It’s everyone’s worst nightmare – it’s late, the homework sheet is only half done, study time is eating well into play time, and your child is visibly unhappy. It won’t be too long before they throw the pencil and bellow, at the top of their lungs: “I HATE maths!”
Study tantrums are nothing new. In fact, they’re hardly exclusive to children. We’ve all had days when frustration at our lack of progress makes us want to give up. The reasoning being: “This thing doesn’t respond to my sincere efforts, therefore it’s the thing’s fault.” Experience teaches us when it’s a good time to take a break and when we ought to persevere, so the tantrums become less regular and more self-contained.
But where adults usually have the benefit of hindsight, children do not, and therefore it becomes a lot more difficult to convince them to push through the fatigue and anger. Sometimes, the tantrum sentiment – “I hate maths” – becomes so permanently ingrained, we stop putting in the effort at all and convince ourselves that the subject isn’t worth it.
At DoodleMaths, our main product is an app that personalizes a child’s work program, but the superior value we aim for is fostering a positive attitude towards learning. This post is about some more strategies you can implement to change those attitudes
1. “(T)antrums are seldom about the thing they appear to be about.” – Dianna Wynne Jones
It might be worth asking yourself (and your child) why they find maths so difficult – it’s not necessarily this particular piece of homework which is causing them a problem, but rather the way things are at school. Are they in the right groupings? Are they keeping up with their friends?
2. There’s a reason why we’re learning this, I swear!
People learn differently, and some find it easier when theoretical concepts are related to a real-world example. Money is a fairly straightforward case study, but there’s also measurements in cooking, geometry in architecture, higher maths in engineering and physics, or even rhythmic measures in music, poetry, and song writing.
3. Take 5. Or 50, even.
Sometimes the best thing you can do when you see a child struggling with a problem is to let them take a break. It’s better to enjoy play time and have a go at the problems again in the morning, than go to bed angry. Furthermore, downtime gives you a chance to come up with a different way of explaining the concept later. Which brings us to…
4. The 30 second rule.
If something takes more than 30 seconds to explain to a child, then it’s likely that you’re overcomplicating it or the concept’s too difficult. It might be worth reconsidering your explanation or the level of work set to your child.
5. Learning with confidence.
Tantrums occur when children aren’t given the opportunity to experiment and learn on their own terms. If they’re finding something difficult, let them build their confidence by giving them easier examples.
Finally, it’s important to remember that attitudes are as important to success as serious study and application. Indeed, according to neurologists and psychotherapists like Oliver Sacks and Philippa Perry, we experience the world through our internal “narrative truths” (our own perception) rather than what we refer to as “objective truth.” In that regard, we should take every opportunity to build positive narrative truths and successful problem-solving skills from early on, to keep learning from becoming a chore.