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Reflections from Katie: December 2018

What’s the big deal with math being fun? Why do Cambridgeport folks keep talking about bringing joy and fun to math? Many of us parents and grandparents grew up learning that math was about right and wrong answers, that math was something you are either good at or bad at, and that if you are good at it, you never get wrong answers. Many of us have learned that being good at math means being fast and memorizing a lot. And for those of us who think that way about math, there often came a time when we just weren’t fast enough or good enough at memorizing, and we stopped doing math. What I’ve been told by some of you who are mathematicians, or use math as an integral part of your work on a daily basis, is that you find joy and purpose in numbers. For you, math is NOT about right answers and memorizing. If we want opportunities in mathematics to truly be available for all of our children in their future, we need to help them find joy and purpose in math today.

The good news is that in classrooms around our school, there is definitely way more joy and purpose than there has been in the past. First grade students are counting collections as a way to build their conceptual understanding of numbers in the base ten system.

Fifth graders are figuring out the volume of a cubic yard by spontaneously deciding to build one in the middle of a math lesson. I will confess that I did not love math when I was growing up. I definitely believed that I was only good at it if I was fast, and I definitely believed that there was only ever one answer to math problems. But today, when I walk into our classrooms during math, I get so excited by what I see because our children are having a great time digging into really challenging concepts and ideas, and they are loving it!

I want to invite you to embrace this vision of math as something joyful and purposeful because your attitude about math makes a tremendous difference in the success of your children. In fact, I was just reading about a study that was aiming to understand the role that parents’ attitudes about math played in their children’s math learning. In summary, “They found the children of parents who showed high stress and fear around math learn less math from 1st to 3rd grades than children of parents who have no math anxiety.” The study was based on the idea of encouraging parents to do fun math games and stories with their children. The article went on to explain that it’s not that “playing math games with their children made parents more confident about math—the moms and dads who dreaded math at the beginning of the study still dreaded it three years later. So what changed? The parents were more confident in their children's math prowess. They developed higher expectations for their kids in math, and rated math as being more valuable for their children than they had before.”

My invitation to you to find joy and purpose in math with your children:
–Check out the articles I referenced above:

Article 1
Article 2
–Check out Bedtime Math apps 
–Check out Games for Young Minds
–Come hang out at Morning Math Club on Mondays and Wednesdays, 7:40-8:10AM
–Let me know what you discover!