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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Raising a Little Mathematician

When I was a kid my dad’s code name on the CB radio was “mathematician”, and I was “little mathematician”. It is no wonder that every field I considered studying had math at the center of it. I wouldn’t say math was always easy, but it always made sense.

Raising a “little mathematician” is somewhat of a mystery to a lot of parents. Many parents feel more confident working on reading skills with their child than developing math sense in their child. Marketers have jumped in with a host of products to fill the gap, but still our kids struggle.

Flashcards, worksheets and games are not the answer. Getting kids to understand math is not about how many facts they can recite; it's about how they think. When you engage your child in math activities, your focus will influence how they approach math long term. Consider the following:

Focus on concepts, not memorizing facts
Facts are not bad, they just aren’t the whole picture. Activities that are exploratory and hands on tend to be more conceptual.

Focus on mastery and understanding
Math builds on itself, so at every level there needs to be understanding before moving on. A "right" answer does not always equal understanding. Take the time to talk about math. Ask "how" and "why" to find out what your child is thinking. Challange your child's answers. A well defended answer indicates mastery.

Focus on character
Its not just about the concepts, its also about building curiosity, reasoning, persistence and problem solving.  We can’t just give our kids all the answers.  Sometimes kids will struggle to get a concept, but getting it for themselves is true learning and gives kids confidence to keep at math as it gets harder.

My parents and their little mathematician


  1. What activities do you recommend to teach toddlers math or the concepts discussed here? Any practicals? Thanks!

    1. Thanks for reading! Teaching Brie Shapes and Why I'm Not Teaching My Daughter to Count have examples of specific activities. There will be MANY more specific activities to come, but I can give you a few examples to try :)
      Try to use math in normal situations, just while playing, or shopping. Ask things like: "How many items are there?", "How many would there be if we added 2 more (or took away 2)?"
      Talk about and show simple fractions of food, toys, even pictures.
      Examine what makes a triangle different from a rectangle.
      Compare the lengths of items. Talk about more and less with groups of items.
      That's just a few, but I hope it helps. :)