Some kids say, “I’m bad at math,” and some parents say it too. If you can manage your math anxiety, and do some modelling, you can help your child.
- Model how you initially react to a problem, and give your kid space to react and ask questions. Let’s say the goal is interpreting a division problem with challenging numbers that might have multiple correct answers: “Shana wants to share 51 baseball cards with 7 kids. How many cards does each kid get?” It’s okay to express resistance to the problem first, as in: “I never liked baseball cards,” or “These numbers are weird,” or “Can’t I just Google this?”
- Model productive struggle in areas that bring joy, and show your child how to do it. I love running but when I’m tired I need to break down every step to get myself going. When I start losing form, I recite: “Look at trees, smell wet grass.” Find similar steps to help your child persist and succeed at something uplifting.
- Model how to rewrite problems with meaningful contexts and simpler numbers. “I decided to sell baseball card packs at a yard sale to make money to buy Robux. I sold seven baseball cards to two kids. How many cards did I sell to each kid?”
- Model how to activate multiple senses to solve a problem. Most people process information more effectively if they activate at least two senses. Try using concrete objects to illustrate the problem. Stuffed animals or pictures of loved ones can represent who is being shared with. Pennies, paper clips, or Legos can represent items being shared.
- Gradually increase the level to the point that your child can independently create a similar problem. First, adjust the numbers: “What if we had 11 cards to sell to 2 kids? 23 for 2 kids? 13 cards to sell 3 kids?” Do not stress the numbers. Focus on concepts. Second, work with your child to create a similar problem. Finally, ask your child to make a problem of their own.
Children learn most when they create. Support them to the point that they want to notice, build, and solve problems on their own.
Kevin Miller is a full-time tutor based in Tarrytown. You can reach him at kevsmilltutoring.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.