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Strategies Families Can Use to Help Their Children Both Learn and Love Math

By Karyn Lewis | May 6, 2019


Karyn
Lewis
Karyn Lewis is a senior researcher at Education Northwest. She works on a diverse range of projects related to science education, educational equity, college access, and social-emotional learning and development.

You don't need to be a mathematician to help kids see math in the world—from counting passing cars to spotting circles and triangles on a playground, math is everywhere for young children.

Along those lines, just as they can support early literacy by reading to their kids from a young age, families can play an important role in teaching their children math by helping children see math all around them.

A new video from REL Northwest describes two strategies, based on the IES practice guide Teaching Math to Young Children, that families can use to cultivate children's natural curiosity about numbers and shapes.

In doing so, they will be helping their kids develop a lifelong love of math, which can serve as a cornerstone for academic achievement.

A Bonding (and Learning) Experience

Math is a universal language used to describe the world; it is woven into (not separate from) our daily lives.

Fostering children's interest in and understanding of math by incorporating it into everyday activities will help them be comfortable with this language.

In fact, research shows that early math skills are just as—if not more—important than early literacy skills on long-term academic outcomes.

Incorporating math concepts and conversations about math into everyday activities can be done effortlessly.

For example, when taking a walk, parents can ask their children how many yellow flowers they see or what shapes they can spot on a building.

This seemingly small action can make a big impact in terms of helping families connect while teaching kids mathematical concepts. It can also prepare young children for formal math instruction.

The Importance of Attitude

Another theme the video explores is math anxiety (a topic REL Northwest has examined), which parents can unwittingly pass down to their children.

For instance, if a parent says they "aren't a numbers person," they are inadvertently spreading a negative message about math, and in the process, potentially stymieing their children's math-related development

.

The research backs this up; a recent study found that parents' math anxiety can have a negative impact on their children's math achievement.

These factors and findings underscore the importance of encouraging children's interest in math and providing all kids with a strong math foundation that sets them up for success throughout their educational career and beyond.