As a Child, I hated math. I hated the sickening feeling I felt every time the teacher called me to the board to solve a problem. The chalk in my hands would begin to shake and my mind would go blank. Hearing the laughter from the other children as I struggled to finish the equation only intensified my hatred. Unfortunately I never got over my fear of math. It followed me throughout elementary and high school and I even switched majors in college just to avoid taking it. My fear probably stemmed from the way it was taught. Most of the kids in my class moved faster than I did and we practiced math in such a competitive way that it became a real point of shame and embarrassment for me. Mixed messages from the media told me that math was difficult, boring, and for “nerds” which gave me the sense that I didn’t have to learn it.
Kids who hate math often grow up to become parents who hate math. These negative feelings can end up being passed from parent to child, which makes me wonder, are we really surprised that our country is underperforming in math? As a parent you cannot control how math is taught in your children’s school, you can’t always control what messages your child is receiving from the media, but you can give your child a foundational love of math that can prepare them for the classroom.
When teaching your young child math, remember to be enthusiastic. This means that you must first leave all of your own personal issues with math at the door. Children need to be able to associate math with fun in order to make it exciting to learn. Staying positive while you teach will help your child develop that same attitude when learning.
Use math in everyday situations. Show your child how valuable math is by pointing out how it’s used in the world around them. Ask your child to help you measure ingredients when you cook or calculate your total purchase when the two of you are in the grocery store. Something as simple as allowing your child to play with your calculator can help familiarize them with mathematical concepts.
Playing games that involve math is a great way to get your kids excited about it. Traditional games like checkers and backgammon help children strengthen their problem solving skills but so do non-traditional games such as number tic-tac-toe or egg carton counting. Reading books about math and problem solving to your children can also positively affect their attitude towards math. Some great titles are: Quack and Count by Keith Baker, Measuring Penny by Loreen Leedy, and One Hundred Angry Ants by Ellinor J. Pinczes.
It’s always helpful to be familiar with your child’s current skill level and what they are expected to learn in school. If you know what your child is being taught then it’s much easier to sharpen their skills at home! Make sure your child understands the importance of showing his or her work as well as checking it.
It’s important to remember that math is nothing to be scared of and anyone can learn it. Our attitude about math is what helps define it as “good” or “bad”, “easy” and “impossible”. Being successful in math can truly help open doors for your children so don’t let a bad attitude stand in their way!