29 Jan 2010
A secret to helping your child succeed in math
Frank Ho, Amanda Ho
Canada certified math teacher and founder of Ho Math and Chess
Room #1, 2265 west 41^{st}, Vancouver, BC, Canada
www.mathandchess.com
There are many “secrets” we can use to help our children in making math a successful subject, but what if I were allow to use only one secret? What would be the only one secret that I could use to making math a successful subject for my children? The only secret I would use would be to train my children’s thinking skill, not hand computation ability. Why I say that? The reason is too many times, I see my own tutoring children who cannot perform simple computation in their brain without using “pencil and paper” method. It is not only slow but also error prone and they did not know it. Many of these children have failed to use every opportunity they could to train their brain and exercise their brain, because of this, I feel it is very important that we not only stress mental math is important when kids are young but continue to stress it is equally important when they are older going to high school. The trouble is many tutors can “see” it is important to get the fluency of 4 basic operations (+ , x, divide) but failed to see how children should be taught about mental math when they are older.
I give a few examples below to illustrate some of the failing jobs that math tutors have not stressed the importance of mental brain training when kids are older.
 When testing roots of an function such as sub 1 into x^3 – 2x^2 + 3 x + 4, it is very easy to calculate f (x) by sub 1 into f (x) and get answers mentally, yet, many students are doing it by hand. X (1)^3 – 2(1)^2 + 3(1) + 4. It is very “easy” for students to get power of 1 so there is really no need to even write the computation expression to try to figure what is (1) ^3 or (1) ^2 etc. Encourage students to do this kind of job mentally whenever they can to train their brain.
 2x = 4. Do we really have to ask students to write it 2x/2 = 4/2 by hand to get answer x=2?, Can’t they not “see” that both sides dividing by 2 so they will get x=2 and do this in their brain? Again, we shall encourage students to use their brain to do this  it is faster and they get chance to exercise their brain.
 When calculating the root conditions of using discriminant, it is not necessary to actually get its value other than > o, < o, or = o. Many students are not able to “see” or “judge” its result as positive, negative, or = 0 without actually calculating its final result. Again this is the sign that their brain has not been trained to do it mentally.
We must encourage students to compute mentally whenever they can, not encourage them do computation always by hand and paper.
Frank Ho, Amanda Ho
