Last weekend I had a chance to read Math for Moms and Dads, which I received from Kaplan as a review copy. This book aims to providing a friendly guide for parents of children ages ten and up, who are struggling with mathematics.
Many parents face the challenge of helping their children with math homework, which for some stems in part to having developed a strong phobia or dislike of the subject themselves. Along with a psychological component, in many cases the challenge is augmented by a lack of basic skills (when it comes to knowing how to approach math problems and work their way through mathematical nomenclature). For some it’s like trying to help their child with French homework, when they don’t speak the language. Otherwise perfectly intelligent adults end up finding themselves worrying over problems that most math-savvy people would consider straightforward.
Math for Moms and Dads tries to solve this predicament by providing a vocabulary of essential terms, a very gentle introduction to problem solving and mathematical reasoning, fundamental concepts of elementary (primary) and middle school mathematics, and step-by-step solutions to basic exercises. It also stresses the importance of the parent-child and parent-teacher relationships when it comes to teaching and assisting with the learning of math. This book is very basic and relatively short, which means that it’s something most parents would be able to squeeze time into their schedule to read (which I feel is a positive element of this book). As someone with a passion for math, I’m biased and admit that I do not find this type of book terribly exciting myself, but I fully realize its usefulness for people who need a “less than scary” introduction (or refresher) to the subject.
The first chapter introduces the book and provides parents with a few pointers on how to use a calculator and when its usage is appropriate. The content on these pages will appear pretty obvious to a large number of readers, but this book tries not to make any assumptions, and as such it aims to cover concepts that many people might take for granted.
Chapter two details the mathematical vocabulary mentioned earlier in this article, and within this chapter parents will learn about fundamental math terminology, including terms such as absolute value, congruent, coordinate plane, diagonal, fraction, permutations and so on. The second part of the chapter provides the reader with more descriptive information about common, basic concepts like commutative and associative property, prime and composite numbers, rational and irrational numbers, union and intersection, linear and quadratic equations, etc.
Chapter three covers the basic rules necessary for resolving a variety of problems, including order of operations, exponents and their rules, properties of numbers, fraction and integer based arithmetic, expressions and equations, and so on.
Chapters four and five tackle the issue of solving homework exercises and preparing for math tests. Together these chapters help clarify how to approach mathematical problems, with examples that are solved in a step-by-step manner.
Chapter six is a pedagogical chapter about how to approach study, which covers topics such as how to create the right study conditions and find the ideal place in your house to turn into a homework area, as well as how to develop note taking and test preparation skills.
Chapter seven is entitled “When will I use this, anyway?”, and it attempts to convince both parents and their children that learning mathematics is an important and useful real world skill. I felt that this chapter (which is about a subject – the importance of math beyond the classroom – I believe strongly in) was on the weaker side, but it may still be useful to some.
Lastly chapter 8 deals with parent-teacher communication, a topic that I felt was important for this kind of book.
Should you feel that your own math skills are not your strongest suit or if you need a concise and easy to follow along with refresher course on numerous basic math topics, so that you can better assist your child with their studies, you will likely find this book right up your alley.
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