Math intimidates many grown-ups especially those who struggled with it in school. As parents, however, our fear of numbers is not something we want to pass on to our kids. So here are tips to instill appreciation and love for math important at a young age.
1. Make math fun at home. Just like how parents read bedtime stories to their kids to develop their literacy skills or prepare science experiments at home, math shouldn’t be confined to the four walls of a classroom. “People who are good at math, and who love math, think and talk about it and tinker with it everywhere, all the time—not just in school. Unfortunately, we live in a society that associates math with school,” said Laura Overdeck, founder of Bedtime Math, for an interview published in the FINE Newsletter from the Harvard Family Research Project.
To bring math outside the school setting, Overdeck created Bedtime Math, a website and free app that provides daily math problems mixed with funny stories, riddles or facts that parents and kids can do at bedtime. “[It] gives families a way to get involved in their kids’ math learning in a fun way,” she said. “It’s so important that families have a mind-set that math is casual.”
2. Try not to shy away from math yourself. To create a math-rich home for your kids, Maya Thiagarajan, author of the parenting book Beyond the Tiger Mom: East-West Parenting for the Global Age, advised against shying away from the subject even if you don’t like it.
“I think that parents should refrain from making statements like 'I never liked math' or 'I’m not good at math' in front of their kids. Our kids absorb our attitudes in all kinds of ways, so we need to work on sharing a positive attitude with our kids,” Thiagarajan told Smart Parenting. 3. Let your child struggle with math problems Don’t be so quick to solve your child’s math problems for her. Trial and error is a part of math. “It is good to let kids wrangle with a question and try to derive their own solution. They need time to figure out why answers are what they are because that is what math is,” said Overdeck.
Just like with learning an instrument or playing a sport, practice will make your child better at math, Suzanne Suttontold The Washington Post. Parents shouldn’t immediately run to tutor at the sight of their child struggling at the subject, she said, because creates a stigma around it. If your child is feeling discouraged at math, tell her that it’s part of the process, advised Sutton, a writer, educator, and founder of Newton’s Window, a website that offers strategies for making math more fun to kids. Math can be hard but it’s what makes it fun too when you finally get to the answer.
4. Find ways to ask your child math questions outside of school work. “The important thing is to become conscious of how to integrate math into everyday conversations and activities and make it a part of one’s life,” said Thiagarajan.
Play math games in the car (ex. See who can add up the numbers on a license plate the fastest). Talk math in the grocery store (ex. “If one banana costs P12, how much will six bananas cost?”) You can even do it in the elevator. Thiagarajan suggested saying something like, “Look, we’re riding up and down a number line. If we’re on the fifth floor now, how many more floors till we get to the 11th floor?” In short, be creative.
5. Point out the math involved in everyday activities. Let your child know that activities like building with blocks and baking use math concepts. Even playing with a toy bowling set involves math. “If you’ve just doubled the recipe you are baking with, you can specifically point out how this might relate to multiplying fractions on a work sheet,” said Overdeck. “Help connect what’s happening in real life to things kids might come home with in school.”
Don’t be afraid to use math terms at home. “There’s a lot of math language that children don’t get introduced to,” Rosemarie Truglio, a senior vice president for curriculum and content for Sesame Street, told The Washington Post. Use words like “rotate” instead of “turn” when working on a puzzle together, for example, she said. When talking about shapes, don’t just ask about the number of sides. Ask about the number of angles too.
“Baking, carpentry, playing sports -- they all involve mathematical reasoning, and it’s important for parents to feel comfortable and empowered to talk about math as they use it every day,” said Overdeck.