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by Sagrario Argüelles, Head of Primary School

Many parents wonder how to best support their children in their mathematical journey, especially taking into account that mathematics instruction has changed so much from when we were students! Jo Boaler, Mathematics professor at Stanford University, and co-creator of “Youcubed”, has some useful tips for parents. These tips not only align with the work teachers are doing in the classroom at MIS, but are also based on pressing new science on the brain as well as new insights this research provides into mathematics learning. In addition to the tips, she also shares with us some helpful links to other resources for parents. Here are her tips to help support your child:

  1. Encourage children to play maths puzzles and games. Award winning mathematician, Sarah Flannery reported that her maths achievement and enthusiasm came not from school but from the puzzles she was given to solve at home. Puzzles and games – anything with a dice really – will help kids enjoy maths, and develop 1 number sense, which is critically important.
  2. Always be encouraging and never tell kids they are wrong when they are working on maths problems. Instead find the logic in their thinking – there is always some logic to what they say. For example if your child multiplies 3 by 4 and gets 7, say – Oh I see what you are thinking, you are using what you know about addition to add 3 and 4, when we multiply we have 4 groups of 3.
  3. Never associate maths with speed. It is not important to work quickly, and we now know that forcing kids to work quickly on maths is the best way to start maths anxiety for children, especially girls. Don’t use flashcards or other speed drills. Instead use visual activities such as this one.
  4. Never share with your children the idea that you were bad at maths at school or you dislike it – especially if you are a mother. Researchers found that as soon as mothers shared that idea with their daughters, their daughter’s achievement went down.

Perhaps most important of all – encourage a “growth mindset” let students know that they have unlimited maths potential and that being good at maths is all about working hard. When children have a growth mindset, they do well with challenges and do better in school overall. When children have a fixed mindset and they encounter difficult work, they often conclude that they are not “a math person”. One way in which parents encourage a fixed mindset is by telling their children they are “smart” when they do something well. That seems like a nice thing to do, but it sets children up for difficulties later, as when kids fail at something they will inevitably conclude that they aren’t smart after all. Instead use growth praise such as “it is great that you have learned that”, “I really like your thinking about that”. When they tell you something is hard for them, or they have made a mistake, tell them: “That’s wonderful, your brain is growing!”

Sagrario Argüelles

Sagrario Argüelles

Head of Primary School


Also published on Medium.