by Kim Charlton
Most parents know that they need to read to their children in order to foster their literacy skills. However, from conversations I’ve had with parents, the only discussions they are having with their kids about math is, “Math is hard. I was never good at it.” This is really unfortunate, because kids usually give up on themselves when their parents do, which can cause kids to underperform in math class. When we talk to them about our own inability to be successful, they might think, “Well if my parents aren’t good at this, I definitely won’t be.”
Research shows, however, that the ability to learn math is not genetic. Everyone is capable of learning math to the highest levels, but they need support. Kids need the opportunity to discuss math in the situations that come up at home, and to know that they are capable of anything they put their minds to.
Many people I’ve talked to also think they aren’t “math people” just because they couldn’t follow the algorithms for adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing, even though they found their own strategies. Finding your own strategy is being a mathematician. It’s very unfortunate that so many people are discouraged due to either their parents or their teachers telling them they have to solve problems in a certain way. I’ve learned so many strategies from around the world, it’s foolish to think that any one is the correct way, or the only way mathematicians can do math.
I have three kids myself, and am always searching for ways to talk about math with them. When we eat pizza, I ask how much of the pizza has been eaten, and how much is left. It can be as simple as “three out of eight pieces have been eaten, and 5 are left.” This can help kids to talk about fractions outside of math
class so they can make important connections when they see fractions such as 2/4 and 2/3. Comparing these quantities is also a great way of talking about fractions, even for kids before they get to kindergarten. You don’t have to call them fractions, but just discussing that there is an amount of out another amount builds their number sense.
It’s also important to remember that speed is not linked with mathematical ability. Your children may not get the answers immediately, and will need the time to think and discuss what their thoughts are when it comes to the math they see in the world. This is okay, because even the most talented mathematicians don’t get the answers right away. Even Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”
There are a lot of resources out there if you’re not sure where to start when it comes to talking about math with your children. Some of my favorites include Table Talk Math, Talking Math With Your Kids, and the Bedtime Math app. Table Talk Math and Talking Math with Your Kids are both websites with links to other resources, and the Bedtime Math app is an app you can download in iTunes or the Google Play Store that has a new story each night with a story related to math with questions to ask kids of all ages.
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