Worksheets are just one way to understand and use math. They are also a small snapshot of evidence that someone can use math to solve everyday problems. And no one should toil over them, least of all young children.
But worksheets are part of participating in the educational world. So it is important that we consider ways to live with them and possibly use them to feel a sense of pride! Here's how:
Before You Sit Down with a Worksheet
Learn Math from Everyday Life. Worksheets should only teach one aspect of mathematics - the symbolic representation of the concepts and problem-solving process. The mental and emotional work of learning concepts and problem-solving happen naturally as a part of life. And if your child already understands the concepts of counting, arithmetic, geometry, and problem solving as they come up in their lives, then the worksheet math is trivial.
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Choose Your Battles. I've found that I can hold the commitment with grace for two non-preferred activities a day. So I've prioritized two subjects and everything else can wait.
When You Sit Down with a Worksheet
Set a goal with them. Children can typically tolerate doing a non-preferred activity for about one minute less than their age in years. So a 10 year old will manage about 9 minutes of work. So consider using that as a starting point for managing your own expectations. (This is hard for me because I'm a "get it done" type of person. But I've learned that "getting it done" at the expense of a harmonious learning environment isn't worth the sacrifice.)
This is what has worked for my family:
Work for X minutes or until you complete a section, stopping at whichever point comes first.
Sit with them. Undistracted. Put away your phone and sit next to your child. Let them work as much on their own as they can before they are lost or confused. Support them as needed. Pull out the phrase "Let's figure it out together." as much as possible. It will demonstrate to them resilience and it will teach them that you've got their back when they're faced with something a little too hard to manage on their own.
Celebrate! When your child completes the task, celebrate! Give a high five or a hug and a smile. Say, "You did it!" (Or in some cases "We did it!") Celebrate the little things - accomplishing the day's goal a well as the bigger goal of completing, for example, an entire course of study in Prodigy or the Khan Academy.
Supporting your child when they are faced with something hard, unknown, and a little beyond their comfort zone is a good thing. It is good for your relationship and it is good for their learning. So show them you've got their back. Don't expect them to do it all on their own (certainly not every time). That's how you get your child to do their math homework.
No one should toil over worksheets so I wrote the guide for learning math from everyday life...because when the world is your classroom you are free to learn math that matters.
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