4 Ways to Boost Your Child’s Math Confidence
It’s important to help increase your child’s math confidence because confident students learn more. Why?
One major reason is that they don’t give up. Students who believe they can find a solution aren’t stopped by mistakes or difficulty. They keep thinking and try to find a different approach. This leads to deeper understanding, more flexibility in problem-solving, and more efficient mastery of concepts. These students are also likely to spend more time doing math since they are happier while studying it. More time leads to more progress. Focusing on increasing your child’s math confidence can increase the time your child is willing to wrestle with math concepts.
Another factor is attitude. Confident students look forward to thinking mathematically and have a positive outlook as they approach new concepts. Students who fear that they won’t be able to figure it out may be apprehensive. This stress can actually lead to the release of hormones that make thinking more difficult. By putting effort into increasing your child’s math confidence, you can help your child’s brain be more ready to think through tough problems and remember new strategies later.
There are many more reasons to want our kids to be confident in their mathematical thinking, but let’s go ahead and talk about how to boost your child’s math confidence.
1. Be confident – it’s contagious!
Make it very clear to your child that you believe in her mathematical thinking abilities. When you consistently convey that you are confident that she can understand the concepts and solve the problems, she will begin to believe it, too. This doesn’t mean that you keep pushing when she’s tired or may truly not be ready for a concept. Make it clear that you’re stopping to give her very capable brain some rest and that you know she’ll be able to figure it out eventually. Good mathematical thinking takes time and isn’t always done in one sitting!
2. Be positive – find what’s correct.
None of us enjoy being wrong. We all feel better about it when someone begins by telling us what we’ve done correctly. Take the time to examine your child’s work or listen closely to his explanation. Even if there are mistakes or flaws in his reasoning, find a positive place from which to start. Maybe he realized the problem called for adding the numbers together, but his computation was incorrect. Maybe he drew an accurate picture to help him solve the problem, but wasn’t careful as he counted. Perhaps he underlined the important information in the problem – we can still praise that even though he had no idea how to begin solving it! There’s a big difference between how a child reacts when he hears “No, that’s wrong. Let me show you how to do it,” as compared to, “I can see that you drew the four pigs in a pen, just like it described in the problem. That’s a great start! Let’s see if we can figure out together what we need to do next.”
3. Be involved – share your thinking.
When you think aloud as you solve a problem, children become more familiar with the problem-solving process. They understand that you don’t know the answer immediately when you look at a problem (even though you may arrive at it very quickly when the problem is simple). Rather, you must go through a process of understanding the question, pulling out the necessary information, figuring out what calculations must be done to find the answer, and then using efficient strategies to solve it. This builds children’s confidence because they know how to approach a problem and that it is okay to take some time to think through it. We can also share with our children that when we think about a problem in different ways and hear someone else’s thinking, it extends our understanding and we become better mathematicians. I had to make it clear to my daughter that when I shared my thinking about a problem, it wasn’t because her thinking was wrong or mine was better. It was because I wanted to deepen her understanding by sharing another way.
4. Be reassuring – explain the process.
Help your child understand that good things happen in math when we’re willing to work in our uncomfortable zone. We build on what we know and work together to push into new levels of understanding. This can feel confusing at first, until our brains sort it all out and make the right connections and we finally say, “Aha! I get it!” My daughter was always more willing to keep thinking even when something was difficult and confusing once I explained to her that I didn’t expect her to completely understand it, but just to try and see how much she could figure out. We often worked beyond her grade level, just to get used to the feeling of mathematical exploration and lay some mental groundwork for the future. She was very motivated by the thought that she was working on math that much older children typically learn!
Keep these ideas in mind next time you work on math with your children. Work on increasing their math confidence in order to maximize the amount of time they’re willing to work on math and keep their brains in learning mode. Help them become confident mathematical thinkers who will approach even very difficult, multi-step problems with thoughtful confidence.
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