Parents : Help your child to join the learning dots

Isn’t it amazing how much we can learn from the children we teach. Working with James in Year 2, it occurred to me that at this young age, children often struggle to make connections between the ideas and concepts being taught. Remember those dot-to-dot activities that join to make up a picture? Remember the excitement of seeing the final picture? It’s a boat! It’s an elephant! It’s a…..! Learning is meant to be like this. By joining up each dot – children eventually see the big picture of learning. When it all makes sense – it’s exciting (yes, even maths!). Take fractions for example. At Year 2 level, children find halves, thirds and quarters (half of 6 is 3, one third of 12 is 4). The task is simple enough but children may not automatically connect the fractions with division. What may seem obvious to us – is not obvious to these young learners. Understanding that one third is linked to dividing by 3, and to the three times table in reverse (because only certain numbers can be shared equally into 3) is essential. Only by joining these learning dots firmly together can children see the big picture.

So, in terms of learning, why is it essential to see the big picture? What does it mean? Maths is about problem solving. Children who later become good at maths use bits of knowledge in many different ways to solve problems. For example, they may solve a percentage problem more efficiently by linking it with fractions or decimals, having recognised the connections between these three basic ideas.

Many children struggle with maths because they fail to make the essential connections early enough. Once James began to see fractions, division and times tables as a trio of linked concepts – his understanding developed. Thus, the task of merely finding half, third or quarter, took on an added dimension and James is becoming better able to solve fraction-based problems. By joining his learning dots – James is now seeing the big picture and enjoying maths.

This leads to my next blog: Why does method without understanding not work?

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