Getting a child inspired and curious about math begins at home. If you are a teacher, you can relay these messages to your parents; and if you are a parent, you can begin right now!
Here are five things you can do:
1) BE ENTHUSIASTIC!
I can’t stress enough the importance of positive math messages at home. I’m still surprised at the number of parent-teacher meetings I’ve had, where the parent has told me things like, “well, we were never good at math”, or “she must get that from me because I never got the right answer”, or “I’m not a math person”, or even, “I hate math” (I know, I was shocked too…who hates math?!).
If they are telling me these things, then I’m pretty sure their children are hearing the same messages at home. Sadly, these are the worst messages to pass on to your kids. They teach kids that math is a do or don’t subject; you either like it or you hate it; you either inherited the ability or you didn’t; you either understand it or you don’t. As a result, children who hear this develop a fixed mindset and believe that they will be good or bad at math or they will love or hate it, when in fact there may be some aspects they love and some they don’t love as much.
So what can you do? BE ENTHUSIASTIC! Show your child you love problem-solving and puzzles and math problems…even if you don’t! Help your child develop a growth mindset! I think you can, I think you can, I think you can!
2) PROVIDE A MATHEMATICAL SETTING
Have you ever read the Math Curse by Jon Scieszka? It’s a book about a boy whose teacher tells him that everything is a math problem….that teacher was right!!! Everything can be turned into a math problem! When children are young, they love investigating the world around them and they love math! You will find them naturally gravitating to things they can order; you turn your back and all their trucks are in a line or they’ve matched up all their dolls with pink dresses followed by all their dolls with yellow dresses or they have ordered their cars from smallest to largest. Take advantage of their innate urge to do math and develop it further.
3) ASK QUESTIONS ABOUT EVERYTHING
Provide your children with opportunities to do math at every corner: “can you help me measure ⅓ cup of water for the muffins? How many steps will it take you to get to the car, what if you hopped? How fast can you get upstairs for bed? Let’s estimate how many minutes Dad will complain about the commute home tonight!” Just like the Math Curse says, everything can be turned into a math problem, but you shouldn’t push it. If your child isn’t interested, don’t force them. If they get the wrong answer, point out what they got right. Your role is to introduce math so that it is fun and playful. Your goal is to help them develop confidence in their efforts. If your child isn’t interested, try again another day or change your questions to ones that intrigue them. Most importantly, have fun!
4) PROVIDE BUILDING BLOCKS
By this I don’t mean scaffold learning, I mean actual building blocks!
“Children’s play with building and LEGO blocks in the early years has been identified as one of the key reasons for success in mathematics all through school”, Jo Boaler (2015).
Anything you can provide that encourages patterns and spatial reasoning is beneficial. And there are so many to choose from!
|· Coloured wood block set
· Magnetic 3D tiles
· Jenga blocks
· Magic Bricks
· Keva Blocks
· Train tracks
|· Cogs and Gears
· Perler beads
· Pattern blocks
· Unix cubes
5) NUMBER TALKS
Children who do well at math have great number sense. That doesn’t mean they have memorized their times-tables or are the fastest at their math facts. It means that they can decompose and recompose numbers easily. How do you encourage this? Number talks. Number talks encourage children to think flexibly about numbers and can be started as early as you want. It helps children realize there is more than one way of doing something and also helps them develop critical and creative thinking skills. Here is a video of Rory and I discovering that you can make 4 in more than one way.