Did you realize that it’s socially acceptable in our country to hate math? That as long as you’re a reader, that’s pretty much all that many people care about.
The society here in the US embraces literacy. We bombard parents continuously with messages about reading:
Read to your child everyday.
Sing the ABC song.
Let your child see you read.
Remember to get a library card.
The advice goes on and on.
Creating a literary environment is a GOOD thing. As a former teacher with an advanced degree in reading & literacy, I love to hear families talking about reading. It’s definitely an important subject!
But it’s not the only one.
I’m tired of going to the store and having the cashier make a mistake, only to shrug, smile, and say, “I’m terrible at math.”
I’m tired of teachers putting tons of effort into their reading groups and reading lessons and reading everything, and flying through math time because they don’t like it as much.
Or people telling the kids, don’t worry, I’m not good at math either.
Guess what? Our kids are watching. They are listening. They are learning.
And as long as we stay this course, the math proficiency in our country will never grow. What I’m calling our mathidemic will continue.
Why We Have a Mathidemic
Why are our scores so low for math and science? Because we don’t encourage a mathematical environment for our babies, toddlers and preschoolers (or older children for that matter!) We are so focused on creating literary environments, that we often forget about the other subjects. Like math.
The Good News?
It’s not too late to change our course. To show our children that math is just as fun as reading. That math is useful in everyday settings, and very important.
Need some encouragement?
Eight Painless Ways to Create a Math Friendly Environment
If you’re looking for simple ways to integrate math into your day, here you go. These are all activities that involve math and can help your children develop a love for this subject.
That way they don’t grow up to hate math too!
1. Count Throughout the Day
Take time to count everything. Count throughout the day.
Walking up the steps? Count them.
Folding socks? Count the pairs.
Count the chairs in a waiting room. Or the types of candy bars on the shelf when you’re waiting in line.
Don’t stop at 10. There are a whole lot of numbers out there, so introduce them to your children.
The more you count, the more likely your kids are to notice number patterns!
This math skill is crucial for building higher level thinking. It’s also super easy to bring into your everyday life.
Pouring out little goldfish for a quick snack? Ask your child how many he thinks are in his pile. Then count them and see how close his estimate was.
Hanging clothes on the line? Each of you take a turn estimating how long it will take. Then set your timer and begin. See who got the closest.
Estimate what time you will get home from your trip to the store. Or how many forks are in the dishwasher.
Your child will guess outrageous numbers at first. That’s okay! They are learning more about numbers and building their number sense.
3. Sort Things
Eating candy? Encourage your child to take a moment and sort it by color before popping it into her mouth.
Have your child unload the silverware. You get one less chore, and she gets great sorting practice. Big spoons, little forks, knives—learning to tell the difference and group like items preps the brain for larger sorting tasks in the future.
4. Find Shapes
That sewer cover is a circle.
The tree kind of looks like a triangle.
There is a rectangle on that semi-truck!
Shapes are everywhere. Talk about them, and point them out. Remember the uncommon ones like trapezoids and rhombuses (diamonds).
Ask your kids to find shapes. Ask them to draw shapes. Play games with shapes you cut out of paper.
5. Gather data
Are you offering a choice for dinner beverages? Is lunch a choice of a hotdog or a hamburger? Equip your child with a piece of paper and a pen and have him find out what everyone wants. Teach him to use tally marks for quick counting.
Then you can quickly analyze the data. How many glasses of milk do we need? How many more people want hot dogs than hamburgers?
6. Identify numbers
You can slightly tweak many games that require letter to look for numbers instead.
See who can find the numbers 0-9 first.
Who can find the largest number on your car trip?
How about the smallest?
Numbers are everywhere. Go look for them together.
7. Use math words
Content area vocabulary is essential. Give your child a head start by using math words at home. If Grandma is joining you for dinner, ask your child to ADD one plate.
Spending money? Talk about how you SUBTRACT money from your checkbook.
Divide the cookies evenly for snack time.
Taking the time to incorporate math into your life will result in huge dividends. Each task is slowly building a solid foundation on which her math skills can grow. Encourage math, just as you encourage literacy.
And remember, math doesn’t get harder it just gets bigger! Gaining confidence in the simple adding and subtracting will help your child build a solid foundation on which to grow.
8. Stock Your House with Fun Math Things
Invest in a couple of math manipulatives and books, and let your children access them. Here are some of our favorites:
When you’re looking for fun math things, don’t forget board games. In most games, you have to work on logic, critical thinking, taking turns, counting moves, and other key math skills.
Math doesn’t have to be boring – do what you can to make it a subject your kids enjoy!
Let’s Not Hate Math Anymore!
Parents, let’s work together to stop this mathidemic before it gets any worse. Don’t tell your child that you HATE math. Work on it together, and you may find yourself even enjoying it a bit.
How do you feel about math? What ideas can you add for promoting math immersion for our children?
Note: This post was originally published in September of 2015. It’s been updated and refreshed.