How can I help my 12 year old daughter strengthen her math skills?
My strategy up until a year or so ago had been relaxed. I subscribe to the idea that the best motivation for learning is the intrinsic kind. Unfortunately it's become clear that my daughters intrinsic motivation to learn math is close to zero. Waiting and hoping that she'll fall in love with the subject seems like an irresponsible gamble.
My new strategy since a few months back is to force her to spend more time working on math examples, on her own and with me. So far it's hard to tell if this is helping. One definite result is more antagonism between the two of us. She's frustrated because she can't spend as much time on Netflix and I'm frustrated because she rushes through the examples getting half of them wrong (if I give her a set number of examples to solve) or drags her feet (if I tell her to work a fixed amount of time).
I made her play an iPad game that teaches basic algebra and that worked pretty well. This didn't made the work more enjoyable to her (she still hated it), but it took away the appeal of rushing it or dragging her feet.
Are there similar gamified approaches with examples to last her all the way through high school? Pointers to any iPad apps or websites like that are very welcome. Please note that English isn't her first language, so anything language-independent gets a bonus.
I'm also open to other, non-technical, approaches.
Some updates and further thoughts.
To answer your questions: I'm not homeschooling. Grade wise she's passing but not much more, which has me worried that she'll be in for a real uphill struggle in the coming years if she does not get a stronger foundation now.
When I was her age I loved math and I loved programming so much so that I ended up becoming a programmer. For the longest time I thought that any person could love any subject given the right impetus. First time I started doubting this was when I spoke to one of my instructors at University. He was involved in a project teaching philosophy to kids. Being a parent himself he tried to interest his own kids. One of his kids was totally fascinated by the subject and his other kid just found it boring.
Today, as a father of three, I find this very unsurprising. Children, even within the same family, with the same upbringing, are very different and have very different interests. My five year old is showing more interest in math than my 12 year old did at that age. My three year old is has an unfearing, adventurous side that is completely absent in her older siblings. People are different. Unfortunately the educational system doesn't really care about that. In three years my 12 year old will be forced to do equations and trigonometry, and failing to master those subjects will limit her choices for higher education, even if she decides to major in history or some other subject that doesn't actually require any math beyond basic addition.
"How would your daughter like to learn origami?" Opal E asks. Well a couple of years ago she asked me to show her how to fold a paper plane. So I took out a paper and started showing her: "You fold along the middle. Then you bring this edge down to the middle line." Right about there she stopped me and blurted out in frustration: "Why are you jabbering about lines? Just show me how to do the damned plane!" I don't think modular origami is going to be a hit with her.
jonsca suggests that I leverage her interest in Netflix by introducing her to the inner workings of recommendation engines. I'll give it a try but I'm not too hopeful about it.
A couple of answers suggest introducing an element of play. Right now talking about math with her is more like pulling teeth. Going from that to a state of playfulness is hard.
I feel that the answers given here fail to see that some kids are just not fascinated by math, no matter how many trippy fractals you show them. How do we, as parents or educators, help these kids attain the mathematical knowledge they need to function in society?
A year later
It's been more than a year and things are looking very different. My daughter still isn't in love with math but I think that something more important has happened. She has acquired a learning mindset. Last year she was already beginning to feel, as I think a lot of children do, that she was inherently not good at math. She'd adopted a worldview in which people are either smart or dumb. The smart ones are good at math and that's the end of it. I've been working a lot on explaining and demonstrating to her that pretty much anyone can learn pretty much anything. We can't all win a Nobel prize, but we can all master the curriculum of basic education. Just like we can all learn to swim or to drive a car. I think that I've managed to take her out of her old conviction. She's now spending a lot more time with all of her schoolwork. I don't think that she'll ever love math the way I did as a kid, but a lot of the resentment that she expressed is gone, and I think that most that resentment was a consequence of the world view she held. If you think that only dumb people struggle with math then every piece of homework you can't solve without effort will be telling you that you're dumb. Who wouldn't try to do as little of that as possible?
All the time we're spending together with her schoolwork has also brought the two of us a lot closer, at least that's my feeling. But don't ask her :)