SEDL Parent Tips: Encouraging Children to Become Comfortable with Math

October 4, 2007
Austin, Texas

Laura Shankland
Communications Associate
Phone: 512-391-6556

Many adults don’t like math. We dread it, we think we don’t “get it,” we avoid helping our children learn math. However, math is something we need to embrace, not avoid if we want our children to become comfortable with numbers and math. By linking math to real life activities parents can help their children practice math skills.

Como Molina, a program associate with SEDL’s Texas Comprehensive Center says, “We parents need to see math as the underlying discipline for all science and technology. Math provides students with the decision-making tools they need in everyday life as well in today’s job market. We need to realize its importance and help our kids become proficient at it.”

Molina says there are easy ways parents can help.

  • Make positive comments about math. For every parent who says math is difficult, there is a child who believes it.
  • Help children see that the process of solving a problem can be more important than the answer. There is often more than one way to solve a problem.
  • Realize that math instruction likely has changed since you were a kid. Today’s math instruction will probably focus more on the problem solving process
  • Explore math in real life. For example, bake cookies, design a garden, read a map, play a game. Cooking is the perfect opportunity to discuss measurements and fractions. While on a road trip, when children ask “Are we there yet?” Parents can answer, “We’ve driven 45 miles. Grandma’s house is 130 miles away, so how many more miles do we have left? If we drive 60 miles an hour, how much longer will we spend on the road?” At a restaurant, children can calculate how much a meal costs with a drink and dessert. They can also make change and determine how much tax or tip should be added to the bill.

Molina also reminds parents not just to focus on computation. “Geometry is important too,” he says. “You can find geometric shapes and symmetry everywhere. When out for a walk, look at different shapes. For example, beehives contain perfect hexagons.

Online resources for parents
The U.S. Department of Education has two guides online for math activities that parents can do with their children:

PBS has a Web page dedicated to early math skills: includes quite a few math games:

About SEDL

The Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (SEDL) is a nonprofit corporation based in Austin, Texas. SEDL is dedicated to solving significant education problems and improving teaching and learning through research, research-based resources, and professional development. For more information about SEDL, visit