by Alix Tonsgard, MS
My earliest memory of formal math is full of anxiety. I was in kindergarten and it was circle time. On the wall above the chalkboard in our rug area was a number line that had two alligator heads, one at each end. We were learning greater than and less than, the idea being that the alligator would eat the answer. I remember the feeling of anxiety as I sat and waited to be called on in front of my peers knowing that I was very unsure of what the answer was. It was not a good feeling.
These experiences with math anxiety are not uncommon and impact how many adults approach and engage math with their own children. There is a lot of research on this topic and the impact that adult math anxiety has on children’s attitude and confidence about their own abilities to learn math.
If you are math anxious, I have a secret for you; math is literally everywhere in everything that we do! An excellent way to support your child in developing math skills when you aren’t exactly sure how, is to try finding the math moments in everyday occurrences like this one!
Something as simple as talking about how he is inside of a square is laying an important foundation for math learning later in life. Other positional math words you can use in a moment like this are next to, behind, and on top of. Maybe there are multiple boxes. Point that out and suggest you count them. Voila! You just turned a playful moment into an awesome, fun, and meaningful math lesson!
When your child has opportunities to connect the words to a real life experience, it allows them to really deeply understand the math as opposed to just memorizing it! The most important thing to remember is to keep it fun and follow your child’s lead. Observe them, see what they are interested in or trying to master, and capitalize on the learning you see there.
Alix Tonsgard is an early learning specialist at the DuPage Children’s Museum.