Math skills can be a major predictor of both academic and career success, particularly in an increasingly technological society. The United States Department of Education predicts higher-than-average job growth in math-related careers through 2020, offering parents a significant incentive to encourage their children’s interest in math.
Learning Math Through Play
To explore how math-related play and storytelling might affect math performance, researchers gave 587 first-grade students an iPad installed with a version of the Bedtime Math app. The app encourages parents and children to read math-related stories, then solve problems with counting, shapes, and other math-related topics. A control group of children received an app focused on reading comprehension rather than math skills.
Parents whose responses to a survey suggested high levels of math anxiety saw an added benefit. Their children’s improvements in math achievement were even more dramatic. Math anxiety can affect math performance and may inhibit critical thinking. A 2014 study found that people who feel anxious about math are less adept at understanding health-related information. For parents concerned about how their math anxiety might affect their children, a math game could be a powerful antidote.
What Else Can Parents Do?
Grace Malonai, PhD, LPCC, is a California psychotherapist who specializes in work with children and their families. Malonai suggests parents become involved in their children’s math learning to encourage higher achievement.
“Parent involvement can make an important difference when it comes to promoting lifelong learning skills and building interest and confidence in the subjects of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM),” Malonai says. “When parents engage in these topics alongside their children, show interest in their children’s homework, and importantly, choose STEM subjects to read out loud to their younger children, they actively engage and model the value of these topics.”
For parents who are eager to offer their children the benefits of reading about math, Malonai suggests the following books:
- Sir Circumference and the First Round Table
- The Grapes of Math
- The Life of Fred
- The Best of Times
- Sir Circumference and the Dragon of Pi
- Math story time at home bolsters achievement in school. (2015, October 8). Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/10/151008152222.htm
- Science, Technology, Engineering and Math: Education for Global Leadership. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.ed.gov/stem
- Swayne, M. (2014, February 27). Math anxiety factors into understanding genetically modified food messages. Retrieved from http://news.psu.edu/story/305836/2014/02/27/research/math-anxiety-factors-understanding-genetically-modified-food
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