By Paige Romer, Moms Love Math
In my first round of parent-teacher conferences as a student teacher, I heard no less than five parents say those dreadful words, “I’m just not a math person.” As I heard this phrase thrown out over and over again, I started to question what it is about math that deters so many. Have you ever heard anyone say out loud, “I’m just not a reading person?” I haven’t, which leads me to believe that there is just something about math that pushes people away.
My first thought was that it must be something about math teachers. Is it possible that so many people had horrible math teachers that they just shut down and lost interest in doing math? Reflecting on my own math experience, it’s hard to believe this is true. So what else could it be?
It turns out that negative attitudes towards math actually start at home. Several recent studies have shown that parents who have poor self-confidence in math can transfer that to their children, even when those children have never struggled with math. There is a vicious negative feedback loop going on here: A parent passes along a math attitude to their child, who then starts to have a difficult time in math, reaffirming the parent’s previous beliefs that math must not be in their genes.
So how do we break the cycle? It turns out, there are some pretty easy ways to build up both the mom’s and the child’s math confidence, and it starts with creating a positive math environment at home.
3 Tips for Creating a Positive Math Environment in Your Home:
1) Become familiar with the right curriculum. These days, the math being taught in elementary schools looks a bit different than the math we learned. To avoid arguments and stress about the proper way to solve a problem, make sure you become familiar with the way in which your child’s school is teaching math.
2) Point out real-world applications. We all use math in our everyday lives. Next time you add something in your head or divide something into equal parts, talk your child through the process out loud. This will show them that math is not only important, but it’s essential in their everyday lives.
3) Avoid negative math talk. It’s fine to get frustrated while helping your child with homework, but try not to blame math itself. Instead, demonstrate thoughtful problem-solving techniques, such as taking a break, attacking the problem from a new angle, or using an online resource for additional support.
Do you have some ideas on how to make math more fun? Let us know!
Paige Romer is a middle school teacher in Denver, CO and is the Co-Founder of Moms Love Math, a website dedicated to helping parents better understand their child’s math curriculum so as to improve both parent and child confidence.
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