Tips from an elementary school teacher for parents when teaching math. Key things to remember when supporting your child’s mathematical thinking and five questions to ask your child to nurture their motivation.

### Learn

Most children are eager to learn. They are instinctively curious and optimistic. And yet, math is one of those subjects that teachers commonly hear students express, “I’m not good at math” or “I hate math!” Many children express negative feelings about math, while others may express general feelings of uncertainty and low confidence.

How can you talk to your child in a way that reframes mathematical thinking? How can we help drive that intrinsic motivation when it comes to math?

###### Key Things to Remember When Teaching Math

**Focus on all 3 foundational themes,***equally:*– Is this the*Efficient***fastest way**to get to the answer?– Is the answer*Accurate***true**?– Can you get to the answer in*Flexible***more than one way**?- For example: An answer may be accurate, but it may not be efficient. In which case, there is a better answer that is both accurate and efficient. This requires flexibility and to look at the problem in a different way to solve it.

**Number sense development is nonlinear.**- According to Cathy Fosnot, founder of Mathematics in the City, a child’s development of number sense looks more like a fragmented ‘Landscape of Learning’. Learning math is not linear. “Children do not construct each of these ideas and strategies in an ordered sequence. They go off in many directions as they explore, struggle to understand, and make sense of their world mathematically….Ultimately, what is important is how children function in a mathematical environment – how they mathematize.” (from Young Mathematicians at Work)

**Children do not learn the same math concepts at the same time.**- Children develop math skills at different rates. It can be hard for some children to see others working more quickly and fluently. Providing various activities and exposures to math in different contexts and using a variety of tools and strategies, will help shift a child’s mindset about math.

**Think about math in a positive way that mathematizes the world.**- Relate math to the real world.
- Children sometimes have a narrow view of what math means – they consider the math they do in school as the primary context of themselves as mathematicians.

- Emphasize that math is more than just being fast at solving problems.
- Many children assume that the ability to process math quickly and for some, solve problems in their heads easily, is equated with being a successful math learner. This is not true. It is important to break this association – use this video to help.
- Reinforce a growth mindset and the power of *yet*. These are critical for helping children develop a positive attitude towards math.
- Math, like many skills in life, requires practice. Improved confidence comes with practice, even if it is for just a few minutes consistently.

- Relate math to the real world.

**Children should learn the core terminology, concepts and tools/models well**.- This allows for computational fluency (accurate, efficient and flexible).
- For developmental ages 5-7, learning units include: addition and subtraction up to 20, money, time, measurement and 2D and 3D geometry.

**Subtraction is developmentally hard to learn. (It is an abstract concept for children.)**- Children need to use addition to see subtraction and to understand the relationship between two equations first. Specifically, a child needs to understand that every number is made up of other numbers. Subtraction is about finding one of the numbers that make up another number. This connection is abstract for a child.
- For example: 10+2=12 and 6+6=12. Before a child is developmentally ready to subtract a number from 12, it is easiest if they have a firm understanding of all the numbers that make up 12.

- Children need to use addition to see subtraction and to understand the relationship between two equations first. Specifically, a child needs to understand that every number is made up of other numbers. Subtraction is about finding one of the numbers that make up another number. This connection is abstract for a child.

**Let children go through the process of constructing their own understanding to get to the concepts.**- For example: Once a child is confident with addition, it is easier and more effective for a child to understand multiplication by showing it as repeated groups of addition (instead of memorizing multiplication tables).

### Do

###### 5 Questions to Ask Your Child to Encourage Mathematical Thinking

Identifying your child’s feelings about math and understanding specifically if / where they are having difficulty can help you better support their confidence and motivation. These 5 questions can also strengthen your child’s self-competence, self-determination and drive to take ownership of their own math learning.

**Core Marbles**

- “Can you show me / tell me how you know?”
- “What tools helped you solve that problem?”
- “What’s inside your math brain? I wonder if you can figure it out another way?”
- “Your answer is accurate. Is there a more efficient way to solve the problem?”
- “Is there another math problem that you know that might help you solve this one?”

**“Can you show me / tell me how you know?”**- Asking a child to demonstrate how they thought about a problem is a great way to develop their ability to explain their thinking. The abilities to solve and explain are equally critical in math, so “show how you know” is important practice.

**“What tools helped you solve that problem?”**- Because some children equate being ‘good at math’ with solving problems quickly and in their heads, being asked to articulate the tools they used can encourage them to think about the idea that there are a variety of both tangible and intangible tools to be used.
- Some common tools are manipulatives, rekenreks, tally marks, number lines and hundreds charts.

**“What’s inside your math brain? I wonder if you can figure it out another way?”**- Using different strategies to solve problems helps a child feel confident that they have a diverse toolbox and can be flexible when choosing a strategy. It helps them feel powerful; “I
*can*do this – my way!”

- Using different strategies to solve problems helps a child feel confident that they have a diverse toolbox and can be flexible when choosing a strategy. It helps them feel powerful; “I

**“Your answer is accurate. Is there a more efficient way to solve the problem?”**- Reminding a child that math is a combination of being accurate, efficient and flexible helps them see that there are many ways in which they can be good at math.

**“Is there another math problem you know that might help you solve this one?”**- Children do not always make connections between strategies, so asking questions that help them extend their thinking is beneficial for those who need to be motivated to use what they know in new and different ways. For example: if you know 6+6, then you know 6+5, then 7+6, etc.