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What Parents Need to Know About Math Curriculum in Algebra and Beyond
Oct 28

What Parents Need to Know About Math Curriculum in Algebra and Beyond

By Elephant Learning | Curriculum

When students move into algebra, they begin using mathematics to have conversations.

Prior to algebra, everything we do is really definition. It’s teaching children what numbers, addition and subtraction are and how to think about them from different perspectives via the number line, groupings, quantities, fractions, and decimals. Then they transition into algebra, where formal mathematical language is starting to be used. They begin writing things in the language of math, the language they’ve been learning this entire time.

Sadly, this entire process often happens without children even knowing it. The algebra teacher doesn’t explain that everything they need to understand has been a prerequisite to understanding the conversations they will have. This can cause a lot of stress for your child both at school and at home. 

Related: Answers To Your Top Questions About Math Anxiety

Luckily, you can work with your child to help them develop their language, just like we did for early elementary and late elementary concepts. 

Here are two key places students are confused when faced with algebra for the first time and how you can help them overcome these issues. This is by no means exhaustive but is a great starting point for ensuring your student is ready for Algebra and beyond.

Stumbling Block #1: The Equal Sign 

One place where children have a lot of issues with algebra is the equal sign. The equal sign basically means that the quantity on both sides of the equation are the same. We notice this when students do not understand, for example, “Why we are subtracting 5 from both sides?”

A gamification of the idea of equals typically uses a balance and changing quantities on either side to show the relationship between more, equal, and less.  However, at this age, you can just work with students on the definition so they can understand it. Playing with ideas involves testing them to see if they can identify when the symbols (>, =, < ) are used in statements that are true or false.  For example: 5=5 (true), 4=5 (false), 4 < 5 (true).  

Once the student is able to communicate around the above ideas, a parent or teacher can begin to build more complicated language around it.  For example, an equation is two expressions that are related by an equal sign. An expression is any statement that you can make in mathematics such as 5x+5 or 5+4 or etc…

Because math jargon quickly builds upon itself, it is very important that there is understanding at every step of the way, because otherwise it is very easy to lose students when statements are made about more complicated objects.

Stumbling Block #2: Memorization 

Another issue is that many children at this stage are still relying on memorization skills that they may have picked up when learning their multiplication tables. They just want to memorize the steps on how to solve an equation so they can pass a test. 

Unfortunately, if you’re showing a child how to solve a problem and they attempt to memorize the steps instead of understanding why the strategies work, it will be difficult for them to achieve the goal of passing the test. Algebra is an exercise in problem solving and it uses all of the language that came prior in elementary school.  5x+4 = 9 has multiplication, addition, and needs the student to understand the quantity on the left is the same as the quantity on the right in order for them to be able to even start to approach solving the problem.

Algebra as a practice and division of mathematics deals with abstraction.  The conversations and ideas talked about are more vague (but no less precise) than earlier mathematics.  Rules of thumb that previously could be used to help students achieve no longer apply. Not everything written on paper, just with regular language, need even be true.  In fact, an algebra problem may even be a hypothesis instead of solely existing as an equation.  

Helping Your Child Overcome Stumbling Blocks to Succeed in Algebra

Helping your child to succeed in algebra starts with helping them to understand some definitions. For example, look at all the basic symbols you’ll be using such as exponents, the equal sign, or the greater than sign. The Elephant Learning app does a very thorough and rigorous job of defining these concepts to eliminate any of your child’s common misconceptions. 

After showing a child the definitions, we then test their knowledge of the definitions by presenting them with true or false statements. As they begin to develop an idea of what true and false means in terms of algebra, they begin to build their logic skills. The more students develop their logic, the more intuition they’ll have when it comes to problem solving skills, taking their math ability to an entirely new level. 

Three Steps to Success

At the end of the day, algebra comes down to these three steps: define, recognize and produce. No matter if your child is in middle school or a PhD math program, it’s all about defining (can you understand it?), recognizing (can you identify it?), and producing (can you use it to produce results or new research?). If you can help your child with these three aspects of algebra at home, they’ll be better set up for success in the classroom and the future. 

Learn 1 year of math in
3 months

30 minutes a week x 3 months = 1 year of math concepts

Elephant Learning’s match academy is a proven math curriculum for kids ages 2 – 16

>>>Get Started<<<

Later Elementary Math Concepts and Strategies: What Parents Need to Know for Grades 3-6
Oct 21

Later Elementary Math Concepts and Strategies: What Parents Need to Know for Grades 3-6

By Elephant Learning | Curriculum

When a child enters the later elementary stage of their education, considered third through sixth grade, they’ll likely be learning multiplication, division, fractions, percentages and decimals. Even though children have moved on from the early elementary topics of addition and subtraction (which they’ll need to master if they want to succeed at later elementary topics — things get complex quickly), parents will find that moving from addition and subtraction to multiplication and division is a natural step. After all, multiplication and division are essentially repetitive addition and solve problems that use grouping or splitting. A multiplication problem might represent four groups of six items, and we know that four groups of six items sums up to 24 total items. 

The Elephant Learning app teaches these types of concepts through a combination of hiding items (so your child can’t use counting to solve a multiplication problem), timing and other strategies to develop children’s math skills. 

How can you introduce and reinforce these concepts at home and throughout everyday life? What are some of the best ways to make these concepts “click” for your child? Here are a few strategies to set your child up for success in these areas. 

Multiplication Beyond Memorization

Most students learn to multiply in school by memorizing their multiplication tables. There’s nothing wrong with memorizing multiplication tables, but a child must know what the multiplication tables mean. If they’re multiplying seven by six, they need to have that picture in the back of their head of six groups of seven or seven groups of six. If not, they don’t have a true understanding of what multiplication actually is and it won’t serve them later on in life.

Take, for example, a child who knows that five times four is 20. She can solve the multiplication problem with ease. But then, she looks at a real-life problem where she could use multiplication to solve it. Maybe she’s looking at a group of objects separated into four groups of five. If she starts counting the objects one by one, this tells you she doesn’t understand what multiplication is and how to use it in everyday life. She just memorized the multiplication table, which is absolutely useless to her in the real world. 

When working with your child on multiplication, make sure they understand the meaning of multiplication. Go beyond mere memorization. 

Related: The Early Years: Teaching Young Children Math Concepts 

Division: Not So Different

Just like addition and subtraction are the same topics essentially, just the inverse functions of one another, so are multiplication and division. Traditionally, children are taught multiplication first, then division, but it doesn’t have to be this way. You could teach division first, then multiplication, and have the same success. Here’s why.

Let’s say A divided by B equals C. That means that A equals B times C. Division and multiplication are parts of the same equation. Which operation you use to solve a problem depends on what you’re looking for. 

If your child is successful in multiplication, division should be a natural step forward if you introduce division to them as the other side of multiplication. It’s nothing new, foreign or scary. It’s something they’ve already encountered and nothing to fear. 

Related: Answers to Your Top Questions About Math Anxiety

The Secret About Fractions, Decimals and Percentages

Division, fractions, decimals and percentages are all part of the same concept — proportions — so why are they taught separately? The Elephant Learning app introduces fractions at the same time a child is learning multiplication and division. After all, a fraction is division; one over four literally means one piece of a whole divided by four. Traditional instruction introduces division, fractions, decimals and percentages as separate concepts.  Neither one is more correct than another, though depending on the context people typically use one over the other. For example, money makes the most sense done in decimals, financials with percentages, and projects that require measurements are most commonly done with fractions. 

When parents themselves realize that fractions, decimals and percentages are all different ways of saying the same thing, it’s like a light bulb goes off. Many people go their entire lives not realizing it! But once they do, it seems so obvious.

Parents can help their child come to understand this by not only using the language surrounding these concepts in everyday life, but by showing them the concepts in everyday life, too. Maybe you bake a cake using measuring cups or you work on a DIY project that requires a measuring tape. Suddenly it becomes very real to your child what a quarter of an inch is. 

Fractions are often easiest to start with, as, out of all these concepts, they look and feel most like division. Then, you can step your child up to decimals. They may look intimidating, but all you’re really doing is creating a fraction where the denominator is 100 (or one plus the same number of zeroes for however many decimal places you might have). So, 0.22 is simply 22 over 100, or 0.122 is simply 122 over 1,000. Once this concept is grasped, you can move on to percentages. The percentage is just like a fraction, but the denominator will always be 100; 50 percent is 0.50 is 50/100. 

All three represent the same exact idea, just in different language. 

Normalizing Math Language

Why is there such stigma around math terminology? Research shows that children as young as four years old exhibit the concept of division all the time. Think about how they divide up their toys for a tea party or how they divide up a snack. They usually have an idea of what a half or a fourth means at that age. They’re using division, but we don’t label it as such in normal conversation. 

We need to start integrating “formal” math language into everyday talk. Using math words and terms around your child introduces them to the concepts as soon as they start learning language. It makes them more comfortable and confident around math as they get older. Do math out loud in front of them. Count on your fingers. Talk through an everyday math problem with them. Don’t be afraid of looking stupid, just because society says that counting on your fingers makes you look dumb. 

Next Steps: What Happens After Late Elementary Education?

After late elementary education, your child will get into algebra. They’ll need to understand all these concepts in order to succeed. While it is possible to teach and reinforce these concepts to your child at home, it can be a lot of hard work and very time-consuming. Elephant Learning can help. 

Learn 1 year of math in
3 months

30 minutes a week x 3 months = 1 year of math concepts

Elephant Learning’s match academy is a proven math curriculum for kids ages 2 – 16

>>>Get Started<<<

How Elephant Learning Teaches Early Elementary Mathematics
Oct 14

How Elephant Learning Teaches Early Elementary Mathematics

By Elephant Learning | Curriculum

Early elementary mathematics spans the ages of 6 to 8 years old — roughly kindergarten through second grade. Though mathematics curriculum varies from state to state and school to school, kindergarten through second is where children learn the fundamentals of math: counting, comparisons, addition and subtraction. Children are also introduced to skip counting and the number line, two strategies that set the foundation for later elementary math. 

As a parent, you already know how important it is for your child to grasp these early concepts and you may be looking for a math app to help them excel. Let’s take a look at how the Elephant Learning app teaches each of these early elementary math concepts. We’ll also discuss the frequently asked question, “Does Elephant Learning align with Common Core?”

Related: The Three-Step Method to Teaching Math

Counting and Comparisons

In early elementary education, the first concepts that we work with are counting and comparisons — that is, quantity comparisons versus what’s bigger and smaller. We might show a child an image of four objects and an image with 12 objects, and ask them to identify which has more or fewer. It’s important for children to know the difference because it sets the stage for addition and subtraction.

Addition and Subtraction

In the Elephant Learning app, there’s a seamless transition that happens from counting and comparison to addition and subtraction. This is actually why many of our young students are doing so well. We’re simply walking them logically through what you would want to teach a kid to get to the very next baby step. 

The question “Can you produce five?”  incrementally morphs into “If I have five things and someone brings one more, how many do I have now?” or “If I have five things and someone takes one away, how many do I have now?” The child learns the order of the numbers, which becomes addition and subtraction. This helps establish the order of the numbers in the child’s mind, which helps them to develop numeracy — the ability to understand and work with numbers. 

The Elephant Learning app addresses these concepts from numerous angles. One question might ask, “A farmer had 15 carrots and gave 3 to his horse. How many does he have left?” We then approach the problem from a different angle and ask, “A farmer had 15 carrots and gave some to his horse. Now he has 12 carrots. How many carrots did he give to his horse?” 

By approaching the same idea from multiple angles, we help the student understand all of the language that may be used, as well as have them solve the same problem from a different angle. When they do, they are showing they are proficient, but also they are understanding the idea on a more intuitive level. 

If a child doesn’t have both in their head when they see the written math of 15-12, they’re going to encounter problems for years to come.

Skip Counting

The other math skill that children work on during the early elementary years is skip counting — two, four, six, eight, and so on. The idea is for the child to start to see the grouping. Skip counting really is the precursor to multiplication, and the more advanced skip counting questions at school and in the Elephant Learning app look a lot like the multiplication questions. 

Related: 5 Common Math App Pitfalls — And How Elephant Learning Is Different

The Number Line

Building numeracy requires students to have an understanding of all representations of the numbers. We work on numeracy using objects, though at some point it is good to abstract to a number line. This helps students see the numbers placed out sequentially in order on a horizontal line. It allows children to approach addition and subtraction from a different angle as well as allows us to determine proficiency with numeracy. 

For instance, our app might show a child a number line and ask them “Where’s 17 and where’s 71 on the line?”  We ask this question on a number line going from 0 to 100. If the student places 17 near 71, then we know they are having an issue understanding two-digit numbers. However, if they are answering correctly, we know they have mastery of these ideas.

Learn 1 year of math in
3 months

30 minutes a week x 3 months = 1 year of math concepts

Elephant Learning’s match academy is a proven math curriculum for kids ages 2 – 16

>>>Get Started<<<

Elephant Learning Accelerates Early Elementary Math

Early elementary mathematics focuses on the fundamentals: counting and comparisons, addition and subtraction, skip counting and the number line. Using the Elephant Learning app, children can learn these early elementary mathematical concepts in a matter of two to three weeks versus two years of the standard school curriculum. 

The best part is, once a child has the understanding, a teacher can’t take it away from them. Even if there’s a difference in the way that the school teaches a concept and the way the child learns with Elephant Learning, parents can reconcile the information because the concepts are solid. Mastering these skills sets the foundation for the years ahead where children will tackle multiplication, division, fractions, decimals, percentages, and more.

5 Common Math App Pitfalls — and How Elephant Learning Is Different
Aug 19

5 Common Math App Pitfalls — and How Elephant Learning Is Different

By Elephant Learning | Curriculum , Math Apps

As a parent with a child struggling in math or striving to get ahead, you have an overwhelming choice to make. Between thousands of online resources and hundreds of math apps, you may wonder what makes one resource different from another aside from the price point and the graphics.

If you’ve already tried a number of apps, you’ve probably noticed that a typical math app’s strategy is to throw math components into an online game, but this never gets to the root of the problem: if a child has math anxiety or is averse to doing mathematics, the game is not fooling them. If anything, it may be turning mathematics into work.

When we see statistics like 75% of high school students are not proficient in high school mathematics (and that is up from 66% in 2007!), it’s clear that while the number of applications on the market for mathematics has exploded, none of them are moving the needle. 

At Elephant Learning, we believe it is possible to make educational software that emphasizes education first and is also fun. It is an important difference. Our only goal is to ensure that children are empowered by mathematics

From our founding mission to the curriculum behind the games, here are five ways Elephant Learning is different from many popular math apps. 

1. We Are a Gamification of a Proven Curriculum

Elephant Learning started with the most effective mathematics activities as documented by early-age education researchers — scientists that have dedicated their lives to finding the most effective way to teach. We used these activities to create puzzle games for children.

Because we are starting with an activity that we know works, rather than figuring out how to mishmash math into a game that will be “entertaining,” we know that the outcome is going to be effective. This places the emphasis on learning. The rest of the tool is built around this.

2. Our Choices Are Research Oriented

Science says that if a child does activity A in order to do activity B, then activity A becomes work. 

In the case of having children do math in order to play games, this means that mathematics is becoming “work” to the child. That does not feel like empowerment. With every decision we make, we are painstakingly ensuring that the message we are sending to the student is the most empowering.  

That is also why we are creating coaching videos to help you use our tool every step of the way. The way we overcome math anxiety is by ensuring that children understand the concepts, and that we develop a healthy relationship with mathematics going forward. 

In fact, the research says doing mathematics at your level of understanding is fun, like a puzzle game, and it develops the problem-solving skills that children need everywhere in life.

3. We Treat It Like a Med

If you’ve ever read the “Four Hour Body” by Tim Ferriss, he talks about a med (medicine). With medicine, you want to take the required dosage; anything greater than the required dosage creates declining results. Ferriss’ example was tanning. If you tan for 15 minutes, it’s the optimal amount of time in the sun. Any more than 15 minutes and you run the risk of burning; any less and the results are not as optimal.

Every choice we make treats our system like a med. That is why we have daily playtime timers to limit usage so that students do not burn out. But more than that, that is also why we do go overboard on motivational techniques. 

People have studied the most addictive apps on the market and have books with formulas designed to make apps consume your time. That is not Elephant Learning’s goal — empowerment does not come through addiction. Our goal is to get children to use it 10 minutes per day, three days per week. If a student wants to do more, let them, but it is important to keep it within reason so that the student does not burn out on it. The child takes the “med”, they get the result and they apply it in their lives. 

Related Article: The Real Reason Math Curriculum is Failing Your Child

4. Progress Based on Reality 

For most students (everyone older than five), the Elephant Learning app experience starts with a placement exam or training phase. They train with the app’s algorithms, which determines their initial math comprehension. 

This is vital because you won’t be starting your child out at where they should be according to their grade or age. Instead, we’re starting with the curriculum that your child is actually ready to tackle, based on their comprehension. 

This ensures children feel empowered (because they’re not automatically greeted with math problems they’re bound to fail, as soon as they start using the app), they have fun doing math problems they’re capable of doing and the math doesn’t become annoying “work.” 

Meanwhile, other apps assume your child may know, for example, multiplication tables because they’re in third grade. Elephant Learning actually takes the time to find out where your child really is in their math comprehension and where their math gap actually started. The resulting experience for the child is a huge, empowering difference.

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5. Power to the Parents

Many math apps are parent-free zones or, at best, parents are an afterthought within the app. 

Elephant Learning knows that the best results come when the parent is involved in the child’s education. Every study shows outcomes for students are better when parents are involved. The truth is, when I started this company, my first child was on his way. I created this system as a tool to ensure that he receives the benefits of mathematics education and avoids the American educational pitfall. 

We live in a time when, increasingly, if you are not the person creating the automation, you are the person being replaced by it. Our reports detail exactly how we intend to teach each topic down to the milestone level with advice on how you can further learning with fun games outside of the system. This turns your child’s playtime in the system into a tool to succeed in playtime with you. We provide advice on how to work with the students on mistakes so that the pressure is always off. At any point in time, if your student is struggling, we are always happy to look at the data and advise. That is why Elephant Learning can guarantee results.

The math app you choose for your child’s learning matters. Apps that focus on games and graphics with math sprinkled throughout may end up turning those math problems into perceived work for your child (and can become addictive). Elephant Learning begins with a proven curriculum and scientific understanding of how children learn math. We then build games and puzzles around the curriculum, empowering students to truly grasp math concepts. Knowing that parental involvement is key to student success, we also ensure that you, the parent, are involved every step of the way. 

Why Your Child Is Behind in Math (Yes, Even Your Child)
Aug 08

Why Your Child Is Behind in Math (Yes, Even Your Child)

By Elephant Learning | Curriculum

The majority of kids are behind in math. Even when they’re keeping pace with their peers, they likely aren’t excelling. Why is this, how can it be prevented and what can we do to reverse the damage if it’s already in place?

Math Deficiencies Start in Kindergarten

Statistics say that four out of five students enter kindergarten unprepared for the kindergarten curriculum. Kindergarten math curriculum starts at counting to 20, so students entering kindergarten need to know how to count to 10. Does that mean 80% of students don’t know how to count to 10?

Yes. And it’s all because what the school means by counting to 10 and what parents mean by counting to 10 is different. 

For parents, if their child can verbally recite the numbers one through 10, then the child knows how to count to 10. 

For the school, counting to 10 means that the child can pick 10 items out of a pile and give them to you when you ask for 10 — no more, no less. They have a number in their head while counting and they know when to stop and what exactly 10 means in a real-life situation. 

If a child enters kindergarten knowing how to count to 10 by the school’s definition, they tend to do fairly well within our education system. Unfortunately, only the top 20% of income earners are preparing their children for kindergarten in this way, mainly because they can afford to send their child to preschool, where children learn how to count to 10 by this definition. 

Preschool and Kindergarten Set the Tone for the Rest of Your Child’s Life

This early math readiness is significant because the research also shows that, at the preschool level, children that do more math are better readers, writers and problem solvers. They have better grammar and better reading comprehension.

Another study showed that preschool math scores are a better predictor of third-grade reading scores than preschool reading scores, meaning the more math children do, the better they are at reading down the road. 

One other study showed that preschool math scores predict fifth-grade overall scores, not just fifth-grade math scores. 

There are several reasons for this. 

Math is Mental Gymnastics

Math tends to be like mental gymnastics: it exercises your mind. Children who are doing more math are practicing mental skills more often; just like you might practice a simple skill like chewing gum and walking at the same time, children can practice counting while holding a number in their head. 

Math Anxiety Seeps into Your Child’s Entire Education

Once there’s a gap in your child’s math understanding, math anxiety builds due to that gap. If your child doesn’t understand the teacher during a math lesson, they just assume they’re not good at the subject. 

Our society tells them it’s okay if they are just “not a numbers person.” Once it is okay to not be good at one subject, it makes it easy to have excuses to be deficient in other subjects, too.

Related: Answers to Your Top Questions About Math Anxiety

Your Child’s Experience After Kindergarten

Because math concepts build on top of each other, if your child doesn’t understand math during their first year, they’re not going to understand things later on.

Maybe they didn’t really understand counting, but now they’re on to addition and subtraction using memorization as a technique to pass. Once they get to multiplication, the children that were great at memorization look like they are doing well, but it is like if you entered a third-year biochem class after missing the first two years; everyone sounds like they’re speaking English, but you would not know what they’re talking about. 

Why is it that parents aren’t seeing this? Because children who rely on memorization don’t appear to have any issue with math. 

If a parent asks their child what 4×5 is and the child quickly answers with 20, the parent can check that off their mental list. There doesn’t appear to be any need to dig any deeper.

But, if you put up four groups of five objects and the child has to count all the objects to know there are 20 items there, rather than recognizing that four groups of five equal 20, then you see that there is a problem. 

Take yourself back to that spot. You’re that third-grade student who’s not understanding anything that’s going on. What are you going to do? You’re going to use the strategy that you know will get you to the next level and everyone will help you with that strategy, because everyone — parents, teachers — are motivated to help you pass your test. 

What happens to students when they get to middle school, where individualized resources are more scarce and memorization maybe doesn’t work as well as it did when students are learning multiplication tables?

When students get to the middle school level, this is where all the statistics discussed above catch up with them. Once they get into algebra, if they don’t understand the concept, it’s game over. There’s no way to memorize algebra. The best they can do is memorize mnemonics, but as soon as the equations become more complex, which happens fairly quickly, these strategies no longer work.

Related: The Real Reason Math Curriculum is Failing Your Child

What Happens After High School?

The large majority of children who can’t afford to go to preschool ends up creating a pipeline of kids that aren’t well-versed in basic math concepts and, later down the road, in more advanced math concepts. 

Seventy-five percent of high school students are not proficient in high school math. That’s the end result of the entire chain. And this is happening in a society that’s more computer-driven than ever. These children need to understand math in order to get into fields with higher-paying jobs. 

We tell children they can grow up to be anything they want, but to be honest, it’s over at kindergarten. Anything we can do to change that could empower people at an unimaginable scale. 

What do you need to know in order to just be good at, say, computer programming? It’s algebra, logic and problem-solving. 

When we say that 75% of students have a deficiency in high school, think about the impact it would have if you opened up that 75% of the population to the jobs they were promised, the jobs they want. What if we were able to graduate more engineers and scientists, and the business people and politicians of tomorrow could actually understand what they were saying?

What sort of impact would that have on our society or this planet?

Parental Guidance Required

Parents have to take this into their own hands. When parents become involved with their child’s education, the outcomes for the student is always better. Fortunately, there are a lot of tools out there to help you take control of your child’s mathematics education. 

Learn 1 year of math in
3 months

30 minutes a week x 3 months = 1 year of math concepts

Elephant Learning’s match academy is a proven math curriculum for kids ages 2 – 16

>>>Get Started<<<

Elephant Learning accurately tests and evaluates kids at different grade levels to see if they truly get what they should be learning. It then adjusts what they’re learning to ensure they understand math conceptually right from the start. 

The app provides educational games for the kids while also providing parents with reports and information on how the app is actually teaching a concept. Parents will find games to play with their child outside of the app that further support learning. 

We break it down for you, telling you how to help your child along every step of the way and showing you how to identify your child’s misunderstandings simply. 

For instance, rather than correcting them or showing them how to do the math problem correctly, ask them why they think they’re correct; you’re going to see what they misunderstand nearly immediately and be able to give them a hint on how to overcome it.

This way, Elephant Learning is empowering to the student, but it’s also empowering to the parent. You no longer have to be afraid to take your child’s math education into your own hands.