Math, science, reading, and writing: to most students and parents, this looks like a typical spread of the different subjects encountered in school. To most individuals, they represent completely individual schools of thought. Ask somebody to compile the differences between them, and it’s not hard to the reasoning behind these divisions; math has numbers and equations to solve, reading doesn’t. Writing offers many different methods of answering a question, science is usually more concrete and only expects one.
However, if you instead ask someone to list the similarities between these subjects, you may find that you end up with a much shorter list. Aside from comparing the concreteness of math and science, along with the sometimes subjective nature of reading and writing, the overlap can be hard to identify. But why should the act of contrasting be so much more difficult than comparing? Can it be that these subjects really are that vastly different?
The answer is, not as different as you might think. Most people are conditioned to look at each discipline as completely independent, a unique subject apart from others. While this may hold more true in early education, many students struggle as shifts occur within subject matter. Children may become frustrated as number problems are gradually replaced with text-based word problems in math, or face difficulty as they are expected to write an analysis on a giving passage rather than simply reading it.
In fact, many parents are surprised when their star math student comes home with their first failed test, or when their bright young reader is suddenly unwilling to engage in books. At these times, many adults become frustrated at the suddenness of these shifts, and arbitrarily assign blame to the students, teachers, or even the entire educational system itself (Common Core, anyone?).
To avoid these pitfalls, there are steps that parents can take at home. The first solution is to recognize that there is a problem in the first place. Many parents fall victim to a trend of tunnel vision with their child; it’s not uncommon to hear remarks such as, “Susie isn’t very good at math, but she’s so ahead of her grade level in reading it’s almost unbelievable!” and “It’s a great thing John enjoys doing math problems all day, because I couldn’t get him to read a book if I tried!” While recognizing academic merit is important, it’s equally important than certain academic strengths aren’t used as a crutch to validate less proficient skills. As students progress through grades, more overlap begins to materialize between classes in order to prepare students for analytical thinking. And although reading difficulties might not hinder math skills in the early grades, when a shift to word problems occur, students will become frustrated at newfound struggles in a subject they used to rely on as their greatest strength.
Parents who suspect that their child may be struggling in one or more subjects should spend time with the student to better decode their problems, and consult with teachers who see their children operate in a different atmosphere than at home. Since many children resist attempts by parents to infiltrate their schoolwork, seeking outside help in the form of tutoring centers is often an effective alternative. Despite initial resistance, such programs create individualized learning plans through diagnostics to determine gaps that need bridging in a student’s education.
Finally, parents can take positive steps with a struggling student by stopping the blame game. While it’s easy to point the finger and rationalize frustrations, doing so can hinder a child’s desire to learn, encouraging reluctance towards school and education. The intersections between subjects not only create well-rounded students, but prepare them to be society’s next generation of great thinkers and problem solvers.