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Slow Down to Support Math Learning

By: Beth Werrell
Support Math Learning

When you watch the news or sports channel, it's easy to associate being fast with being great. We see the fastest athletes winning medals, the fastest racecars taking victory laps, and the owners of the fastest horses claiming the purse. But when it comes to supporting your virtual school student as he or she learns math, the best advice may just be to slow down!

Education researchers have discovered that timed tests, rote memorization, and being expected to answer math problems rapidly not only contribute to math anxiety, but also can have a negative impact on learning. Fortunately, the parents of virtual school students can support the kind of deep, reflective thinking that helps kids excel in math, in many ways.

Talk About It

Encourage your child to explain how he or she solved a math problem. This practice will help develop verbal communication skills while also reinforcing a deeper understanding of the mathematical concepts involved. If you've never done this before, you may have to prompt your child with questions—ideally questions that can't be answered with yes or no! Here are a few examples to get you started:

  • What was your first step?
  • What did you do next?
  • Why did you decide to use that approach?
  • What ways did you consider and decide not to use?
Stretch Your Thinking

It's important to recognize that flash cards aren't the only way—or even the best way—to learn math facts! Educators have found that the students who excel are the ones ...

How Can Parents with Math Anxiety Help Their Kids Learn Math?

By: Beth Werrell
How Learning Coaches Can Overcome Math Anxiety

When I was in school, learning math meant nerve-wracking timed practice drills and intimidating worksheets with endless rows of numbers. My dislike of math turned to math anxiety in fourth grade, when the teacher tested us on multiplication facts orally, in front of the class. I would forget everything I had studied and return to my seat, humiliated by my failure. I never did memorize the multiplication tables. After a while, I began to believe that I was just "bad at math." Like an estimated 10 to 20 percent of adults, I have math anxiety.

If you have math anxiety and are considering an online school for your child, you may worry about helping your child succeed in math. You're smart to think about it, because studies prove that parents may unknowingly pass math anxiety to their kids, negatively impacting a student's achievement in math. Fortunately, with some effort and the tips below, you can overcome this obstacle so that you and your child can succeed in mathematics together.

Your Best Resource

When beginning virtual school, even parents who don't have math anxiety wonder if they'll be able to support their children's mathematics learning. After all, it may have been many years since you last tackled a word problem or solved for x! Luckily this concern is easily put to rest, because with this educational method, unlike traditional homeschooling, a virtual school family has access to a wonderful resource: real, live teachers.

For example, at Connections Academy...

Life Lessons: Teaching Kids to Manage a Bank Account

By: Beth Werrell

Is your child ready for his or her own bank account? A savings account can offer your child a little extra savings in interest as well as added responsibility, so if you hadn't considered opening one with your child yet, this may be a good time to start researching your options.

Before opening a bank account, consider teaching your child about financial responsibility and trying some exercises that can measure how well your child understands budgeting. To kick off this lesson, take a look at the budgeting and financial responsibility worksheet below.

Once your child has completed the activities and has a good grasp of financial literacy, you may want to start considering his or her bank account options.

What to Look for in an Account

You're going to want to do your research before opening a bank account for your child. But do you know what to look for?

Consider a savings account. When your child is in his or her late teens and is making bigger purchases, a checking account may be appropriate. But until then, why not think about opening an account that compounds a little interest and teaches the value of saving?

Accounts with no minimum balance or maintenance fees can be a favorable option, whether your child can make the minimum balance or not. The goal is to teach your child that saving money is a good thing, so having fees and ...

Measuring the Transition between Winter and Spring

By: Beth Werrell
How to Measure Snow and Rain

Can you believe that our clocks are springing forward this weekend? And with spring being right around the corner, you don’t have much longer to enjoy the snow and frosty air. Use the changing seasons as a way to teach your student how to track weather changes with this fun weather measurement activity.

What Weather Metrics Do We Measure

Before you start experimenting, go over these measurable weather vocabulary terms with your student.

  • Temperature: A measurement of heat or coldness in an object. Temperature can be measured with a thermometer on three different scales: Celsius, Fahrenheit, and Kelvin.
  • Precipitation: Liquid and solid particles that fall from the clouds. Snow, rain, hail, and sleet are all examples of precipitation.
  • Wind speed: A measure of air movement with respect to the earth’s surface.
  • Cloud cover: The fraction or percentage of the sky that is covered by clouds, as viewed from one location.
  • Air pressure: The weight of air pressing down on your body and the earth’s surface.
  • Humidity: The measurement of water vapor in the air.
  • Sunshine: The amount of direct light from the sun.
Weather Experimenting Time

Snow and Rain Gauge

As spring approaches, the rain begins to wash away the snow. What a great way for a math in nature activity and measuring the changing temperatures with your student! Here’s a simple way to get started with a snow and rain gauge to measure precipitation.

You’ll need

  • One clear glass or plastic jar
  • One ruler
  • One notebook
  • Graph paper
  • Colored ...

Making Sense of Math: Applying, Playing, Exploring

By: Kim McConnell
young student using an abacus

Does your child …

  • Feel competent and comfortable working with numbers?
  • Know how to check an exact calculation by estimating the answer?
  • Know and choose between several methods of solving a math problem?
  • Understand the relationship between the four operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division)?
  • Use mental math efficiently?

If you answered yes to all of the above, then congratulations, your child is numerate! That is, he or she has numbers sense, the ability to use numbers flexibly and understand basic math concepts.

As the foundation for all later math study, numeracy ensures that students will be ready to approach progressively more difficult problems and subjects like algebra confidently and logically—without being overwhelmed. Like literacy, it’s an essential skill set for navigating through life.

But what if your child isn’t numerate? What if your he or she …

  • “Hates” math?
  • Doesn’t know how to estimate an answer to check its reasonableness?
  • Needs pencil and paper to perform simple calculations?
  • Isn’t sure how numbers and operations are related?

Well, just because a student isn’t numerate today doesn’t mean that he or she can’t become numerate tomorrow. Here are a few suggestions and resources you can use to help.

Developing Numeracy Skills

To help develop your child’s numeracy skills, it’s important to first understand how students make sense of math. Basically, it comes down to APE: applying, playing, and exploring.

Using Math in Nature: Activities for Kids

By: Michelle Pratt
Math in nature activities for kids

Summer offers endless opportunities for your child to build nature smarts. There’s gardening, swimming, biking, and other outdoor activities to enjoy.

While it’s good for kids to spend time outdoors, it’s also important for them to keep their academic skills sharp over the summer. It’s even better when you can combine summer fun and learning!

It’s time for you and your child to explore math in nature.

Finding Math in Nature

At first glance, math class and the backyard seem like two different worlds. But the two are actually very connected and math is all around us. In fact, math was developed to describe patterns in nature!

Here are some familiar math concepts with real examples in nature. There are also simple math-in-nature activities for you and your child to try.


Definition: When one half of an object is the mirror image of the other half.

Examples: Butterfly wings, flowers.

Activities: Make a list of 25 things in nature that have symmetry. Go outside to search for examples, if needed! You can also do this Leaf Symmetry Craft to get you started.


Definition: A perfectly round, three-dimensional object.

Examples: Earth, sun, an orange.

Activity: Find an example of a sphere in nature and one that’s manmade. What’s different about them?

Fibonacci Spirals

Definition: A series of squares with lengths that match the numbers in the Fibonacci sequence. It forms a spiral when you draw a line through the diagonals of each square.

Example: The inside ...

Logic Smarts: Develop Your Child’s Math Skills with this Pi Day Activity

By: Tracy Ostwald-Kowald
Logic Smart: Activity for Logic-Smart Learners

Happy Pi Day! March 14th (3/14) is the day we celebrate the pi symbol, which represents a circle’s circumference divided by its diameter. For every circle, this ratio is 3.14159. It’s an irrational number that continues forever without any pattern. Math enthusiasts like pi so much that they try to memorize its digits, while computer scientists have calculated at least one million digits of pi.

If your middle school or high school student is interested in math concepts such as pi, he or she may have a natural degree of logical-mathematical intelligence, or logic smarts. Kids who have logic smarts calculate complex problems in their heads, like numbers and games, recognize patterns easily, and rely on systems and strategies to get things done. Because they have these tendencies, logic-smart kids may be interested in how pi occurs in nature or how its digits never end.

Pi Trivia

Pi is so fascinating that it turns up in unexpected places. In the original Star Trek series, episode #36 (“Wolf in the Field”), the main computer of the Starship Enterprise is possessed by an evil alien entity. Kirk, Spock, and the gang have a plan to send the entity into deep space, but they must first find a way to keep the computer “busy” so it doesn’t detect their plan. They assign the evil computer intruder to calculate pi, and of course it can never finish.

Psychologist Howard Gardner proposed logical-mathematical intelligence in his Theory of Multiple Intelligences, which also ...

Light up the Night with Tangram-O’-Lanterns

By: Dan Reiner
Printable Tangram Template [PDF]

How many different pumpkin-carving methods have you tried? There’s the traditional toothy grin with shining triangle eyes, while more advanced carvers can use paper patterns or pencils. You can even paint your pumpkin instead of carving it.

But there’s one method we guarantee you and your child haven’t tried, and that’s the tangram-o’-lantern.

What is a Tangram?

If you’re not familiar with the tangrams, it’s a type of puzzle that originated in China. It includes seven different pieces, also called “tans,” that compose the shape of a square. There are five triangles, one square, and one parallelogram.

In order to solve a tangram, you have to look at the silhouette of a shape made with the seven pieces and use your own pieces to recreate the image. It’s a great exercise for students because it covers geometry, fractions, and ratios.

If you’re wondering what tangrams have to do with pumpkin carving, find out in our Tangram-O’-Lantern activity. It allows your student to work with tangrams and use their shapes to create distinct pumpkins. You can also take a look at our tangram resources and other activities, but first click on the graphic below to start your Tangram-O’-Lantern.

Tangram Resources

Supplement your virtual school lessons with print and online tangram resources for students.

Playing Smart: The Benefits of Chess for Kids

By: Dan Reiner
Chess for Kids Benefits

With National Chess Day being celebrated this Saturday, October 12, it’s a great time to dust off the board or log on for an online chess game. Need some encouragement? Here are five reasons your student should be playing this 1,500-year-old game of strategy and logic.

Playing chess . . .

  1. Improves concentration and memory. According to studies done at the University of Memphis, playing chess significantly improves children’s visual memory, attention span, and spatial-reasoning ability. Perhaps that’s because, in chess as in school, concentration and memory go hand in hand.

    In order to play well, you have to focus completely on your objective—capturing the opponent’s king. As you constantly visualize the board, its pieces, your moves, and your opponent’s every possible countermove, your power of concentration grows. As your concentration grows, it becomes easier to memorize past games and classic strategies. In the process, both concentration and memory grow stronger in a kind of mutually reinforcing “dance.”

  2. Enhances reading and math skills. With its focus on problem solving and move variables, it’s not surprising that chess can improve a student’s math skills. But numerous studies show that chess improves reading skills as well!

    In separate multi-year studies of elementary-school-age children in Texas, Los Angeles, New York, Pennsylvania, and Canada, researchers found that students who played chess showed more improvement in reading and/or math assessment scores than their non-chess-playing peers. A Venezuelan study even found that playing chess increased students’ IQs!

    Why does chess improve reading skills? One researcher, ...

5 Things Kids Can Learn from Starting a Summer Business

By: Tisha Rinker
Female student learning summer business lessons baking and selling cakes.

How did you earn money as a kid? Did you do extra chores? Help out neighbors? Or did you turn to the classic go-to business for kids, the lemonade stand?

Today, if your children are looking for some extra spending money, you could encourage them to make the most of their creativity, talents, and work ethic by becoming young entrepreneurs. Learning firsthand how a business works will introduce children to new challenges and help prepare them for the future. Summer is exactly the right time to get started because students have more free time and can take advantage of a variety of seasonal work opportunities, such as landscaping or providing pet care service for vacation-goers.

Below are summer business tips for kids to try as well as some lessons they can learn along the way.

1. Hone a skill or talent.

Think about your child’s interests and goals. What are his or her favorite subjects? What activities does he or she enjoy? Which skills need development or improvement? Ask your child what he or she wants to try or to learn from the experience. Below are some ideas:

  • Start a tutoring service
  • Coach or offer sports lessons for beginners
  • Teach music lessons
  • Design and sell crafts, T-shirts, or artwork
  • Run a small bakery from home
  • Hold an acting workshop
2. Work on goal setting.

Encourage kids to attach a goal to their business. For younger kids, the goal might be as simple as having fun and trying something ...

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