12 Most Simple Ways to Have Math Confident Kids
Do you remember your parents saying, “Do as I say not as I do?” Do you remember what you thought of that nonsense?
We learned more from our parents’ social modeling than we ever did through their words. And our kids will do the same.
If you (as a grownup) scream when you see a roach, your kids’ll learn to fear roaches. Head to the gym three times a week and they’ll learn a healthy body is part of life. Read to your kids on a daily basis and they’ll think that reading is part of normal life.
And you can use that same social modeling to turn your household into a hub of math confidence! Here’s how:
1. Say the word “math” as much as you can
The more you hear or see something, the more familiar with it you are. That holds for kiddos too. So mention math as much as you can.
If you see a graph on CNN or Fox News, say, “Hey, that’s math.” If you’re looking for a cheaper alternative in the grocery store, use the M-word: “I’m using math to compare prices.”
2. Point out where you do basic arithmetic
When you set your alarm clock, point out that you’re doing subtraction to figure out what time to wake up. If you have to grab for the half-cup because the 1-cup is in the dishwasher, mention you’re doing some fractions.
3. Let them read the users manual
Sometimes math is about getting the job done by going through the right steps. When you set up the entertainment system, hand over a users’ manual to your child. Following those instructions reinforces logical instruction following — i.e. “plug and chug” math.
And when they’ve set up the new big screen TV and hooked it up to the 7 other boxes of electronics, tell them they just used logic — a part of math!
4. Play games
Board games and card games are full of if-then statements. If you roll doubles, then you get another turn. If you draw a blank card, then you get to advance four more spaces.
If-then statements are the foundation of math. Even the simple 1 + 2 = 3 is an if-then statement:
If 1 and 2 represent the values we’re used to, then their sum is the value 3.
The best part is that when they win a game, you can point out all the math they did to accomplish it.
5. Play Calvin-Ball
Calvin & Hobbes often engage in a sport in which they make up rules as they go along. Try doing this with your kids — play a game (of any type) and let each person make up one rule.
Those rules will show up in the form of if-then statements, just like “normal” rules.
Watch closely for the compound rules, too. “If your name starts with a B and you’re more than 10 years old, then you get two turns.” That “and” is part of set theory — a subject of math!
6. Bite your tongue
If you ever find yourself saying, “I’ve never been good at math,” stop yourself before it comes out. In fact…
7. Fake it
Fake it until you make it. Tell yourself you do math everyday (you actually do) and then tell your kids you do math everyday. Even if you don’t see it.
The more you say it, the more you’ll believe it. And when you finally believe it, saying it will be effortless.
8. Look at people like they’re nuts when they say they’re bad at math
Remember, it’s all about social modeling. If you respond with, “Yeah, a lot of people aren’t so good at math,” you’re sending the message that it’s okay to be bad at math.
Ever hear someone say they’re bad at reading? Heck no! Because it’s not socially acceptable.
If you want math confident kids, make it just as nuts to say you’re bad at math as it it to say you’re bad at reading.
9. Treat their math grades like they were PE or drama class grades
If you pressure your kids to get good grades, then their motivation to be creative problem solvers goes down. (This is from Dan Pink’s Drive, by the way.)
Since creativity is the source of great math learning, take off the pressure and let them learn math at their own pace. If they pass, that’s good enough.
10. Discuss the Common Core Standards with them
Talk to your kids about the requirements your school follows (or the ones you follow, if you homeschool). Discuss what each requirement or objective means. Talk about where they might have seen it in action.
Point out where they already do it or make plans together on how they can do it in real life.
11. Read popular math books
There’s a whole slew of non-fiction books written about math for the non-mathematician. Let your child catch you reading one of those.
My favorite is The Man Who Counted by Malba Tahan.
12. Burn the calculator and banish the back of the book
Having an external device to check their work is clear confirmation to a kid that he’s not smart enough to check it himself.
If your child (or you) follows the rules of logic and the agreed on methods of applying them (like the order of operations), the answer they get will be right. Guaranteed.
Furthermore, there are an infinite number of ways to do every problem. So checking your work is a matter of doing the problem a different way and seeing if you arrive at the same thing. Or working it backwards to see if you come up with the original question.
Tear out the back of the book or staple the pages together. And refuse to fall for the “check your work” calculator usage scam. Your children will be better off for it.
Are you ready for math confident kids? Which of these will you try?
Featured image courtesy of Inkyhack licensed via Creative Commons.