If you’ve found yourself saying things to your child like “It’s ok, math isn’t for everyone,” then you may be a parent of a student struggling to love math. Not everyone gets excited over equations, word problems, or long division—but that doesn’t mean it’s hopeless. There are many ways to learn math, and to even enjoy it in the process, so don’t worry if your children are lacking in their love for math.
We’ve done our research and interviewed experts in the field, and we are here to share some simple and effective ways to get your children to love math. While your children may not necessarily end up as math professors, following this advice is a great way to support your students as they work hard to learn math and develop a love for learning.
In an interview with Cindy Bryant, Director of Learning at LearnBop, she made the point that if parents have historically struggled with math in their own lives, they should be very careful to not project that onto their children.
Math teachers are in a difficult position because they are tasked with teaching a subject that students love to hate. Jarad Schofer, a high school math teacher from Washington, D.C., stressed the importance of parental involvement and encouragement to support the efforts of the teachers. He stated, “Everyone can reach a certain level of math fluency; and when they reach it, they may discover a joy for math that they didn’t know they had.” There is no need for a student to ever feel like math is “just not their thing.”
Keep It Relevant
Another perspective that parents and teachers can take to get kids to love math is to show them how math is used in everyday life. Not only will this show them that math is relevant, but it will also prove to them that they are capable of learning and applying math.
PBS Parents details such things as comparing prices at a grocery store, counting mailboxes, reading recipes, and measuring items as ways to point out math in the world around you.
When she was a middle school math teacher, Cindy Bryant would ask her students, “Have you ever stopped to think about what your favorite sports would be like without mathematics?” This could apply to music, hobbies, games, and numerous other activities in which your student has invested interest.
Keeping math relevant helps kids stay motivated because it answers one of their favorite questions—“Why?”
Focus on the Process
Many times, students get overwhelmed and lose sight of the small accomplishments they are making. They compare themselves to others, think they need to become a perfect student right away, and attempt to become an overnight math genius. Rather than aiming for perfection, they should instead focus on the process and the progress they are making.
Cynthia Bryant states, “Part of the growth mindset is that making mistakes is part of the learning process.” A student must realize that there will be struggles and mistakes made, but that does not mean they are a failure. Student confidence is built on the realization of what they have accomplished and understanding that forward progress is constantly being made.
As Jarad Schofer points out, “Success breeds interest.” The better they see they are doing along the way, the stronger their desire will become to learn and to love math.
Chances are that at some point during their math student career, a student will struggle with some component of math. When that happens, the student should focus on pushing forward, despite getting answers wrong. Coming from a math teacher who knows, Schofer advises students that they “will get better at it by repeated failure and continued tenacity.”
You can also make the process of learning math more bearable for students by introducing math problems on a more recreational level. Bryant has implemented activities such as a “problem of the week,” magic square puzzles, and origami in attempts to create an involvement with students who are not in love with math. The hope is that as they solve these more casual math problems, the student will realize their capacity for learning math and any mental blocks will be overcome.
Make It Fun
A fact that many students fail to embrace is that math can be fun. For those students struggling in their love for math, engaging them in interactive games and activities can be the best approach to create a level of comfort and enjoyment.
Cindy Bryant recommends the below resources for both teachers and parents to find math activities and guides for sparking a love for math.
- National Council of Teachers of Mathematics: Illuminations
- Stanford University: Youcubed
- University of Cambridge: NRICH
- Open Middle
Additionally, LearnBop offers a highly adaptive, self-paced math program that enables students to gain confidence through critical thinking and problem solving. The playful motivational aids throughout the program help students develop a growth mindset while successfully mastering math concepts.
With all this said, students and parents should be encouraged that learning math is achievable and that students do not have to be miserable throughout the process. They can learn to love math, or at a minimum, feel confident in their abilities to learn math successfully.