Growing up with a math teacher as a mom, Saturday mornings were filled with playing with tangrams and building polyhedrons. I had no choice but to practice math just about every day. Even as an adult, I can’t escape math even though my job does not depend on it. I have to keep track of appointment dates and times, make phone calls, pay my bills, go the speed limit, and figure out meals. Math is absolutely everywhere, even in its most basic form! For that reason, I thought I would share 6 easy math tips for mommas.
I am saddened when I overhear adults talk about how they aren’t good at math. Or when I hear adults put math down as a subject they don’t understand and can’t help their kids with when it comes to homework. And if I’m overhearing these conversations in the office or at a coffee shop, imagine what saying these things in front of your kids does to their feelings about math. It likely does not elevate their enthusiasm for the subject, nor does it make it seem like doing math is possible if their parents think they can’t. And if they like math, overhearing their parents putting the subject down may lessen their desire to do well — or think it’s not even important to try. As Einstein said, it’s all relative.
Supporting Math teachers
And as the daughter of a math teacher, I am especially concerned for the well-being of our teachers. Because she taught math, my mom was hands down one of the most disliked teachers in her school. Not only did she have the difficult task of teaching students whose perception of the subject was shaped by parents who didn’t like math, but she also had to deal with principals and coaches who pressured her to change grades so that the failing football player could play on Friday night. She often came home stressed and miserable because of cruel students, parents, and faculty when all she wanted to do was inspire and help students learn.
If we as millennial parents have made a commitment to lifting up other parents and being kind, we should apply that commitment to teachers (who are likely fellow parents) as well. It’s my hope that we can eliminate stress for math teachers by being positive and proactive in our own kids’ understanding, starting with the basics. By the time my 5-year-old reaches high school, I hope his math teacher isn’t stressed and miserable and can instead focus on inspiring the next accountant or engineer who will make a difference.
While complex math is difficult, the basics are not
As I mentioned, math is everywhere. You don’t have to like it or be “good” at it to help your child. Full disclosure: Despite being a math teacher’s daughter, I am not a math expert. However, I know that math teaches kids skills in lots of other areas aside from math itself, such as following instructions, problem-solving, and even asking questions. These tips were devised simply by observing how my children are discovering math at home with very little effort on my end. Once you find how math fits into your life, you too can get your kids excited for the subject just by being encouraging without having to know it all yourself. Here are 6 easy ways to build math into your routine without even trying.
1. Notice Numbers
This is probably the easiest way to get your kids interested in math. Follow the numbers. As you sip your morning coffee, look around your house. What numbers do you see? Clocks are a good first step and can be on your wall, stove, microwave, coffee pot, tablet, or phone. Point out these numbers to your kids and ask what they know about them. Do the numbers change? What does that mean? Outside of the house, use numbers on signs — bus markings, speed limit signs, highway signs — to practice naming numbers and counting. Inside of the house, use toys or random objects to show your child how to make numbers. For example, my son loves making numbers out of his Hot Wheels cars — and then counting the cars. Literally hours (OK minutes!) of fun!
2. Take a Time Out
Kids as young as three can sign up for sports through the DC Department of Parks and Rec. Without even realizing it, you just signed up your child for a math lesson! All you have to do is sign up, sit back, and watch. As they warm up, coaches count out each step: “Let’s do 10 jumping jacks. 1, 2, 3…” As they learn new skills, coaches help them understand the passing of time: “For the next 3 minutes, we’ll practice baby kicks.” And no doubt there are numbers on the field — uniforms, the scoreboard, the clock, etc. Later, your child’s coach may share strategies that involve more complex math such as trajectory and speed used in football, baseball and softball, swimming, tennis, and more! (And it’s totally likely the coaches won’t even realize they are providing free math tutoring!)
3. Bake With Your Kids
I do not enjoy baking but I bake often because I like the end result — something sweet! Baking with kids can be messy, but it’s also a great way to get them counting and measuring — which means that it’s another easy way to incorporate math into your routine! Even if it seems redundant to us who already know how to count, counting while pouring ingredients into a bowl is a great way for kids to practice and master the skill. And the more they do it, the prouder and more confident they will become!
4. Play With Patterns
Believe it or not, patterns and shapes fall under the category of math. Making patterns in art or with toys and noticing shapes around you can help your child with an important math skill! Go on a shape scavenger hunt inside or outside of your home. Challenge your child to spot patterns of different shapes on everyday objects such as on towels, bedding, and furniture. Then, encourage them to make their own patterns.
5. Make Money
Just because you may not use cash and coins as much doesn’t mean that your kids can’t! Talk about money so that they can start to learn the value of what a dollar can buy. Set up a lemonade stand so that they can engage with neighbors and save for a special toy or treat. Notice the numbers on the bills and coins and talk about what happens when you go shopping.
6. Let Someone Else Do It
If you really have no interest in encouraging math at home, make it easy on yourself with some screen time. Number Blocks on Netflix is hands down the best math show out there, and episodes are about 5 minutes each. (Or find them for free on YouTube if you don’t subscribe to Netflix.) With a catchy theme song and fun characters, your child will be counting, adding, and subtracting in literally no time at all. In fact, they may start asking you questions about numbers and put you on the spot to multiply. So it’s a great way for you to practice flexing your basic math skills muscles too. Might as well practice now so when the math gets harder, you’ll at least know how to multiply! Other great math skills shows include Odd Squad and Peg + Cat (which are available for free on PBS KIDS) and Blaze and the Monster Machines (which is available with a cable subscription on Nick Jr).
With a little imagination and effort, you too can make math easier for you and your kids
Have you tried these tips already? How are you promoting learning math in your home? Do you have easy math tips for mamas who don’t want anything to do with math? Share your ideas below!