Math Growth at Home: Helping Parents to Support Students

By Dr. Raj Shah, Founding Member of the Global Math Project

Most parents set aside a special “reading time” each night to read books with their children. With exciting, colorful books, students begin to see reading as a fun activity rather than a chore. Why are parents not encouraged to do the same thing…but with math? Parents tackling math with their children typically have three main concerns:

1. How can I make sure my child gets good grades?

2. How do I increase my child’s confidence?

3. What do I do when I don’t know the math and can’t help my child?

Math has changed — It’s no longer all about memorizing facts, procedures, and formulas, and producing correct answers. Some parents may be more familiar with this learning style, so it’s important that we help them and their children develop a growth mindset for learning. As a helpful tool, Dr. Raj Shah, founder of Math Plus Academy — a STEM enrichment program — has created a document detailing key steps for effective math support at home. You find the full guide at the bottom of this blog. Continue reading for an introduction into a few of the best at-home strategies parents can utilize.

A New Perspective on Math

Before parents and students can dive into mathematics, we want to make sure they’re viewing it with the right frame of mind. We want them to think of math as a VERB. Math is all about THINKING, REASONING, ANALYZING, WONDERING, DISCOVERING PATTERNS, and SOLVING PROBLEMS. Once we have established this new mindset, we can begin implementing effective at-home strategies for supporting students.

Parents as Learning Partners

It is the teacher’s job to explain HOW to do math and the parents’ job to support their learning. When working with their children, parents should be encouraged to think of themselves as a partner in the learning process. Parents might not know how to do everything their child is learning, and that’s fine! As learning partners, students and parents can discover new things together while working on math at home. In the guide, you’ll find suggested questions to help children develop understanding, and further details on what parents should focus on when supporting students in math growth at home.

Develop and Promote a Growth Mindset

A growth mindset implies that you believe abilities can be improved with effort. This empowers children to work harder to grow and develop their math skills. With a fixed mindset, children run the risk of not working hard to increase their own ability because they don’t believe it’s possible. The great news is that anyone can change their mindset. Ways for parents to promote a growth mindset include praising effort over outcomes and ending every sentence that starts with “I can’t do…” with the word “yet.” See the guide for more ways parents can help children to develop a growth mindset.

Foster a Love of Math Using Games

Almost any game you can think of that requires planning, logic, or mental math is ideal for furthering children’s mathematics skills. By developing a routine of playing math games at home with students, parents are making math seem like less of a chore. The guide discusses further benefits of math games on children’s development and a detailed list of game suggestions organized by age level. See the guide for more detailed descriptions of these at-home learning strategies, and how teachers can help parents to support a growth mindset.

Dr. Raj Shah has always had an affinity for math. Powered by his love of math, he earned a Ph.D. in Physics in 1999, which led to a career in R&D at Intel. In 2008, he quit his job and founded Math Plus Academy, an after-school STEM enrichment program for kids ages 5–14. His mission is to introduce kids and adults to the wonders of mathematics. Dr. Shah also contributes his time to Math Teacher Circles, the Julia Robinson Math Festival, and is a founding member of The Global Math Project. He believes that everyone can enjoy math, develop strong number sense, and become a perseverant problem solver.

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