Changing the script: Math and children

Local retired instructor wants kids to love mathematics

Children will be successful in learning math if:

• They like math.

• They believe math is important.

• They want to do well in math.

• They believe they can do well in math.


Children initially come to school loving “math” activities (sorting, counting, organizing, ordering). They are inquisitive and active problem solvers!

Not only can parents encourage their young child’s enthusiasm for early math but they can influence their older child’s attitudes and beliefs about math.

The most important thing a parent can do to help their child is to say positive things about math. This is a necessary step to build a child’s confidence and competence in math. Unfortunately, negative messages often get communicated to children.

As an elementary teacher, I regularly met with parents and students. The parents, in front of their children, would regularly exclaim:

“Math was never really my thing. I hated it!” or “I am sure John inherited his math phobia from me!” or “I can see why Jill is struggling in math. I can hardly understand her textbook!” or “My wife has to help Emmy with her homework. I just don’t get all this new math stuff!”

Children are hearing these things from their parents and indirectly learning and thinking:

It’s OK to dislike math (because it’s scary and hard).

It’s OK not to understand math (because it’s confusing).

It’s OK not to do well in math (because it’s not that important or necessary in life).

What kinds of messages are these to give to our children!? And why do we continue to do this?

Communicating negative messages hinders our children’s progress, and it is something everyone can do something about…today!

Let’s change the script!


Greg Sparks, M.Ed, is a retired Adult Upgrading Instructor, Special Education Resource Teacher, Classroom Teacher, and Elementary Numeracy Coordinator. Please send any questions, comments and/or suggestions to: