Why Do Students Dislike Math?
There are a million and one reasons why a student might dislike math - it’s hard, they don’t understand what’s going on, and it just doesn’t feel like it’s worth their time; just to name a few. However, adults all seem to agree that “math is important” and “well, you’ll need it when you get a job, y’know?” So what's the disconnection between how kids often feel and what adults all know?
Math is Hard
Just because something is challenging doesn’t mean we should give up on it! You’ve probably seen your kid(s) spend hours playing a single level of a video game over and over again until they beat it. That level was hard, but they kept trying until they could solve it. So why not use that same tenacity to solve their math homework?
Let’s break it down. They enjoy playing games, they understand the moves and controls of the game and are able to use those moves and controls to figure out the combination that will beat the level, and they’re able to try over and over again without fear that losing the level one time will have catastrophic consequences on their future. All of these things can apply to teaching them a love for math! If your child can learn to enjoy solving problems, can learn the basic tools of math and how to apply them to complex problems, and has an environment where they’re allowed to try and fail without fear… well it’s much more likely that your child will learn to love math as much as they love video games!
So, What Can You Do to Foster A Love of Math?
Consult the Experts
Not to shamelessly plug Mathnasium, but this is a Mathnasium article after all!
We offer a risk-free Math Skills Assessment to all students in grades 1-12 completely free of charge. During this assessment we’ll be able to identify any gaps in your child’s mathematical foundation and pinpoint areas where they could use some more practice. If your child is bored in math and looking for an extra challenge, we’ll also be able to offer suggestions for what topics they should focus on next!
Based on the results of your child’s assessment you can put together a plan to appropriately prepare and challenge your child at home, school, and (optionally) at a supplemental education center like Mathnasium! (To learn more about how Mathnasium can help your child love math check out this article
Change How You Talk About Math
By using math language in everyday conversations, you’re making math more “real” to your child(ren). They know that you always break a candy bar in order to share it - but do they know that you’re breaking it in half so each of you get the same amount? Intellectually it seems obvious that 10 is more than 1, but in context how much more is it? Having 10 grains of rice instead of 1 doesn’t seem like a big deal, but a recent grocery-ordering snafu where we received 10 pounds of apples instead of 1 has left my apartment thoroughly sick of the fruit in question. For those of you with older children, consider including them in your budgeting and financial planning so they can see practical aspects of math on the “adult level” as well.
Another tip is to ask questions that are “thoughtful” rather than questions with a right or wrong answer. Rather than asking what shape your kitchen table is, ask why it’s that shape. What else could be more useful if it was a circle? A square?
Finally, resist talking negatively about math. It’s easy to commiserate with your child when they’re struggling with a certain math topic by telling them “I wasn’t any good at that either,” however it's been shown that children internalize those types of messages and in turn feel that they can’t learn a topic because their parents never did. Instead, consider using language such as “let’s figure it out together” or “you know, I don’t remember how to do that but I’ll bet we can find someone to help us out.”
Play Math Games
If you search for math-based board games or video games on the internet you’ll find hundreds, if not thousands, of options. You can research and pick some of those games to play, or even stick with classics like Monopoly or Scrabble. Even games that don’t seem “mathy” tend to have some sort of math involved such as rolling a dice and counting tiles, placing pieces on a grid-shaped board, or keeping score.
Feeling overwhelmed by the amount of game options available? Stop by our center and ask our staff for their favorite board games! We have quite a collection of games in our center that we use for game time during the summer and at parties to celebrate our students’ accomplishments.