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If your children hear the question, asking it is a great way to help them learn

It may seem obvious but if you don’t hear the question because you are not paying attention, or if you did hear the question but have forgotten what it was then you can only guess the answer.

One of the many things children have to learn, or be taught, is to concentrate and pay attention. This may seem a drag but there are major positive benefits. By paying attention learning is faster which leaves more time to play. Five minutes of really focused attention is better than an hour of muddle and confused thought. We can all focus on something delightful or exciting (or scary and dangerous). Focusing on demand is a skill and like all skills it can be learned and will improve with practice.

One very simple way of checking your question has been heard is to ask that the question be repeated back to you? It is also important that you check that the question was understood. It is very common for people to answer a question that they thought you were going to ask rather than the question that you did ask.

When asking questions to promote learning it is best to start with simple questions that can be answered more or less immediately. So if someone is still thinking after 15 or 30 seconds something has gone wrong. Rather than waiting for many minutes hoping for an answer to burst into their mind it is better to check that they still remember the question. If there is a delay in answering it is most likely that they have forgotten, but it is also possible that they may not be able to solve the problem.

If the question has not been forgotten ask how they are trying to solve it. It would be pointless to ask questions without first explaining a method which can be used to solve that type of problem. So teaching will consist of explaining a series of methods that can be used to solve different classes of problems. The steps in answering questions are:

  1. Listening to and understanding the problem
  2. Choosing the appropriate method to solve the problem
  3. Applying the method

If the problem has not been forgotten check which method is being used. Is it the most appropriate method? If so is it being used properly?

In summary three common problems that children may encounter when answering questions which hinder their learning are:

  • Not hearing or forgetting a question
  • Not choosing the correct method to answer the question
  • Choosing the correct method but making a mistake in using it

Jeremy Shiers is the father of four children. Jeremy has a BSc in mathematics and a PhD in Physics.For the last 17 years he has been passing on his knowledge to his children.

He has noticed that some parents do not do this which he believes is due to them making one or more common little mistakes.


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