Strategies for Talking to Our Children About Math

If you have children who are currently in school, homework time can be difficult. You may have struggled with math during school or you may be unfamiliar with the methods being used today, which can cause frustration for both you and your student as you struggle through the assignment. One teacher made a video explaining how she teaches two digit multiplication using an area model, and a lot of parents flipped. A common response was that this is a ridiculous waste of time. They learned a much easier and faster way when they were in school. I made a response video, which you can watch below, that explains the benefit of an area model as well as the damage that can be caused by invalidating different methods for solving problems.

If you don't want to watch the whole video, here are the 4 main points I make at the end:

1. Do not invalidate certain ways of solving a problem. Rather, it could be a fun exercise to let your child solve the problem, then compare their method to how you remember taking on the problem in school. Why do both methods lead to the same answer?

2. Try to mix in conversations about math into every day life. Can your child guess how long it will take to get to your final destination from your house when you are riding in the car together? What about if you are walking somewhere? Ask them questions about how they came up with their guess. If their guess is off, you can have a conversation about that, too, and see if they can get closer next time you drive somewhere.

3. Validate the struggle they may feel in math class. It turns out that math can actually be very hard, and students need to know that it is okay to struggle. As a parent, it is easy to be hyper-focused on grades. Try to instead focus on their effort levels and encourage them through every wrong answer and failure. Those experiences are an absolutely necessary part of learning.

4. Be honest about how much math you directly use in your profession, but also try to emphasize the importance of math. Many parents attempting to be supportive say things like "It's okay, honey. I never use math anyway and I am just fine." This will only decrease their motivation levels, which can cause more struggle and potentially eliminate a lot of career opportunities for your child. Instead of trying to convince them that math is not important, see number 3 when you are trying to be supportive.

Here is the full video:


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