Whether you’re tackling our 10-Second Math Checkups or explaining a topic on homework, you can be an awesome math guide for your child. Even if you don’t love math yourself, or aren’t sure “how” they’re teaching math these days, just remember, this is elementary math – you can do it! These simple techniques can ensure that your child can taste little thrills of victory on every math challenge, building confidence and joy alongside mastery.
It’s a journey to the right answer, not a judgment.
Before you even start, embracing this mindset is key. Math does have right answers, and your child can get them right! School has to move whole classrooms to the next lesson, but at home you have all the time in the world to ponder a question and figure it out.
SO: If your child at first gives an incorrect answer, hold back immediate reactions like “no” or “that’s wrong!” Instead, just ask, “How did you get that?” As kids unpack their reasoning, they almost always find the error themselves. That builds true understanding of the topic – and confidence, since they figured it out without anyone’s help.
Start with a victory.
Whatever question your budding mathster is tackling, break it into smaller pieces that are easy to solve quickly. This shows how all math builds on simple building blocks. Some examples:
- Second graders solving 52 + 39: Start with just 2 + 9, or if that’s still a challenge, start with 9 + 2 and count up from 9. There’s always a conquerable starting point.
- Fourth graders solving 450 ÷ 9: Start with counting up by 9s. When your child adds up 5 of them to reach 45, ask what that tells us about getting to 450, which is 10 times as much.
Instill a growth mindset.
Carol Dweck’s research has shown the plasticity of the brain, and our ability to learn more no matter our starting point. Growth requires work, however. Always reassure your child that anyone can learn math. As Sal Khan famously says, “It’s not that you can’t do it. It’s just that you can’t do it yet.”
The small victories and the growth mindset build the runway to fly. With each victory, let your child taste the next level of difficulty. What’s great about math chat at home is that it can take as long as you want. Without the time constraints of school, kids can explore, and they are SO proud when they solve a question that’s really for the grade above them!