Let's be clear that people do not fall into two math categories: bad at math and good at math. We tend to classify ourselves this way early on, forgetting that we can grow over the course of our lives and that math is not a fixed skill that we're either born with or we aren't.
Our perceptions of being "bad at math" were formed in one point of time underneath the weight of shame, confusion, and frustration. When you free yourself from those negative emotions, you'll realize you aren't bad at math, but you had bad experiences surrounding math. And when we do that, we can teach math confidently to our children. Here are some ways to teach math when you think you're bad at it.
1. Free Yourself From the "Bad at Math" Label
It is true that math comes more naturally to some people than others. Dyscalculia affects one's ability to learn math similarly to how dyslexia affects one's ability to read. However, the stats on dyscalculia are low: it affects about 1 in 20 people. So, for those of us without dyscalculia, our trouble with math is more psychological than anything else.
Dig in deep to figure out when and why you developed the idea that you were bad at math. Was it a frightening teacher that took the joy out of math for you? Did you have a bad experience with timed facts tests? Identify the source, and you'll find that you can overcome that specific situation as an adult. You no longer have to deal with difficult teachers or suffer the stress of timed facts tests.
2. Learn From Past Mistakes
If a bad grade or the shame of finishing a timed facts test last are the source of your "bad at math" label, remind yourself that you don't have to deal with either of those things anymore, and you don't have to teach your child in that way. The painful mistakes that were present in your own math education can be used to help you know what NOT to do. For me, some of those are:
-Using shame when your child doesn't understand, in hopes to shame them into paying attention or trying harder
- Getting frustrated when your child doesn't understand
- Making math's focus about getting the right answer instead of pointing out joy in the patterns and processes
- Pressuring your child to learn something on your timeline and not theirs
3. Take On The Role Of Learner, Not Teacher
Now that you've identified why you feel like you're bad at math and what to avoid in your child's math education, let's talk more about how to teach math. You don't have to be an expert to teach new skills. We can humble ourselves and allow our children to learn with us, and not solely from us.
To take on this posture, we will have to admit that we don't know it all, that math intimidates us, but show our children that it's possible to learn something that we don't feel comes naturally to us.
We are blessed with an abundance of math resources available to us- YouTube videos, hands-on tools, curriculum, tutors... Tap into some of these resources with your children and learn together. I'll share more about these later in this math series.
Related: Family Time Math for Morning Time
4. Avoid "Drill and Kill"
It might be tempting to want your child to really get a concept down because you feel inadequate in an area, and with that comes the temptation to "drill and kill": overdoing a concept with excessive drills and practice because you think it will help your child get better at it. The hard part of this is that it probably WILL help your child improve in a math concept, but that it will probably also kill your child's love of learning math.
You don't have to do every problem in a math curriculum. When you're sure that your child understands a concept, moving on is wise because it allows them time to process what they've learned and to not feel bored about it. Which brings me to my next point:
5. Let Ideas Lead
Many of us who proclaim to be "bad at math" also consider math to be extremely boring. This is why Charlotte Mason's approach to math is so intriguing to me. She believed that the ideas behind the concepts should lead instruction. Picking out a pattern or a rule is more valuable to a child than doing math problems. Whichever curriculum you use, make sure that you are really focused on the ideas it presents more than the problems. (My podcast co-host Amy is pretty much a math expert, so make sure to catch the Thinking Love Podcast about math )
I hope these ideas help you let go of your pre-conceived label and embrace learning new skills and concepts with your child!