Focus on Math

Helping children become mathematicians!

What Math Ideas is Your Child “Catching” from You? March 18, 2013

Filed under: General Math,Parents — Focus on Math @ 3:37 pm

Screen shot 2013-03-18 at 3.35.03 PM “Values are caught, not taught.” That is a quote from Dr. James Dobson, a psychologist who has written much about family relationships. Dobson contends that if you want to teach your children personal values such as respect, honesty, integrity, and tolerance, then you have to live those values. It is not good enough to have conversations with children about them to try to teach those values, but how you live day after day in front of your children is really basis of the lesson.

So, why talk about values in a math blog? Because I believe there are many parents unintentionally “teaching” their children their own negative values or beliefs about math as they say things in front of their children that clearly transmit those feelings. Statements such as, “Oh, I was never very good at math,” or “I never understood any of this stuff,” or “I hated math class!” send the negative message loud and clear. Children end up being afraid of math and believing that they will do poorly just at their parents did.

So what actions can parents take to encourage their children mathematically? First, stop all the negative talk! Even if you feel it, don’t say it! Rather, begin to notice where math shows up in real life and talk about that. (Let me interject here that lots of folks think they don’t use math much, but stop and think about it. Math shows up when we spend money, when we measure for cooking or crafting or building, when we tell time, estimate distances, and buy paint for the bedroom. It shows up on the scale at the weigh-in, when we figure out the amount of a discount or the amount of a tip. Math shows up everywhere!)

Play games with your children, especially those that use dice and cards, or any game in which you have to keep score. Crib is a great game for adding! Play Monopoly, the older version (not the newer one with the electronic banking) where you have to figure out the money being exchanged. Play logic games like chess, checkers, Othello (aka Reversi). Get children involved in Sudoku. (Download a daily kid-version of Sudoku here.)

Any teacher can tell you that if a child has a positive attitude toward mathematics, that goes a long way to helping the child actually learn math. A negative attitude causes a child to just shut down from the beginning – it is like the learning stops before it has even begun.

Your words matter. What you say in front of your kids about math matters. Keep it positive!
Mathematically yours,


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