- Be positive. If you don’t like maths or think you are bad at it maths, don’t pass these negative ideas on to your kids. Show enthusiasm when your child brings home maths homework. Tell them you love it when they have maths homework!
- Don’t put too much emphasis on speed. Sometimes children get the idea that if they are not fast at maths they are not good at maths. They think the people in class who are the first to put up their hands with the answers are the “maths people” and the others who are slower, are not. This is not true. Some of the best mathematicians are not fast at maths. This is because maths is about depth, not speed. It’s important to have a deep understanding of the concepts, not just to be able to do things quickly.
- Maths is not about memorising. Don’t worry if your child finds it hard to memorise facts. Many children decide they are “rubbish at maths” at the point in school when they are asked to learn their multiplication tables. Memorising may not come naturally to them, and they think that this means they are not good at maths. Although it is useful to be able to recall multiplication facts quickly, being good at memorising is not the same as being good at maths. Encourage your child to look for patterns in numbers that can help them to work out their tables easily.
- Maths is not about calculations. It’s much wider and deeper than that. Encourage investigating and problem solving. Help them to see maths investigations in everyday life. If you go out for ice-cream, count how many different flavours there are. How many combinations would that make, if you can have 2 scoops? What about if you can have 3 scoops? What difference does it make if you allow the scoops to be of the same flavour, or if they have to be different? Can you see any patterns in the results of your investigations? Maths is about connections, creativity and communication, so talk to your child about mathematical ideas.
- Encourage mistakes. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes! Recent brain science shows that when you make a mistake, your brain grows, because it means you are thinking deeply about something you find difficult. When you get a question right, on the other hand, your brain doesn’t grow.
- Encourage a growth mindset. Some people believe that either you are a maths person or you are not. These people have a fixed mindset. people with a fixed mindset don’t do as well at school as students with a growth mindset, who believe that anyone can do well in maths. If your child has a fixed mindset, they won’t want to ask questions and make mistakes in maths lessons because they will want to show the teacher that they are good at maths. As a result, they are less likely to make progress. Children who have a growth mindset ask questions and are not afraid to make mistakes, so they learn and do well. This is particularly important if you have daughters because girls are more likely than boys to have a fixed mindset and to believe that they are not “maths people”. Let your children know that anyone can achieve in maths.
- Believe in your children and encourage them to believe in themselves. Brain science shows that when you believe in yourself, your brain works differently and you are more likely to achieve.
For more information about maths, mindset and brain science, visit youcubed, the website of Jo Boaler, professor of mathematics learning at Stanford University.