I have a seven year old daughter, and I’ve taught college math for many years. I look at my daughter now, and think about what I want for her when she is 18.
I want my daughter to dream big.
My girl wanted to be an astronaut for a long time. Now she wants to be a marine paleontologist. Maybe next she’ll want to be an illustrator. I don’t care what she picks right now. She’s seven. My job isn’t to make her into an astronaut. My job is to help her know that she can learn anything.
I want to keep doors open for her future.
Math can shut doors on people. Many college students change their minds about what major they want, and what they want to be, because they are afraid to take math. Many adults feel anxious about doing math on the job or in their lives. Math has had a demoralizing effect on so many people. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. Researchers have discovered that math has a lot less to do with ability, and a lot more to do with mindset, than we ever realized.
I want my daughter to believe in herself, and in her own ability to do math.
I’ve read a lot of research about girls in STEM, and how so many girls have low self-confidence in math. I’ve read that girls are disproportionately vulnerable to teachers' and parents’ math anxiety. I’ve read that the kids most likely to give up on a hard math problem are high achieving girls. I’ve read that girls are more likely to hear praise about how “smart” they are, and react by feeling afraid to try.
I don’t want that to happen to my girl.
I read about all of these things affecting girls, and I want to protect my daughter. I want to surround her with growth mindset messages, interesting challenges, and utter faith that she can learn. I love her teacher at school. But, I need to do my part. I am my daughter’s first teacher, and her biggest role model.
I created MathKit to bring empowering math learning into my own home.
I knew that playing games with my daughter would help her relax while learning. But, most math games I found penalized mistakes and asked players to race. Not relaxing. So, I found or made up games where the fun doesn't come from speed, and mistakes aren't punished.
I knew that talking out her reasoning was particularly good for my daughter, but is a skill in and of itself. So, I made most of the games turn-taking, and started explaining my thinking on my turns.
I knew that hands-on learning tools are essential, so I kept my favorites nearby and we used them together.
Every time we play, I am mindful to relax, celebrate mistakes, be patient through struggle, and connect with my daughter.
You can play math, too.
I set aside time to cuddle up and read books with my children. It is fun, and it also fulfills my need to support my children's literacy development at home. Math is just as important as reading, but it is harder for families to know what to do. Even for me, a math teacher mom, supporting math learning at home is less automatic than reading.
The good news is, as long as you keep it positive and loving, you can play math with your child to create wonderful early math experiences outside of school. Any math fun you have together will help develop your child's mathematical thinking, and protect her from math anxiety.
Elementary math isn't for "math people". It is for all people, my daughter included.
I want to teach my girl so many things.
I want to teach her that she is strong, that she has a voice worth hearing, that she is more than her looks, and that she can learn anything, ESPECIALLY MATH.