By Lori MacKinder-Clyatt
“I was never good at math, so how can I help my child with school math?” you might wonder. Well, you are not alone! Many parents struggle with remembering multiplication facts, using fractions, and working with algebra or geometry. Of course, the first quick answer may be to simply hire a private tutor for the child. However, our task as parents does not have to stop there. In the home, there are four areas to offer math support for a student of any age, without ever doing a single math problem.
The first is to cultivate the child’s ability to form a clear mental image. This is sometimes called inner picturing, or seeing, in the mind's eye. Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, “If I can’t picture it, I can’t understand it.” This is the same for math. One way to strengthen a student’s ability to form mental pictures is to limit their exposure to external screens—television, movies, computer time, and video games—while engaging the child in memory games, reading books with few or no pictures, and imaginative play. In the absence of formed images, the mind has to create its own pictures.
Secondly, authentic positive feedback and genuine interest in a student’s work go a long way. Ask your child about what he is learning in math and take a real interest in his studies. Celebrate math successes! If you are “math-poor,” although you might choose to share that, keep the griping or negative comments as a private matter. Many times, children will adopt the beliefs of their parents. Search your memory for positive math experiences and share those with enthusiasm. Did you have a favorite math teacher? Did you enjoy the symmetry of nature or the exactness of measurements? Did you love counting money? Fill yourself with the love of math in an authentic way and do your best to take an interest in what is being studied in your child’s classroom.
The third area where parents can support the learning of math at school is through the support of the child’s health at home. Home health includes a simplified lifestyle with balanced nutrition, fresh air, exercise, and at least ten hours of peaceful sleep each night. Some foods that may help the math mind are grass-fed beef, organic chicken, wild salmon or tuna fish, almonds or almond butter, organic Greek yogurts, flax and fish oils, quinoa, and filtered water. Some foods that may hinder the math mind are simple carbohydrates (bread, rice, pasta), sweets, overly oily foods, and sodas.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, it is never too late to reinvent ourselves. We parents can re-learn math and find a love for the subject, even now. Very late in life, when he was studying geometry, someone said to Diogenes Laërtius (fl. early 3rd century), "Is it then a time for you to be learning now?”
"If it is not," he replied, "when will it be?"
Lori MacKinder-Clyatt resides in Billings, Montana.