Use Praise Correctly to Increase Math Confidence

Mar 29, 2018 | Naperville

Parents, do you praise your children’s efforts, abilities, or both? Praise, used correctly, is an effective tool for raising a child’s confidence in math. Kids who feel confident in their math skills practice and therefore improve. Conversely, children who feel anxious and insecure about math avoid math. That’s human nature.

How can there be a Wrong Way to Praise?

Praising a child for “being smart” or “being talented” can actually create a fear of failure. The fear of failure, and thus no longer looking “smart,” leads to kids not wanting to attempt difficult math. To keep children motivated in math, studies show that praise should focus on a child’s actions, not their intelligence. Identifying success with working and thinking will motivate them to work and think. This idea is called a growth mindset.

Read our previous articles about mindset for a deeper understanding of this phenomena:

  1. Know the Difference Between Excuses and Empathy in Math Class
  2. Get Inspired in Math with the Stories of 3 Olympians
  3. How Parents Should React to Math Tests

How do We Give a Compliment at Mathnasium of Naperville?

Here are examples of the compliments and feedback we give at Mathnasium of Naperville. The action is in green text to make it stand out. Feel free to use these phrases at home to support your child’s math journey:

I love the way you kept thinking about this problem, even when you were frustrated.

Good job trying a different approach to that problem. Shall we look at another approach people use to solve it?

Asking “why?” is an important mathematical question, good for you!

Good thinking to ask for extra help when you got stuck.

You are starting to understand how to study for a math test. That is an important step.

I am proud of you for analyzing your mistakes so you can learn from them. That’s how you will grow!

You showed great persistence. Sometimes mathematicians spend years, even centuries, on one problem.

Way to keep working to understand!  Don’t worry if it takes you 10 minutes longer than someone else to finish a math problem.

I love that you didn’t give up even when you were struggling. Every great mathematician struggle. The struggle means you are thinking. That leads to real growth!

That is really brave of you to attempt that really difficult problem. Let me know how it goes.

You checked your work! I can tell. It definitely improves your accuracy.

Look how much you learned about fractions today! You learned how to convert them into decimals. That’s a big step!

I notice you read the instructions twice to understand it better. That will definitely make it easier for you.

Finding Opportunities for Praise

Here at Mathnasium of Naperville, we give children lots of opportunity to grow in math. That gives us lots of opportunity to praise their actions. If the math is way too difficult or way too easy for a child, giving authentic praise for effort and work ethic is almost impossible. If the math is too easy, no real effort was needed and the praise sounds hollow. You wouldn’t praise an Olympic marathon runner for the ability to complete a neighborhood 5k.  If the math is way too difficult the child will likely give up before they experience success.

The best praise for an action comes when a child overcomes a challenge. That’s why Mathnasium of Naperville loves working with kids who are behind and ahead of what is being taught in the schools. Children who are behind may not be experiencing enough successes. Children who are ahead may not be getting enough challenges. Both situations erode a child’s confidence and enthusiasm in math.

Children at Mathnasium of Naperville have an individualized learning plan so whether they are accelerated or behind at school, they experience a working through a challenge to the point of mastery.

Call Aparna Pai at 630-219-0505 today to learn more about the Mathnasium Method.

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