern day “phone call from the teacher” that lets you know if there is a significant problem.
Should I Be Worried About Screen Time?
In a world where students spend more time with screens every day, many parents are rightly concerned to pay attention to this behavior (although interestingly enough, many adults were left to watch TV for hours on end when they were growing up).
We designed our system to limit playtime to at most 20 minutes per day. This is based on several factors including a clear understanding of optimal learning times and an appreciation of parental concern about screen time.
If a student uses our system (or any technology) too much, burnout can occur. This is why we recommended your student use the app for just 10 minutes per day. While that may not seem like much (especially compared to the 30-60 minutes a child would spend in the typical math class), our app is doing targeted, customizing teaching to your child’s level – as opposed to a classroom environment, where teachers try to teach a concept to an entire room of students who have varying levels of understanding.
The consistent practice and commitment to three 10 minute sessions per week will help your child to learn a little bit every time and to build on that learning from one week to the next.
Should you have a child who absolutely loves math and is constantly asking you for more time to play Elephant Learning, you can adjust their daily playtime limit accordingly. This limit can be customized for each student, if you have multiple children enrolled in the program. To do this:
Using a web browser, log in to your Elephant Learning account here: https://v2.elephantlearning.com/#/dashboard, and navigate to the “Manage Account” option using the menu in the upper-right corner of the screen (click on the icon showing a stack of three lines).
Click on the STUDENTS tab and on the left side of the screen you will be able to adjust the Daily Playtime limit for each student. This limit defaults to 20 minutes, so just enter a new number – in minutes – for the maximum time your child will be allowed to play each day.
Why Aren’t They Just Memorizing Like I Did?
We teach math conceptually, which means that we focus on teaching the language and concepts behind the math instead of just drilling math problems for memorization. While memorizing allows a child to quickly answer a question like “What is 4 times 5?”, it causes major issues when that child is asked to complete word problems or algebra equations.
Learning in our system does not happen through instruction or memorization. Instead, learning happens by solving puzzles. Through puzzles, we can exhibit mathematical concepts and build intuition. The traditional method of trying to explain concepts is ultimately ineffective, because it is difficult to explain concepts without a common fluency in the language of mathematics.
Consider how most parents go about teaching their child different colors. Did you instruct the idea of “red” to your child? Did you look up “red” in the dictionary and read it to your child? Probably not. When it came to teaching your child “red” (and other colors for that matter), you probably showed your child red objects and referred to them as “red.” You would then show the child more red objects, and when they said “red” you rewarded them. Over time you introduced more colors until the child understood how to identify any object by color. In short, you introduced a concept and then put the language around it.
The activities within our system work the same way. Your student plays a puzzle game and once they accurately solve it on a consistent basis, they have shown that they are ready to learn the next mathematical concept. In short, once your child understands the mathematics equivalent of “red,” we place language around it and introduce a new concept (or, to continue the analogy, “blue.”). Your student needs to solve the puzzles themselves in order to exhibit the concept, and move on to the next concept. You can help with guidance and hints, but don’t just tell them the answer.
Memorizing math facts not only makes learning advanced math more difficult, but it creates undue stress for a child in math class. Memorization makes math almost useless when it comes to real world application.
Sadly, the “memorization approach” to math is how most adults learned math and it contributes to math anxiety in both adults and children alike. In fact, almost half of first and second grade students in the United States report having math anxiety.
Young children tell themselves they are not a “numbers person” and decide not to learn math. It might even be the case that you believe you’re not a “numbers person,” which is why you’re willing to invest in a mathematics app to help your child with their learning.
Most mathematics concepts are not difficult to grasp – if taught properly. Our software presents activities that are known and proven to teach fundamental math concepts in a safe and encouraging environment. Our technology doesn’t leave children feeling judged and it allows them to develop intuition and deep understanding of mathematics.