Math Literacy

Despite what you may have heard, EVERYONE is a math person. You have to be to live in the world. On a daily basis, we make about 30 mathematical decisions before we make it out of our house. This morning, I estimated that I didn’t have enough time to eat breakfast if I wanted to get to work on time because it takes me 17 minutes to get there on a day without traffic. I estimated that we had one more day’s worth of milk before I would have to get more at the store. I also decided that one tablespoon of grape jelly was plenty for my son to have on his toast because, let’s face it, jelly is high in sugar, even the kind without added sugars. These are all decisions based in mathematics.

At a time when it seems like students are being asked to do more on standardized math tests, some math skills are more difficult to teach and learn in our modern age. For instance, money skills are more difficult for students to learn because children don’t see actual money anymore. Time skills are more difficult to teach because students are surrounded by digital clocks. Even math facts, which have historically been seamlessly embedded in our materials in a Montessori school, are not “sticking” like they used to. Why? Research shows that there are so many things competing for a child’s attention.

What can you do at home to help your child become more math literate?

  • TALK ABOUT MATH: I recently read an article that said students whose parents enjoyed math were better at math simply because their families talked about math more. It really can be as simple as talking more about math.
  • MATH GAMES: I grew up in Atlanta where there were long commutes. Every time we got in the car, my dad and I would estimate how long it would take to get to our destination. As I got older, the mathematics became more and more sophisticated using speed limits and traffic patterns. My dad knew the time of every stoplight of our commutes. When I was 15, on a driving trip from Atlanta to Chicago, I estimated the correct arrival time to the minute (12:23 am). If I were a child today, it is likely that instead of playing these math games with my dad, I would be playing on an iPad or watching a movie in the back seat. One of the reasons that I love math is because my dad loved math and I loved my dad. Let your child see you enjoying some mathematics!
  • FUN MATH DRILLS: Drill your child (in a fun way) with math facts. Start with small numbers or problems where there are patterns, like doubles. Ask them to find the pattern after they have done a few. Every few questions ask your child to explain how they came to the answer.

Here’s an example:

Me: What is 10 + 25?
Child: 35
Me: How did you get it?
Child: I added my 10’s and then added the five.
Me: Is there another way you could have done it?
Child: Start with 25 and count up.
Me: Can you think of another way?
Child: Add 10 to 25. I know that the units don’t change when you add a 10. Just the 10’s change. So I could go from 25 straight to 35.
Me: Which way do you like the best? Which one do you think is faster?
Child: The last one.

  • DON’T CORRECT: If your child is wrong, don’t correct. Have them EXPLAIN how they got their answer before you tell them the answer is wrong. Almost every time I ask a child to explain a wrong answer, they catch their mistake and fix it.
  • INVITE YOUR CHILD INSIDE YOUR MATHEMATICAL BRAIN: Have your child make up ridiculously hard problems for you. Think out loud to find your answer. Even if you are wrong or can’t find the answer, your child will see you trying something difficult.
  • KEEP TALKING ABOUT MATH: Point out when your child is doing “everyday” mathematics. This will make them feel like mathematicians and help students see how mathematical our minds really are.

When you saw this update, did you notice how long it was and calculate whether or not you’d have time to read it? That was you using your mathematical brain! Share it with your child.

Ms. Amber
Literacy Coach

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