I’ve never considered myself good at math. How can I help my child stay confident?


It is wonderful that you want to help your child have a more positive experience with mathematics than you had. To do this, it’s important to avoid telling your child that you were not “good at math” because your child may begin to believe that mathematics success is related to an innate talent, rather than practice and perseverance. When people believe that mathematics success comes from innate ability, they are more likely to give up when they encounter a challenging mathematics problem because they believe they just don’t have the ability to solve the problem. Children who believe that success comes from hard work are more likely to try their best to solve a difficult problem and to learn from the challenge.  To help your child stay confident, encourage him or her to work hard to solve challenging problems, and praise the effort rather than using praise that emphasizes ability. In other words, say “You worked hard at thinking through that problem!” instead of “You are so smart!” or “You’re so good at math!” As you support your child, you may even find yourself brushing up on your own mathematics skills and gaining more confidence yourself!

Jennie Ito, Ph.D.

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