megan dash picIf I had a dime for every time a parent rationalized their child’s difficulty in math with their own, “but-I-was-always-bad-at-math” story, I’d be able to retire already! Some students find learning math to be difficult because of its concrete nature and building block structure.  Others find it comforting for the same reasons. Overall, children of all ages, grade levels, and genders report hating math. Inside of the classroom, not only do we fight the “I-hate-math” attitude, we continue to fight gender stereotypes about the subject–boys are good at math and girls are not.

Larry Martinek, founder of Mathnasium, wrote, “Children don’t hate math. What they hate is being confused, intimidated, and embarrassed by math. With understanding comes passion, and with passion comes growth – a treasure is unlocked.” (Mathnasium LLC, 2018)

So, how can we change your child’s attitude about math, their “MATH-itude”? Here are 5 easy steps you can take right away:

Eliminate math from the naughty words list.  When talking about math, you don’t have to be overly excited, but it shouldn’t be a curse word in your home. Make your problem-solving and mathematical thinking visible to your child.  Explain your thinking, your challenges, and your solutions. Understanding the process may make the solution seem less intimidating.

Ask for their mathematical assistance.  Students retain math skills best when learned in context. Ask your child to help you solve a real-life math problem to solidify mathematical problem solving and creative thinking skills. For example, how many gallons of paint do you think we will need to cover all four walls in two bedrooms? Why do you think the speed limit decreases when we are going downhill? What is the most efficient way to rearrange the furniture in your bedroom to allow for the most open play space?

Share your love of learning.  When you are excited about learning–not just math–your children notice it.  They seek engagement and modeling. Take mathematical risks and share them with your children.  Invest money, deposit the coins you’ve been saving, try a new recipe but convert some of the measurements as a fun challenge!

Praise them. It’s okay to acknowledge good grades, but we don’t praise grades, we praise people! Ask about and discuss your child’s EFFORT, not their grades. Success isn’t always about the end result, rather the process, which leads to a richer learning experience. When children share their thinking and hear adults praise them, they begin to believe what they are saying is true.

Measure your math-itude.  What kind of message are you sending your child? Identify what is making you confused, intimidated, or embarrassed and acknowledge it out loud. Then actively and openly look for a solution. Be an example of perseverance and embracing the process.

And remember, “If you don’t like something change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” Maya Angelou

 ~Megan Dash, Special Educator, City Neighbors Charter School~

kim spears picThe beginning of the school year has always been an exciting time for me.  My family likes to tell the story of my older sister’s first day of kindergarten.  My parents made sure to get me a backpack and lunchbox so that I didn’t feel left out. Teaching allows me to enjoy that “back-to-school” feeling over and over again.

When most people think about starting school, they imagine teachers giving hours of lectures about rules and regulations. To be honest, we spend a fair amount of time setting high expectations for the year, but that’s certainly not all.

At City Neighbors, we embrace the fact that much of the students are reuniting for the first time in months. September is a very social time during which students have the opportunity to share about their summers, play team building games, create art together, focus on social and emotional learning, and transition back into school routines. There is special time set aside for making new connections and strengthening old ones. Some teachers and students are getting to know one another for the first time and other teachers and students are getting to know one another in new and deeper ways.

Something that I hear from a lot of parents is, “Whenever I ask my child about their day, they say ‘It was good’ or ‘It was fine.’” My colleagues and I usually laugh and feel the need to fill everyone in on all of the acting, singing, painting, dancing, reading, and writing that happens all over the building. There are many great articles online about questions that families can ask their children after school. Here is a list of ten conversation starters from Scholastic.com:

  1. Tell me about the best part of your day.
  2. What was the hardest thing you had to do today?
  3. Did any of your classmates do anything funny?
  4. Tell me about what you read in class.
  5. Who did you play with today? What did you play?
  6. Do you think math [or any subject] is too easy or too hard?
  7. What’s the biggest difference between this year and last year?
  8. What rules are different at school than our rules at home? Do you think they’re fair?
  9. Who do you sit with at lunch?
  10. Can you show me something you learned [or did] today at school?

Going back to school can bring up many different emotions for different people, but teachers and staff work together to help students start strong. The beauty of a new year is a chance to start fresh and set new goals. It’s been a long time since I was that toddler standing in the front yard, clutching my school supplies.  But I’ve managed to hold onto that same feeling of joy and anticipation. It is my deep hope that the City Neighbors community will continue to be a place that sparks that same joy in the students who walk through our doors.

~Kim Spears, 4th and 5th Grade Literacy and Social Studies Teacher, City Neighbors Charter School~

shyla picWhen Ralphie turned in his masterpiece, “What I Want for Christmas” theme essay in the 1983 film, A Christmas Story, he envisioned his teacher, Miss Shields, clutching his essay to her chest and exclaiming “

Oh! The theme I’ve been waiting for all my life. Listen to this sentence: ‘A Red Ryder BB gun with a compass in the stock, and this thing which tells time.’ Poetry! Sheer poetry, Ralph! An A+! He daydreamed of his classmates carrying him around on their shoulders, celebrating his enormous accomplishment.

Ralphie was seeking, as all students do, validation for his personal vision, hard work, and desires from his teacher.  Unfortunately, Raphie’s vision was met with both a C+ and a discouraging postscript from Miss Shields, “You’ll shoot your eye out.” The angelic Miss Shields suddenly became the Wicked Witch of the West in his mind, and he went home feeling dejected.

On the first day of school this year, I held back tears as each student was given a flower upon entering City Neighbors Hamilton–a tradition at all three City Neighbors schools–that was added to a vase in each classroom, becoming part of a large class bouquet. This moment was the inaugural moment of the new school year as well as the culmination of a summer’s worth of preparation and planning.

Just a week prior, teachers sat in a circle engaged in a critical discussion of the value and possible danger of the typical question, “What did you do this this summer?”  Just as Ralphie felt rejected for his honest desires and experiences in his essay, teachers worried about the student who looked forward to school marking the end of a difficult summer or the student who experienced personal traumas that couldn’t be penned in an essay. Instead, teachers brainstormed alternative back-to-school questions such as “What do you look forward to this year?” or “What did you do to take care of yourself over the summer?” Our teachers recognize that each bouquet is made up of individual flowers, some may need tending and some may need to be left alone—but all add unique beauty to the bunch.

~Shyla Rao, Principal, City Neighbors Hamilton~

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