This week’s guest post is from Laura Larson. Laura serves as Explorations in Math’s Board Chair and founded Explorations in Math around a kitchen table 9 years ago. If you would like write a guest post, please contact Dave Gardner.
Last week I saw an ad for tutoring services that made me laugh out loud. A teenage son is doing homework and we hear him calling loudly, “Mom, I need help with my math homework”. Panic stricken, she turns around, runs out of the house and down the street…until at last she reaches the tutoring center, where help is found. I think that ad tapped into a (seemingly) fundamental parental truth: ask me about anything you want, just don’t ask me to help with your math homework.
When my children were quite young, I read an article discussing an experiment. Scientists had created a glass floor for babies to crawl across, parent waiting on the other side. They discovered that if parents were encouraging and confident, the babies would crawl across. If, on the other hand, the parents expressed worry and concern, the babies refused to cross and started to cry.
As a parent you may or may not have the math skills to help your child with their homework, be it 3rd grade or advanced algebra. But what you do have is the ability to confidently express your belief that your child will be successful. Our children look to us, more than we realize sometimes, for clues on what to expect. “Is this something I can do, or not,” they wonder. Is math for some people, but maybe not me? Maybe you’re not sure.
But one thing we do know is everyone can do math. Difficulties and even getting things wrong the first time, are the mental challenges upon which all learning is built. Your voice, your assurance that yes, this problem has a solution and one way or the other, success will be theirs, can make the difference between a child who gives up on their chances and one who’ll stop at nothing. If persistence is the key to success, our children must know and believe that they are capable of reaching the other side. Remind them that the harder the problem, the better they’ll feel once they find the solution. Sometimes the best help of all is your unwavering belief in them. Math matters to every child’s future. And your belief in their ability to succeed at math, matters too.