Updated: Nov 25, 2019
As a former Primary School teacher, parents often ask how to help their child with maths at home. The good news is, you don’t need to know all the answers or cover off all the curriculum. The biggest gift you can give your child, is to model a healthy attitude to maths- be a problem solver and be curious.
We’ve all heard the negative reports in the media; standards are slipping and many students are behind in maths, but it doesn’t have to be that way. These seven simple tips will make a big difference:
Tip # 1: Watch your language!
You are a powerful mode for your child. It’s quite common to hear well meaning adults explaining, ‘I was never any good at maths’. Research now tells us that everyone CAN be a maths person, given the right opportunities. If you can foster the idea that it’s possible to grow your maths brain, you will be doing your child a big service.
Tip # 2: Praise effort, rather than intelligence
Research on ‘growth mindset’ shows that intelligence is not fixed, but malleable. When giving your child feedback, try “you must’ve worked hard to figure that out” rather than “you’re so clever.” If children believe that intelligence can be ‘grown’ they are more likely to engage in activities involving effort and be more willing to make mistakes in the learning process.
Tip # 3: “Never answer a maths question for your kids”¹
This quote rings true for us. ‘The correct answer to “Mum what’s 5 + 8?” is not “13”, rather it’s: “that’s a great question. Let’s try and work it out, together.’ Like having a child who plays piano, draws beautifully or can kick goals in footy, it’s all about working at it and enjoying putting in that work (Spencer, 2014).
Tip # 4: Ask your child what THEY think and take it from there
Be a good listener and hold back from jumping in too fast. It’s not all about speed and answering quickly. Although we do acknowledge that key skills need to become automatic over time, maths is about thinking things through, exploring strategies and explaining how YOU would work it out.
Tip # 5: Give your child some ‘wait time’, to allow him/her to think
This promotes a positive and calm space for your child to solve questions. It shows that we value persistence and problem-solving qualities, not just speed.
Tip # 6: Notice the maths!
It’s everywhere and it’s the reason it’s important. We use it every day, so help your child see that. Money, cooking, counting, calculating; tune into it with your child and solve everyday problems together.
Tip # 7: Talk to their teacher
Teachers are there to help. If homework is becoming stressful or negative, please work together to find a solution. Homework is not meant to create negative attitudes to maths.
Remember that just shifting towards these simple steps can make a significant impact for your child. Try focusing on one change a week and enjoy observing the it can make difference!
¹ Spencer,A, Mama Mia, 2014 [https://www.mamamia.com.au/how-to-make-kidslove-math/]
Justine Shelley is co-founder of Mfacts121 and Owner of Mfacts Studio. She is a highly qualified teacher with 20 years experience. Most recently working as a school Maths Leader, Number Intervention Specialist and Tutor at RMIT university (Bachelor of Education Studies; Mathematics and Alegbra) and is currently completing a Masters of Education (Mathematics Leadership). Justine’s passion for maths education stems from her belief that everyone can be a ‘maths person’.