Math Love: Getting Your Student Excited about Math

When I began teaching, math was the subject I dreaded.  I thought that kids hated math, and that would make it not fun to teach.  In reality, young students love math.  It is very concrete in elementary school and there are many hands on materials that teachers use to keep students engaged in learning.  As I changed grade levels, I noticed at some point, my students fell out of love with math.  It was “too hard,” “boring,” or “never going to be used.”  It was important to me to rekindle my students’ love for math. Yet because I didn’t love math myself, I felt challenged by this task.  As I began to teach math and find new resources, I developed a better understanding for the topic and my love for math grew.  Now it is one of my favorite subjects to teach!

It may seem like it is harder to find inspiration for encouraging students to love math than reading or other subjects, but there are actually great math resources out there to delve into just as there are great books for kids.   One trick that I have used to great success in my classroom is games.  My students loved to play games, especially against me.  Even simple dice games multiplying or adding the two numbers to see whose roll was the highest are exciting to students.  The math in life can be a game as well. Have your kids figure out the tip at a restaurant, or tell you how much you will pay if an item is 20% off.  Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that the discovery of how to do this yourself is actually quite exciting for students. And in that vein – encouraging that excitement is helpful as well. Math language can be so important – I never let myself say that a math concept is hard, or that I can’t do it- even to myself anymore.  Instead, I say this is a problem that takes a lot of thinking, or a problem that is really interesting. If it’s a real stumper, I say it is a problem I will have to come back to.

Meanwhile, the following short list of resources can be used to inspire an affection for math in your students at home.

Web Resources:

A Family’s Guide: Fostering Your Child’s Success in School Mathematics – Developed by The National Council for Teachers of Mathematics, A Family’s Guide is a great handbook for parents and guardians that begins with preschool and continues through grade 12.  This resource explains what your student needs to know at each grade level.  The guide also gives you some ideas on how to encourage your child to embrace their inner mathematician. 

MathMovesU – Parent Resources – The Parent Resource section of MathMovesU is a treasure trove of math education research, a dictionary of math terms, math games, and practice pages.  The games and practice pages link math to real world topics that are interesting to students, like sports and fashion.  The Mathionary is very helpful when you can’t remember some of those 7th Grade math terms.  Sponsored by Raytheon, information about scholarships can also be found on this website.

Math.com – Math.com is an awesome site for both students and parents.  You can get homework help, math lessons, or learn about online math courses for your student.  Your child can also use this site to practice math concepts from basic operations through calculus and statistics. 

Books:

The Number Devil – Young Robert’s dreams turn towards math, as he and the Number Devil solve problems related to numeration.  This humorous novel is sure to be a hit with your middle school student.  This book is in the same vein as The Phantom Tollbooth and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

The Man Who Counted: A Collection of Mathematical Adventures – First published in 1938, The Man Who Counted is full of real life mathematics.  The hero uses math to solve problems and settle conflicts.  While appropriate for upper elementary students, middle school students will enjoy seeing how math can be applied to solve real problems.

I Hate Mathematics Book – The opposite of a math textbook, I Hate Mathematics book is filled with math games and puzzles.  This book includes lots of ways to trick family members and friends using math, including how to cut a cake into 11 pieces with just four cuts. 

Toys:

4M Math Magic Puzzles and Games – A set of more than 15 math tricks and puzzles, this kit will get your student thinking about math in a fun way.  Do one or two yourself to amaze your child, and then let him or her amaze you!  Challenge your child to explain how the tricks work.

Prime Club – Prime Club is a beautiful, award-winning math game that will charm your whole family.  The color-coded board game helps make learning multiplication and division easy.  Ask you student how they solved problems to check for mathematical understanding.

Three Sticks – A board game that focuses on the mathematical concept of geometry.  Practice geometric concepts without using terms, or as an added challenge, discuss the geometric ideas they use.  An additional challenge would be to find the area and perimeter of the shapes.

Apps:

Algebra Touch – A great review app for pre-algebra and algebra, this app has both an explanation for a concept followed by a practice session.  Students can practice simple to complex algebra topics using this app.  It is available for $1.99

Math 42 – This app is great resource for your middle or high school student.  With step by step guides, in app graphing calculators, and test modes, your student can practice for in class assessments or the SATs.  This app is available by monthly subscription.

Number Line – An award-winning app, Number Line focuses on fractions, decimals, and percentages.  These concepts can be very abstract for some students, but this app makes practicing them fun and engaging.  Number Line is a free app.

Keeping your child’s love of math alive as it begins to get more abstract is key to ensuring future math success.  Make math fun, relatable, and a part of your daily routine. These recommendations can be used to encourage and engage your student in math outside the classroom.  Inside the classroom, hopefully teachers who have rediscovered their own love for math can keep that love going. I know it’s become a pleasure for me!

By Laura Rowe – A certified elementary and middle school teacher who came in loving reading and writing, and now loves math and science too!

Have you or your kids struggled with this? If so, we'd love to hear about it and strategies you took to overcome it in the comments below!

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