Home Community Blog Five Ways to Promote a Positive Mental “Math-itude”

By Paula Getz, Lower School Director of Curriculum and Instruction

In the formative Lower School years, students are developing perceptions of themselves. Often these perceptions are based on their personal experiences. If they are positive experiences where students feel competent, even in the midst of a “productive struggle,” they have the potential to become an area of interest. In Lower School, students begin to see themselves as individuals with many different talents. Many see themselves as artists, musicians, authors, scientists, and mathematicians. Below are some ways to foster positive math experiences at home to help develop a positive mindset about mathematics.

  1. Game on! Playing games with young mathematicians is a win-win for many reasons. There are so many high quality games available that challenge players to strategize, look for patterns, calculate, and exercise logic and reasoning skills. Plus, board games are easily transportable and are the perfect vehicles for spending some quality family time together. For some old-fashioned pencil and paper game fun, check out the games in the book Math Games with Bad Drawings: 75 1/4 Simple, Challenging, Go-Anywhere Games—And Why They Matter.
  1. The Power of Homework – The 2 X 2 X 2 Strategy – Turn the traditional perception of homework around by using it to put students in a math leadership role. Instead of asking questions like, “Is your homework done?” ask your child to choose two math homework problems to explain to you, two nights a week (this can be adjusted to 3 or 4, depending on need). After problems are explained, have them make up two problems that review the same concepts for you to complete and are corrected by your student. This process will shed light on areas of strength and misunderstandings.
  1. Go Slow to Go Fast – Conceptual understanding, engagement, and mathematical interests are not developed by answering problems quickly. In fact, the most meaningful math moments occur when students experience “productive struggle.” Remind your students that mathematicians take the time to organize and check their work, ask questions, and discuss possible solutions with others — all habits of mind that take time. Satisfaction comes from doing hard things!
  1. Mistake Management – Mistakes can serve as proof that we are learning and cognitive development is occurring. Help your student understand that it’s okay to make mistakes! Often mistakes indicate that students are at “the edge” of their learning: a place within reach, but maybe not easy to complete. In math classes students often discuss and fix errors together and determine why they occurred. At home, reinforce the idea that mistakes are a natural and expected part of the learning process. If you spot an error in your student’s work, see if they can figure it out on their own first.
  1. Find Math Everywhere and Use it to Practice Estimation Skills – Spend some time finding math in the “real world” (outside of school). Some examples: If your student is studying geometry, look for symmetry while on a hike or walk. When visiting the grocery store, have your student round anything that goes in the cart to the nearest dollar. If you have somewhere to visit after school, have your student note the starting time and figure out the elapsed time to your destinations. Help your student use and find joy in math all around us!

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