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Helping Kids Develop Positive Math Attitudes

Math is everywhere, and everyone can be good at it! Here are six tips for helping your child develop positive attitudes toward math.

Being wrong can help you be right.
A lot of us feel frustrated when something that involves math goes wrong. Having trouble balancing the checkbook, cutting a piece of wood too short, or underestimating how much food you needed for a dinner party are experiences we all have had at one time or another. You can turn negative experiences like these into positive learning opportunities when you talk with your child about what happened, and what you might do differently next time around.

Show a “can-do” attitude toward math.
Your child learns from your behaviors. Avoid making comments like, “I was never very good at math.” If you use your everyday math experiences (such as counting change at the store, timing how long something takes, or measuring ingredients in the kitchen) as opportunities for success, your child will develop self-confidence and problem-solving skills that will carry over into other math environments.

“Talk math” with your child.
The next time you need to measure or count something, share what you are thinking and look for ways your child can take part.

Model problem-solving strategies.
No matter what the problem is, it’s always a good idea to take a break when frustration sets in and start again when you’re fresh. And sometimes breaking down the problem into smaller problems helps you see a solution that makes the bigger problem easier.

Ask questions.
When your child is trying to solve a problem, ask questions such as “How did you figure that out?” or “What are you thinking?” or even “Can you draw me a picture to show me what you mean?” Having kids explain their logic can help them better understand their reasoning and see their way more clearly to a solution.

Focus on the process.
Knowing how to approach a problem is just as important as coming up with an answer. Don’t dwell on arithmetic mistakes. Instead, focus on supporting the strategy your child uses to approach a problem. Often, there’s more than one correct way to solve it.


Produced by: Funding is provided by:
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Additional funding is provided by Lynne and Marc Benioff, the Tiger Baron Foundation, Shailaja and Umesh Nagarkatte and Ellen Marcus.
The JPB Foundation NSF Heising-Simons Foundation EY

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