10 Things to Know About Math
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By Allison Master
- Math is important and it’s important to help young children develop their mathematical thinking. A child’s math knowledge at the start of kindergarten predicts later academic achievement better than early reading or attention skills.
- Math is part of children’s everyday lives. Taking advantage of each of these math moments develops math learning. Each math moment is like a charging station that helps children become ready for more math learning.
- Math is measuring, sorting, building, noticing patterns, making comparisons, and describing the environment, as well as counting and knowing the names of shapes. There are many ways to incorporate math learning into everyday moments.
- Talking about math is also important and every bit of math talk helps. Research shows a small increase in math talk, such as asking about how many objects there will be if we add one or take one away, brings big results.
- It’s important to believe your child can get better at math and develop mathematical skills. Growth mindset, the belief that we can keep learning and getting better at math, is very important in supporting children to become mathematicians.
- When children focus on problem solving rather than on getting the right answer they learn more.
- Parents’ mindsets about math influence children. Children notice when adults feel anxious about math or say things like “some people are just not good at math. ” Girls in particular pick up on attitudes held by female adults. Instead of saying “I’m not good at math,” try saying, “Let me try to figure that out.” Focus on problem solving. Your words and attitude matter!
- You can foster a positive attitude toward math: Find ways to incorporate enjoyable math activities and math talk into regular activities like cooking, setting the table, and going for a neighborhood walk. Find math activities that YOU enjoy and feel confident doing.
- Change can be hard. If math makes you anxious, accept your feelings and thoughts. Keep working towards your goals. Think about who might have influenced your own math attitude.
- It’s okay to make mistakes. Mistakes help us learn! Focus on problem solving and using mistakes as an opportunity to promote growth mindset, “Let’s try again.”
Math knowledge is useful for all of us—from children to adults—in all aspects of our lives. When parents and teachers get excited about math, then children get excited about math. When we emphasize learning, and embrace mistakes, then children get excited about learning.
Allison Master, PhD, is a research scientist at the Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences at the University of Washington. Her research interests include the effects of societal stereotypes on girls’ motivation in STEM, growth mindsets, the power of social connections and social identity to boost children’s motivation, and educational interventions.