Much has changed in the teaching and learning of mathematics in recent years. While comfort with math procedures and quick recall of facts are still valued, increased emphasis is being placed on helping students acquire “conceptual understanding” of mathematics. This means that students will understand why a particular procedure works and can determine what mathematics is needed to solve a problem in a ‘real life’ situation. Research has found that students learn best through math activities that encourage them to explore and share their varied strategies and possible solutions to meaningful and relevant problem situations. Students learn from each other when they share their ideas and justify their thinking. The teacher spends time developing the “rich” mathematics tasks that allow for the student learning to unfold. By asking questions that prompt thinking and require students to explain their ideas, the teacher supports students with developing their understanding of important math concepts. As parents, you may be aware that the Ontario Mathematics Curriculum outlines expectations at each grade level in terms of both math content (topics) and math process (how we ‘do’ the math) expectations. Students at all grade levels are expected to learn and apply these processes as they work to achieve the math content expectations. It is these process expectations that students are engaged in when they work at “rich” mathematics tasks. The process expectations include: Problem Solving Reasoning and Proving Selecting Tools and Computational Strategies Connecting Communicating Reflecting Representing The math tasks and learning opportunities that students are engaged in allow them to develop and demonstrate these processes. In our classrooms, problem solving activities are a regular part of the mathematics we “do”. Students work in small groups, partners and/or independently, tackling multi-step problems that often have more than one correct solution. Teaching and learning through problem solving is engaging and helps students become more confident in their mathematical abilities. Working collaboratively to solve problems, students share their ideas and articulate their understandings, developing their communication skills along the way. Authentic, “real life” problem solving tasks allow students to make connections between mathematics and situations outside the classroom. As parents, you can help your child to develop these process skills by looking for the mathematics in everyday tasks and thinking about the questions you might ask to get your child to think ‘mathematically’. Real life problem solving situations occur all of the time, so engage your child in helping to find solutions. For example: Invite your child to help in the kitchen. Ask him/her to determine, for example, the number of batches of muffins that can be made from 3 cups of milk, if each batch 2 requires 3 of a cup of milk. Ask them to create different seating arrangements to accommodate a large number of guests for a family function. What table arrangements are possible? Which works best in the space available and with the number of guests invited? When doing crafts or building projects with your child, have 1 them measure materials. Determine for example, how many 2 metre sections of board can be cut from a 7 and a half metre board to be used to build picture frames. How many pieces can be cut and how many picture frames can be built? Sports statistics provide many opportunities for math thinking and are often of interest to children. For example, encourage your child to find and compare the goals-againstaverage for their favourite goalies, or the best combined score in figure skating competitions. Clothes shopping or packing also might provide opportunities for thinking mathematically. For example, given 3 shirts, 2 pants, 1 pair of shorts, and 3 pairs of shoes, how many different outfit combinations can be made? When shopping with your child, have them use estimation to determine the approximate bill total; calculate sales tax, change, discounts (20% off sale); determine the best deal by comparing prices; finding the cost of items when the posted price is for multiple quantities of an item (e.g.- lemons 3 for $1; How much for 1? for 5?) It is important to ask your child how they solved each problem and have them explain how they know the solution makes sense. Your child’s strategies may be different than yours, but equally reasonable, therefore, be sure to listen carefully and honour the math thinking that your child has engaged in. Keep in mind that there is usually more than one way to solve a problem and that the way we, as parents, were taught in school, while correct is not the only way and/or necessarily the way that makes sense to our children. Your child’s explanation of a strategy used to solve a problem and why it works (or didn’t) can reveal a great deal about their understanding of math concepts. Finally, by modelling an interest in mathematics and demonstrating how it is an important part of everyday life, you can support your “budding mathematicians”. Most importantly, it will help your child to develop a positive attitude towards math and recognize it as an important life skill. Further Information If you would like to learn more about the Math Process expectations, go to:http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/curriculum/elementary/math18curr.pdf ; pages 11-17 If you would like more suggestions as to how you can support your child in applying mathematics to ‘real-life’ situations, go to: http://www.edu.gov.mb.ca/k12/docs/parents/learn/math.pdf for Helping Your Child Learn Math: A Parent’s Guide published by the Ontario Ministry of Education containing simple activities that you can do with your child to explore math at home. Suitable for students in Grades K-3. http://www.dpcdsb.org/NR/rdonlyres/A7A4FB06-0712-4476-AEEF28597E1E01A2/93811/ParentGuideNum.pdf for Helping Your Child to do Math: A Guide for Parents also published by the Ontario Ministry of Education include tips as well as practical activities that can be used at home and in your local community. Suitable for students in Grades K-6. The following websites provide math activities and games for children to try at home. It is always suggested that parents preview sites for appropriate materials for their child. http://www.tvokids.com/ www.kidsites.com/sites-edu/math.htm http://cemc2.math.uwaterloo.ca/mathfrog/ www.kids.gov/k_science.htm www.brainpop.com/math/seeall/ http://mathforum.org/library/ http://nlvm.usu.edu/en/nav/vlibrary.html

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