Math tends to get a reputation as a “hard” subject and can be feared by some kids.

Parents know the importance of math and they often struggle to find ways to ensure their children understand the concepts in order to excel in this subject. Daily positive math talk is a simple and highly effective way parents can help their children grow into strong math students.

Here are some reasons why it works and some tips on doing it.

1. Social Modeling

Your actions have a powerful affect on your children. If you respond with fear to a bug, it tells them that bugs are to be feared. If you see a bug and suggest taking a closer look at the fascinating creature, they will understand that bugs are interesting.

Subjects are the same. As you read to your child from an early age, you are telling them that reading is normal. Everyone reads.

Doing daily math – even just saying something positive about math – will do the same thing. As your children mature and see you using math in your life, they’ll know it’s a positive thing.

2. Familiarity

If children are around something all the time, it becomes familiar and they are comfortable with it. When children are comfortable, there is no fear.

At the playground, kids climb and swing as quickly as they can. They are familiar and comfortable with playgrounds and jump into playing with wild abandon.

When children see parents and other grown ups talking about math on a daily basis, they get familiar with it. When math talk becomes natural in day to day conversations, they won’t fear it. That means they won’t be afraid when a teacher mentions math or pulls out a new math term.

The amazing thing is that when children are fearless, they engage fully. Engaging and playing all out leads to learning at a deep foundational level.

3. Emotional Connection

Research indicates that when children connect subject matter to peaceful, loving grown ups, they are more likely to excel in that subject.

Parents are the most influential figures in a child’s life. So, when parents participate in positive math talk with their children, they connect to math on a more emotional level. Math becomes a comforting, loving experience.

This again leads to higher engagement, better learning and understanding.

4. Witnessing Failure

When grown ups do math, it isn’t always smooth sailing. If you’re calculating your gas mileage and you divide the numbers wrong, you know to start over and divide the other way.

Children need to see this happen and know that it’s ok to make a mistake. If they see how you work through the various elements of daily arithmetic, they’ll know that doing something wrong initially doesn’t have to be a disaster.

When a child knows to work and think through problems, like they’ve seen you do, they enter a math classroom armed with a shield against failure. They know that failure is one of the routes to the solution and are comfortable with it.

Being comfortable and welcoming failure allows them the freedom of taking novel approaches to problem solving and those novel approaches are what solidify learning.

5. Habit

It may be a little awkward at first, but finding the math that you’re doing everyday and saying it out loud will eventually become part of what you do.

To discover where the math is in your life, think about the decisions you make. You often use math before drawing a conclusion. Here are two examples:

When your child asks, “Can we go to the park and the party on Saturday?” you begin to think, “With several errands to run, is there enough time to go to the park and the party on the same day?” This is a math problem.

When your child asks, “Can we go to the circus?” you might be thinking, “Do we have enough disposable money in the bank account to go to the circus?” Again, you have a math problem.

When you’re thinking through the options, say to your child, “In order to make this decision, I have to do a little math.” Then work through it in front of your children.

Make a point to do this consciously a few times, and you’ll get into the habit of doing it all the time. Before you know it, you’ll be modeling math and making your children familiar with it. This will help them engage in math!

Your turn!

Are there other benefits or reasons to engage in daily math talk with your children? Have you found other ways to do it? Share your thoughts in the comments below.