Kids are starting to hate math SO YOUNG.
And once they start hating math, it’s tough to go back. I think about all the ways a child’s future closes up with math avoidance. Personal finance - harder. Careers that might require Calculus - closed. I’ve seen limited math skills keep students out of careers in elementary education.
Our lives all require a combination of skills. I believe the best gift we can give our children is the confidence that they can learn anything they put their mind to, and keep their futures open. Since many parents and teachers dislike math, it's tough to include it in the "you can learn anything" message.
Let's start by focusing a bit less on the math, and a bit more on having fun!
Learning new ideas feels risky to children and raises fears of failure. Math-anxious learners, for example, can show neural activity similar to actual pain when anticipating solving a math problem. Focusing on fun can help. By emphasizing laughter, connection, and relaxation, parents create a safe space for learning.
Here are some tips on improving learning by making math relaxing and playful:
Play active math games with beach balls, or outside with sidewalk chalk. According to Eric Jensen, author of Teaching with the Brain in Mind, "moderate exercise enhances cognitive processing." Getting moving and playing games with your child also helps you relax and provides opportunities for tickling and silliness.
Focus on Smiles
During math games, focus on connecting with your child, not the math. If you can get laughter and smiles, the learning will come. Not only will you keep math practice going longer, your child will feel more relaxed and willing to try complicated questions. You'll have a lot more fun, too!
Keep Tools Handy
Keep math manipulatives nearby. They are great for fidgeting hands, as well as visualizing math when kids get confused. It's easy to lose the positive vibe when your child makes a mistake. Having learning tools at the ready shows your child that it's just fine to slow down and think.
Put the Timer Away.
Avoid activities that involve timing your children on math. Research indicates that timed drills cause math anxiety. Focus on understanding, not speed. Even math facts can be learned by a combination of math strategies and games, as recommended by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. This will also help parents. We don't teach speed reading - we cuddle up with books. We can provide the same loving, playful experiences for math.
Through MathKit games, hosting math playdates, and community outreach, I want to make math playtime as easy and natural for families as bedtime reading. Kids get frustrated easily while learning math. Many parents must unlearn their own math anxiety while helping their kids. This is more important than ever in light of recent research on how parents can accidentally pass math anxiety on to their kids.
What other tips do you have to keep math pleasant at home?