Comparing how parents support learning to read versus learning math.
Why do you want your child to become proficient in reading? I have asked this question of hundreds of parents and the answers always include: “to experience the joy of reading,” “to learn to love books,” and sometimes, “to be able to function in adult life.” When I ask them how their child is motivated to learn to read and what they do to encourage it, they say, “reading aloud,” and “provide the kind of reading materials my child enjoys.”
When I ask the same questions about math, parents typically say things like: “I want my child to learn math so he can understand money, get into college, get a job, handle her finances, do well on tests.” To motivate their children, they try to find the best math books they can and they make them do their math on a regular basis.
Comparing their approach to reading with the typical approach to math, it is clear that parents don’t typically put “joy” and “mathematics” together as either goal or motivation even when they do that when it comes to reading. Why not?
You might want to stop here and think a bit about your own attitude toward math. What are your goals for your children in learning math? What do you wish for them? How do you support or encourage them? Lots of times people are really not all that clear on why they even care if their kids learn math; they’ve just accepted it that it is important, and they really can’t articulate why that is – especially beyond some pretty simple arithmetic that is used in everyday life. Few parents find math enjoyable and few feel very competent in math themselves. It’s no wonder that math is the subject homeschooling parents worry about most. And it’s no wonder that they find it hard to support mathematics learning in the same encouraging and enjoyable way they do reading.
Becoming aware of our own math hang-ups can help us set them aside so that we can appreciatively enjoy and happily support what our children bring into our lives, even when it involves math.