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Sandburg Elementary School

2051 Wabash
Springfield, IL 62704

Sandburg: How to Respond When Your Child Says, "I'm not good at math."

March 18, 2019

When it comes to math, research shows that attitude matters. So when you hear your child say, “I’m bad at math,” you want to nip that self-defeating attitude in the bud. Here’s what an expert has to say:

Respond with, “Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean you’re not good at it.”      

Many kids associate being “good at math” with catching on quickly. But math is a skill that is acquired over time. Everyone can learn math. And everyone can get better at math. It’s important that kids understand this, because research shows that kids who think their intelligence and ability are things they can grow with effort outperform kids who think those qualities are fixed. 

Parent coach and psychologist Erica Reischer says parents should focus on noticing how you talk to your kids about achievement and success. “What kind of things are we paying attention to and acknowledging them for? Is it the thing that they get really fast? Or is it the thing that they strove to master and achieve?” she says. While praising your child for “being smart” or “being good at math” may seem like positive reinforcement, it can (inadvertently) discourage your children from taking on challenging or hard work.

The goal, Reischer says, is “to emphasize the importance of skill development and the importance of process, as opposed to some kind of innate ability.”  To encourage your child to be comfortable making mistakes and take on difficult challenges, praise their effort, work process, and perseverance when they master a task that didn’t come easily. And when they say they can’t do a math problem, remind them that they can’t do it yet.

          ~ adapted from GreatSchools.com