Don’t Say It. . . .

I recently learned, while attending a very informative event for PBS Parents, that studies have shown that while parents are careful to always encourage their reluctant readers — even if they were (or are) reluctant readers themselves — the same is not true for math.

Parents state these words much more freely: “Math is hard,” or “I didn’t like math either.” We say it, and they hear it. It validates their struggle, and they lose their motivation to overcome that which is difficult for them.

Uh-oh — guilty.

Amanda, my fifth-grade daughter, does not enjoy math. She thinks it’s hard. With some of the “new math” that we have to do as homework, sometimes it feels hard to me. I know how to do division, but the boxes method? And let’s not even talk about the different ways she’s taught to understand how to sum fractions. I know my way to do it, but when they are learning a new technique, they have to at least try it out, which leaves me rather unhelpful as I try to decipher the process.

Amanda used to do well in math. The concepts come easily to her. It was only when she had to have that base of memorized facts that she began to falter. She was unwilling to put in the time that it takes to master addition, subtraction, multiplication, division. My ability to gloss over Amanda’s reluctance to excel in math was highlighted when Pops was here for a few days — my dad, who like us loves to read, but also happens to be a math geek.

“She needs to practice her math facts,” he proclaimed firmly after helping her with her homework for a couple of nights. “Every day,” he added to underscore his assertion.

Sure enough, they had their end-of-year speed and accuracy tests on multiplication, and Amanda didn’t do well. She didn’t think so, and her teacher didn’t think so either.

Division was coming up, so we practiced. Every day. We worked on it. She did some extra worksheets, and I quizzed her while I was making dinner.

Last week she took her division test. The first time she made 97% — answering all the questions in the allotted time frame, but missing one. “I’m mad I missed that one,” she said, “but if we don’t get 100%, we take it again.”

Now that’s more like it. She called Pops to share the good news. He was proud, but the more important thing was that she was proud of her accomplishment as well.

The Cyberchase online content is award-winning. It increases by level as your child is ready for it. In addition to that, it’s fun. Studies show that both the show and the online content appeal to boys and girls of a wide age range, and regardless of any particular affinity for math. It also promotes positive attitudes towards math, while delivering math they can use. If you want to reinforce or extend your child’s math skills, give the Cyberchase online content a try, and watch the all-new Father’s Day episode (check channel for times).

I am definitely going to make sure that Amanda keeps those newly-memorized math facts in mind. Yes, we’ll be reading like fiends this summer, but I want her to continue to feel confident in her ability to do math.


For your younger child, I’ll be posting soon about ways to use SuperWhy to learn along with media.

This Saturday, June 13, head to Toys R Us for an in-store SuperWhy Play Day event, with free gifts and activities, in conjunction with the launch of the SuperWhy line of educational toys.

Contact your individual store for details.

It’s true, contributing editor Jennifer Donovan was just like her daughter — good at math up to a point, but not as interested in numbers as words. She’s managing editor at 5 Minutes for Books and blogs at Snapshot.


  1. says

    My son’s school uses the online program “First in Math,” and he can play from home as well. I think that the design of fun games makes him feel like he’s not practicing math facts! :)

  2. says

    I like math! My granddaughter always make sure she does her math at my house because I “get it” LOL Try It has lots of math games that are fun!

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