Don't transfer your math phobia to your kids! Five simple steps to follow.

This short essay has been written by The Math Mom for CafeMom online community in March 2010.

So, you think you are bad at math. But what If I told you that you excel at it daily, usually without even realizing it. You do math when packing the dishwasher; when carefully carving the weekend schedule to fit around the kids' activities; when convincing yourself to buy expensive new boots because in a cold climate their cost-per-wear is reasonably low. Math is for everyone to enjoy, play and use. If you'll feel comfortable with math, you won't be transferring our math fears to your kids.
There are Soccer Moms, Hockey Moms, Baseball Moms. Could you be an enthusiastic and supportive Math Mom? No worries - you do not need to be a math expert to be a Math Mom. When was the last time you saw a Soccer Mom play soccer? Here are a few simple steps that can help you perceive math and present it to your kids as a cool tool, a toy, and a friend:

  1. Encourage and expect high achievements. Success in any kind of learning is enhanced by encouragement and challenge, and inhibited by threats or shame. Think of how we challenge and support our kids on the football field or ski slopes. Remember those trophies that everyone gets just for trying? The pride we take when our child scores a homerun. Recall how we share the excitement of our kids’ successes in sports and work on their failures. Just adapt a similar mindset for math learning right there at your homework table.

  2. Stimulate curiosity and search for answers together. Kids are naturally fascinated with numbers, patterns and logic. All we need to do is nurture this curiosity and expose our kids to the beautiful math of this world. Encourage questions and search for answers together on the web, in books, or ask around. What day of the week your birthday is going to be in five years? How does a 50 SPF cream different from a 15 SPF? What are the chances of getting a hot pink gum ball out of all the available colors in the Gumball machine?

  3. Explain your reasoning. Have you been contemplating whether to order school lunch or pack one from home? Or how long will it take to heat five hot dogs in a microwave, if it takes 30 seconds for one? Our daily lives are full of math puzzles and we all became proficient at solving them. Pass this expertise on to your kids. Explain to them why it makes sense to wait until this toy goes on sale next week. Count together how many 20-cent lollipops will they be able to buy with what they just saved?

  4. Avoid stereotypes. Beware of the movies that depict smart kids as unpopular geeks. Instead, point out those geeks polishing their statistical presentations in the roomy Business Class section of your next flight. Another old nonsense - boys are better at math than girls. A multitude of recent scientific studies in US and around the world proved that math skills are equal across genders, that culture is a factor in female math achievement and that girls’ confidence in math is dampened by parents' and teachers' gender stereotypes. Math is for everyone to enjoy, play and use. Don't let your child miss on this important one.

  5. Positive Attitude. Math resources are everywhere around you: in the kitchen, at the supermarket, in your closet. However, remember that the most important resource is your attitude. Children are experts at deciphering our passions and priorities even when they appear to reject them. Sending your daughter to ask dad for help with her math homework implies that dads do math but moms do not. Making time to sit and patiently try to figure out together, teaches a great deal. No one knows all the answers, but it is crucial to give the confidence and to show how to look for them. This is your role.
You are the best math guru your kids can get. And they really need one, because proficiency in the universal language of math is a key to the global competitive world of their future.


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