In my last post I shared that we need to create positive math experiences for students. (Especially girls.) Whether you are a parent or a teacher, this post is for you! Here are some simple things to start doing with your students and/or your own children. I even have two freebies for you to download and get started!
- Use positive language about math. Instead of saying, “I hate math.” “I wasn’t good at math.” or “I’m not good at math.” Try saying, “Math is challenging.” “Sometimes I don’t know the answers either.” “Math makes my brain think.”
- Ask questions. “What do you already know that can help you get started on this math problem?” Often times by asking this, students/children will start to feel less anxious because you’ve shifted to what they do know. “Can you draw a picture to help you?” “Tell me what you notice.” Historically talking and visualizing have not been associated with math, however they are the foundation for understanding math. Most students/children have an easier time talking about what they notice in numbers, patterns, and visuals such as graphs and charts before they’re ready to put a pencil to paper.
- Use Pictures and Visuals. Let’s think about this example; small children, let’s say around age 2 begin pointing at and naming things because that’s what they know how to do, but imagine you show the word “dog”, spelled out, to a 2 year old and ask her, “What is that?” The answers you’d get are incorrect, and possibly even blank stares. Letters and numbers are symbols in the language of mathematics. It’s like a foreign language. However, show a child a picture of a dog, such as the one below, and you will likely get answers such as; dog, wolf, cat, animal. All of those are at least in the ballpark! Somehow once students hit school-age the general expectation (not always) is for them to have all the language and vocabulary to start putting things on paper, or in symbolic form (letters & numbers). There is a very good reason that children and students are “chatty” when they are learning! It’s developmentally appropriate at any age, and it’s how we make sense of what we are learning.
- Play Games There are many games, (I will share more specifics in a later post), but board games, memory games, matching games, strategy games, puzzles all develop mathematical skills that children aren’t even aware they are learning because they’re having so much fun playing the game.