What do your kids think about math? Perhaps more importantly, what do YOU think about the subject? Some studies have shown that a parent's view of math ("I'm so bad at math! "Oh I hated math in school...") can inadvertently rub off on your child, impacting their view of the subject and their ability to be successful. But lately we've been testing out an app that might help improve your whole family's view of math.
In a recent blog post on her Brilliant Blog, Annie Murphy Paul talked with mathematics expert and professor of education at Stanford University Jo Boaler about her new book Mathematical Mindsets and the lifelong impact that learning math can have on a person. In the post, Paul highlights some of her favorite quotes from Boaler's new book:
• “A high level of intensity of negative emotion around mathematics is not uncommon. Mathematics, more than any other subject, has the power to crush students' spirits, and many adults do not move on from mathematics experiences in school if they are negative. When students get the idea they cannot do math, they often maintain a negative relationship with mathematics throughout the rest of their lives.”
• “[The negative experiences that many people have with math flow] from one idea, which is very strong, permeates many societies, and is at the root of math failure and underachievement: that only some people can be good at math. That single belief—that math is a "gift" some people have and others don't—is responsible for much of the widespread math failure in the world.”
• “Another misconception about mathematics that is pervasive and damaging—and wrong—is the idea that people who can do math are the smartest or cleverest people. This makes math failure particularly crushing for students, as they interpret it as meaning that they are not smart.”
All this drives home one clear point: helping our kids build a positive view of math is vital to their long-term view of and success in math.
One way we are trying to remove the stigma and fear surrounding math in our household is with the Bedtime Math app. Designed by a Laura Bilodeau Overdeck, a mom of two with a BA in astrophysics from Princeton University and an MBA in public policy from the Wharton School, this free app provides a daily math problem for the family to solve.
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Available through the App Store and Google Play, each problem starts with a short paragraph that includes some interesting fun facts - as you can see, today's is on peacocks; yesterday's talked about biggest ever cup of hot cocoa, served appropriately in a swimming pool. The fun facts help to peak the interest of kids (and adults too!) and set the stage for the math problems.
What follows are three math riddles at different levels - there is a Wee One level that deals with easy addition and subtraction and other basic math concepts like simple geometry. This is usually perfect for my 5-year-old (or sometimes a bit easy) and even could work for ages 2 or 3 with help. Then there is a Little Kids question and a Big Kids question, both of which have a secondary bonus question too. The Little Kid question is pretty suitable for ages 6-8 with the Big Kid question perfect for my 9-year-old and sometimes the last bonus question requiring the whole family to get out paper and figure out the answer! The questions help build kids' mental math skills and develop their confidence with numbers in a fun, daily practice.
While it's called Bedtime Math, we do it at the end of dinner most nights and the kids regularly remind me about it since they enjoy it so much. And it's more than anecdotal evidence from my dining room - a recent study published in Science magazine found that the app actually improves your child's math abilities. Over the course of one 9-month school year, students who do bedtime math gain on average the equivalent of a 3-month advantage over their peers. Even more good news? The study found that the approach even works if the "parents have math anxiety and generally shy away from discussing math with their children."
One app + one family = 2 much fun!
So what are you waiting for? The app is free, it will bring about family bonding, AND it's been proven to improve your child's math skills. Try it tonight and let us know what you think!
Visit BedtimeMath.org to see the daily question online and to check out their other math options like bedtime books and after-school math clubs.
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