To an Engineer, math is fun. Engineers use math in pretty much every aspect of their life. The fun in math for Engineers was usually there from childhood. And if you ask them where they gained their confidence in math, most of them would name a strong adult influence. A mom, dad, or teacher. As parents, we have a subconscious influence on our children when it comes to academics. What we like, they like, and what we fear, they learn to fear. Even if its unintentional, we may be steering our kids away from certain professions by our own personal attitudes. So if may isn’t fun to you, how do you teach your kids that math is fun? Here are my 6 tips to teaching your kids math is fun, even if its not really your thing.
6 Ways to Teach your Kids Math is Fun!
“I could never have been an Engineer. I’m horrible at Math!” I’ve heard it before from so many of my friends. Most of them are friends of my kids’ friends. I hide my frustration, knowing that their kids are learning from them to fear math. Especially my friends with daughters. THE demographic that is virtually missing from engineering. Though I have no daughters, I know girls look to their mothers to help them decide who and what they will be in their future.
About a year ago I wrote about how my mom helped me become an engineer. Though she herself did not have a college degree, she did a lot (in subtle ways) to encourage me to be whatever I wanted to be, including being an engineer. One of the ways she encouraged me was by being my first math tutor. She helped me with my math homework everyday, until I got to Geometry in 9th grade. Even then she never said she was bad at math, or that it was too hard. She just helped me find someone who could help me. Here are the ways my mom, and mothers in general, are so important to helping their kids in math:
1. Don’t be afraid of math. So many people have a fear of math. I’m not sure where it started, but I’ve heard it so many times. I’m sure you’ve noticed that many of the things you enjoy, your child does to. Kids often reflect our likes and dislikes. If we love getting our nails done, they’ll ask to get their nails done with us. If they see us reading, they’ll sit down next to us and look through a book. What we love they love, and what we fear they will fear. So even if you’re not confident about your math abilities, just try to help when you can.
2. Never say you’re bad at math. Along the same lines of not letting your kid know you fear math, never tell them you’re bad at math. Our kids repeat everything we say. One morning my son asked why I always had my hair in a ponytail in the morning, and I told him because Mommy has crazy hair in the morning. A few days later he was spending some time with his grandparents, and he informed them “Mommy has crazy hair!”. Its funny when your child is talking about mommy’s hair, but its not what we want their internal voices telling them about math.
3. Identify ways to teach them math while they are already playing. Many toys for children use math concepts, so while your kid plays with their toys, look for ways to teach them math. I often do this with my sons. My middle son recently brought out a toy to play with, and I saw it as an opportunity to introduce him to numbers. For another idea how to do incorporating teaching while your kids play, read Thriving STEM’s post “How to Teach Math through Free Play“.
4. Play math games with you kid. My husband has always played math games with my son. The first game was a simple game of counting coins. Now the games he plays are things like seeing how far my son can add doubles. One of my new favorite websites for math games is Teach Beside Me. If your child is struggling to understand fractions, try one of these games from Teach Beside Me. If division is a difficult concept for you child, try one of these fun ways to teach division. Show your child math is fun, and watch as their minds start grasping math concepts quicker!
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5. Use technology to help you. While most of us try to limit screen time, kids are still going to want time with their iPads. Instead of fighting, use technology to your (and their) advantage. Help them find apps that have puzzles or patterns they need to identify. Turn on YouTube videos that will explain math in fun and inventive ways. Make screen time a time to improve their math skills. Find an online tutor to help them understand a skill better. Try using one of these math apps, or find one from this list of 100 learning apps!
6. If you can’t help your child with their math, then find someone who can. When I was in middle school I struggled with grammar. My mom’s first language was Spanish, so grammar was not her strong suit, but instead of telling me she wasn’t good at it, and leave it at that, she worked with my English teacher to set up after school tutoring. Most of your kids teachers will provide free after school tutoring, a great time when your child will receive one-on-one attention from their teacher and be able to work on the areas of math they are struggling with. The key is not to say “This is too hard for Mommy”. Instead tell you child “We will find someone to help us”. Then its more like you and your child are doing something together, instead of them seeing math as something impossible to do.
All parents know our kids are little sponges who soak up everything we do. Its the reason we watch what we say around them, and try to set a good example. We need to keep this in mind when it comes to learning too. In order for our kids to see a career in STEM (specifically Engineering) as an option, they will need to see math as fun, and not impossible. Their biggest influence is their parents. If you’re a stay at home mom like me, YOU are their biggest influence. Help your children see math, not as something to fear, but as a fun tool necessary in everyday life.
Interested in teaching your kids about other STEM subjects? Read a few of my other posts!
5 Simple Ways to Make Math Fun
Teach Your Kid to be a Mechanical Engineer!
Teach Your Kid to be a Project Engineer!
Teach Your Kid to be a Reliability Engineer!
Be a Process Engineer: Play “How’s it Made?”
Learn about Forces at the Splash Park!
Exploring Energy: How are Height and Distance Related?
An Explosive View of a Dinosaur
10 Books that Inspire Kids to be Engineers
Toys that Teach Engineering
11 Engineering Toys for Girls!