Talking about math and engaging with your student about numbers is important, true math is learned by doing. However, there are countless studies which show that talking about math and numbers can spark an early interest in math and can decrease anxiety around math. Think about that for a moment the more we know about something and freer we feel to discuss it or even be wrong the less anxiety we have about that topic. So, how do we talk about math?
Keep in mind that math skills do NOT stop with memorizing math facts or solving equations. Math skills also include counting, comparing, sequencing, and discussing shapes. Discuss can get your student thinking about things in a way that never and you both can do calculations together.
Here are some tips to get you started talking about math with your student:
1.) Let them know you heard them- Restate what they have said and allow for clarification. This simple step also allows your student to hear their idea again and make sure it sounds right to them.
2.) Keep it simple and short- Math can easily become a long, and arduous discussion. Stay on topic with your student and let them show you how much new information they are ready for.
3.) Use examples/ tell stories- Most students would rather hear a story about how something works or why you need an answer then just solve a problem. If you are working something out don't be afraid to make up a story to go with it. Or look one up.
4.) Think time- Everyone needs time to think. Don't be afraid of the quiet, count to 5 or 10 in your head to give your student the time they need to digest information.
5.) Encourage deeper thinking- Talk about others way something could be solved or how you look at something another way.
6.) Tools and answers- It is okay to need to use the tools you have to find an answer. If don't remember what a parallelogram is let your student teach you or look it up together. If you or your student struggle with math facts use a calculator and make flashcards together so you can show your students how to improve. Teaching a student to use tools is more important than the right answer sometimes.
It has been documented that many people do not like to talk about and this is driving math anxiety. Consider having fun with math talk maybe even try a Bedtime math app for younger students and let your student see that even getting to a wrong answer can be valuable.