Remember when your kid's math homework was more addition and subtraction than graphing calculator functions and pre-calculus? With schools now placing a greater emphasis on learning science and math, it is easy for kids to get left behind the learning curve once simple science turns into chemistry and physics. Follow these simple tips to keep kids school savvy, even if trigonometry is not your first language.
Gone are the days when basic reading, writing and arithmetic were the gold standards for a child’s education. Today there’s a much greater emphasis on STEM education — Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics — in order to prepare students for the world they’ll be adults in. But as of now, however, many kids just aren’t ready.
According to the National Science Foundation, eighty percent of jobs in the next decade will require some form of math and science, yet only 29 percent of American fourth grade students, a third of eighth grade students, and barely 18 percent of 12th grade students perform at or above the proficient level in science.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Nobel Prize winner for medicine Dr. Michael Brown wrote that “We must demystify math and science so that all students feel the joy that follows understanding.” This is where parents and caregivers come in.
How You Can Help
A 2010 survey by the National Science Teachers Association found that the vast majority (94 percent) of science teachers wish their students' parents had more opportunities to engage in science with their children. However, more than half (53 percent) of parents of school-aged children admit that they could use more help to support their child's interest in science.
Here are some things that parents and caregivers can do to help their students not only make it through science and math classes, but actually enjoy them and see how they can impact their lives:
Make It Fun
There are plenty of ways to engage in math and science online and on television. Check out some of these websites and shows:
Hands-on experiences are some of the best ways for kids of all ages to learn.
Look for local science museums, camps and programs that let kids play, build, experiment, get messy and have fun.
Students of all ages can help with citizen science projects, such as the ones at NASA. At www.science.nasa.gov, they can sign up to help study images from Mars, track meteorites hitting the moon, and help sort through the massive amounts of data gathered about Earth from space.
Check out library books and websites for at-home science and math projects. Using those skills in fun ways helps the lessons stick and keeps students interested.
Give Them Tools
Sometimes students need some extra help clarifying difficult concepts and reinforcing what they learned in the classroom. The For Dummies series of books can be helpful resources to do just that. They offer practical exercises and lessons for mastering the essential concepts of these sometimes tricky subjects.
Is your student having trouble with exponential and logarithmic functions? Or getting tripped up by graphing trig functions? Then “Pre-Calculus Workbook For Dummies” (Wiley) can help clear things up. The authors offer ten missteps to avoid in pre-calculus, such as Going Out of Order (of Operations), Oversimplifying Roots, Forgetting to Flip the Fraction, and Canceling Too Quickly.
Chemistry is sometimes called the central science because in order to have a good understanding of the other sciences, you need to have a good understanding of chemistry. “Chemistry For Dummies, 2nd Edition” aims to help demystify the subject with concrete examples, illustrations and figures along with the text.
Whether in middle school, high school or college, it’s possible for your student to gain a greater understanding of subjects that may seem out of reach. It just takes a helping hand.
You can find additional resources for many math and science subjects at www.dummies.com.