I often wonder if my daughter will view the occupational status of her parents through eyes of appreciation or resentment. Will she loathe the fact that teacher parents are more aware of the goings-on of their child’s academic life? Or perhaps she will more often appreciate that math homework help will be easy to come by at home? Both of these scenarios have the potential to have a positive impact on her achievement. However, I had a profound realization today that what actually will help my daughter be successful is maybe neither of those things. While she may not be able to get away with teenage class antics as easily as her peers whose parents are not teachers, I do not think that what my husband and I provide for our daughter’s intellectual growth is something that only teachers can give. ANY parent can engage in rich conversations with their children and see a growth mindset at work.
I want to give proper credit to Christopher Danielson for his Talking Math with Your Kids website and book that drew my attention to how I was interacting with my child mathematically. As a secondary teacher, I am grateful to have gotten a better understanding of how number sense develops in young children and how I can help foster that development. Danielson’s website, Talking Math with Kids has been invaluable in recognizing the everyday math conversation opportunities to have with my daughter.
Her preschool days have been spent at a Montessori school. Although the noodle necklaces, punch cards, and snips of paper are an everyday treat, I was particularly excited when Maria came home with this gem the other day:
Of course my immediate excitement was over the fact that the correct number of squares were colored for each number. But then I realized that there might be a rich math conversation potential involving that worksheet. But, I had no idea what to do with it. I threw it out on Twitter and got many great ideas, including:
Friday was Parent Day at Montessori Central, so I took this as an opportunity to talk some math with my kid. Luckily, I talked her into this same worksheet. We explored all kinds of great number-driven curiosities: which ones make squares, which ones make rectangles, which ones make neither? How many squares are left over after it’s colored? How are the rectangles for 2, 4, 6, and 8 alike?
I realized after that experience the limitations of the number worksheet. For instance, the numbers at the top, while providing an opportunity for “tracing,” don’t allow the learner to explore a particular number any further. I wanted Maria to explore more ways to color 6 boxes, but her 3.5 year old brain saw the “7” above the next 10-block and would not allow it. Some worksheet surgery might be in my future.
I do not think that being a teacher makes these conversations natural. I saw something was mathematically correct, but I didn’t have much experience with turning that into a real mathematically rich conversation with my daughter. I’m thankful for both the math teacher and parent twitter community for throwing ideas my way. Any parent is capable of taking something they like and turning it into a teachable moment. When interacting with our kids, we need to do less showing and more asking; less telling and more listening. She seems happy about it, doesn’t she?