We know that math isn’t a topic that belongs only at school – it’s a part of our everyday lives! Throughout our day as an adult, we encounter many moments that require us to tackle challenges that involve mathematical concepts. From estimating the cost of filling our gas tank to calculating how long it will take for a load of laundry to finish, we use many math skills during all parts of our day, whether we notice it or not.
People of all ages may find themselves saying the phrase, “I’m not good at math,” in moments of frustration. Although eliminating that phrase from your conversation with children is one step in the right direction, there are many ways to create a positive math mindset during after-school hours. There are steps you can take to help your children see all of the benefits of using mathematical skills. You can highlight the moments in your day when math skills come in handy, introduce games reinforcing math skills, and even share picture books celebrating math in the world around us.
In this blog post, I share six ways to create a positive math mindset for your children. These strategies ask you to model positive interactions with math concepts and give your child an opportunity to view their own growing math skills as a helpful way to tackle challenges both inside and outside of the classroom.
Point Out Everyday Calculations
Just like the examples at the beginning of this blog post, you make calculations using math skills throughout your day. Bring your child into the conversation and point out the moments where you use a math skill to figure something out.
What does this look like in action? For example, you might estimate the total of a grocery bill while shopping together to make sure you stay within a budget and share your estimation with your child. Then you can talk about the difference between the estimated and actual total and what worked or didn’t work well with your estimation. In addition to conversations about dollars and cents, you can talk about distance or elapsed time together. For example, you might bring your child into the conversation as you look to see how many miles away your next destination is before heading out for the day.
Math is All Around Us
One way to create a positive math mindset is to share how math is all around this. In addition to making calculations together, you can start with observations as you move through spaces in your home or out in the world together. For example, you might say:
- This is the first time I have noticed how many triangles there are at the playground. Here’s a triangle on the swing set and another on the jungle gym.
- Did you see how many colors are on this poster? Let’s count to see how many colors we can find.
Share Your Struggle
When demonstrating a positive math mindset for your child, you can still acknowledge when there is a moment you struggle to solve a problem. For example, bring your child into the conversation as you try an Internet search to figure out the answer to a tricky math problem. Letting them see your struggle shows that even though a concept might present a challenge or frustrating moment, it doesn’t mean you stop there. You can let your child see what steps you take to solve a problem during moments when you struggle. If you consider yourself a math whiz, you might instead make a point to choose one moment each week where you mention how you learned how to do something.
Use Math Games
Another way to celebrate how math is fun is by using games. Plenty of games fall into a purely educational category and are lots of fun. These games can help reinforce math skills children are learning at school, from math fluency practice to more complicated problem-solving. You might decide to introduce a mobile game or two to your child that makes their screen time after school hours extra productive as they practice math skills. In addition to digital games, you might play a board game as a family that places math concepts in a positive light. This could include a game where players have to roll dice, count money, or think about the percentage of risk they will take.
Connect to Growth Mindset
Growth mindset is a term used to describe how people see challenges as opportunities to build skills and work towards a goal they may or may not ever reach. If your child is participating in a growth mindset or social-emotional learning initiative at their school, you can make connections to mathematical thinking at home. For example, you might say:
- I noticed that you tried one strategy that didn’t work, then tried another method that did work. Sometimes I have to try more than one way to solve a problem, too.
- It looks like this is a hard thing to do. Let’s pause and talk about some more ways to address the problem so we can try a new strategy together.
Read Books About Math
Stories are a powerful way to reinforce concepts in any subject area. Stanford’s Graduate School of Education has a list of several dozen children’s books related to math skills. You might bring this list to your next trip to the library and check out one or two selections from this collection. Alternatively, the next time you and your child sit down to read together, you might keep your eyes peeled for a moment when a character overcomes a challenge using math skills.
To help your child create a positive math mindset outside of school hours, find moments to celebrate when they overcome challenges and the power of math in their everyday lives. When your positivity around math is evident, and when you share the moments that your mathematical knowledge helps you throughout the day, your children will see math skills come to life in a beneficial way!
About Dr. Monica Burns
Dr. Monica Burns, Ed.D. is a curriculum and educational technology consultant, and founder of ClassTechTips.com. She hosts the Easy EdTech Podcast and is author of EdTech Essentials: The Top Ten Technology Strategies for All Learning Environments.
Photo description: A young girl writes in a journal while sitting next to a stuffed animal toy.