For Math Success, a Can-Do Attitude Is Key

May 5, 2016 | Schertz

Parents, if there’s one golden nugget of math advice we can pass along to help you set your family up for math success, this Washington Post op-ed by Petra Bonfert-Taylor sums it up: 

Stop telling kids you’re bad at math. You are spreading math anxiety ‘like a virus.’

Here’s some food for thought: most people see no problem admitting their distaste for math!  In contrast, Bonfert-Taylor states that “Few people would consider proudly announcing that they’re bad at writing or reading.” Collectively, “We are perpetuating damaging myths by telling ourselves a few untruths: math is inherently hard, only geniuses understand it, we never liked math in the first place and nobody needs math anyway.”

Now that you have the myths, here are some math facts:

  • Math understanding is not exclusive to an elite fleet of geniuses—virtually every child (and grown up!) has what it takes to succeed at math.
  • Mastering math is much like mastering other subjects: concepts soon click into place with consistent studying, effort, as well as solid instruction and guidance. 
  • There are many, many people with fond memories of math class (ourselves included) … just like there are those with fond memories of art, English, history, and music class.
  • Our entire world runs on math… from quirky instances of math patterns in nature to all the math used to develop technology that supports our everyday lives. Knowing math makes life easier! Ask anyone who’s ever had to calculate a restaurant tip or adjust a recipe on the fly.
  • Math is the foundation for all STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields but is useful for all career paths! As an example, the clothes we buy wouldn’t fit as well or look as good if designers didn’t use math when making dress patterns.   

As parents, you can help crush cultural math myths and set the stage for your child’s success by promoting positive, realistic attitudes about math and making your household a math-friendly home! Include some math games into the rotation for family game night (Monopoly and Cribbage are two of our favorites!). Get your child involved in cooking and dive into concepts such as ratio and proportion. If you have a pet, ask questions like, “If Buffy eats 2 cups of food a day, and this 40-lb bag of dog food has about 130 cups of food, how many days will the bag of dog food last? How many weeks? How many months?” If you’re feeling the math blues, we specialize in making math fun—reach out to us for ideas and a dose of inspiration!

If you struggled with math as a child, take heart—it is entirely possible to support a struggling child without tapping into your own negative experiences. Use the right language when speaking with your child: Math isn’t “hard”, but it does require practice. As you explore math with your child, do so with fresh eyes, an open mind, and a desire to learn. You’ll find many opportunities to slay your personal math dragons, boost number sense, and have fun!

How do you debunk math myths in your household?