Making Math Relevant,
Fun and a Positive Experience!

 by Nicole Stavro-Leanoff, Elementary School Teacher and Science Lead

There are many policy makers, researchers and educators who decide how your child learns Math, but parents should be the first to get involved and set a positive tone!

How can you get involved if you feel Math-phobic?

It’s important to understand that your role is not to teach your child mathematical concepts, but to help build your child’s belief in their own Math abilities. Students’ beliefs are correlated to their attitudes about Math and their achievement. When students develop confidence, they are more engaged and motivated to learn and take on challenging tasks. Modeling positive self-talk is key to promoting a growth mindset surrounding learning Math. Have you ever heard yourself say: “Don’t ask me to figure that out, I’m terrible at Math!” Or “I’m just not a Math person.” Modeling a positive growth mindset could sound more like: “I can get better if I practice.” Or “I’m not sure how to do it yet, but with time and effort I can learn.”


Growth Mindset Fixed Mindset
A growth mindset is the belief that one’s skills and abilities can grow and develop over time with practice and application. A fixed mindset is a belief that one’s abilities and intelligence are fixed traits we are born with and that cannot be altered.

Math is about more than just quickly getting the right answer. Math is about asking questions, making connections and the process of learning. If parents keep their eyes open they will see that Mathematical opportunities arise everywhere, all the time. Starting from a young age your children like to play, tell stories and ask questions about the world around them. Why not link Math to each of these actions in your daily lives?

With parent involvement we can help to improve students’ relationships with Mathematics and help make math relevant, fun and a positive learning experience for all children.

Learning Through Play

  • Counting, grouping, ordering and sorting objects or toys
  • Sidewalk chalk (number lines, skip counting, number sense)
  • Card games (greater than/less than, adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing)
  • Dice games (greater than/less than, adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing)
  • Chess (planning, predicting, analytical thinking skills)
  • Magic Tricks (Mathemagic by Linda Colgan)
  • Monopoly (arithmetic practice)
  • Poker (probability)
  • Online games and apps

Learning Through Story Telling

  • Telling stories about Mathematics and mathematicians can engage students in a creative realm. Stories may spark interest, assist in memory, and reduce anxiety.
  • Stories can help take abstract concepts in Math and present them in a visual way to children. They help to humanize or contextualize mathematics.
  • Example Activity: Create a picture book of visual narratives with your child to help develop math facts. Draw each situation to visualize the answer:

“Two birds sat on a wire and three more joined them. How many birds are on the wire now?”

 “Four cats sat by the window and one ran out of the house. How many are left in the house?”

There are three people and each person has two dogs. If they all go to the park, how many dogs are at the park?”

“There are ten cookies on a plate. If we share them evenly between two plates how many cookies are on each plate?”

  • Suggested Book Lists:


Learning Through Questioning and Real-Life Contexts


  • Ask questions about numbers in seen the world (street signs, news papers, flyers…)
  • Estimate
    • How much will groceries cost?
    • How long will a car trip take?
    • How far away is an object?
  • Measure
    • Cooking
    • How heavy is a can of soup?
    • How much water can fill the sink?
    • How tall is a bookshelf? How wide is a bench?
    • What is the perimeter/area of the carpet?
  • Calculate
    • How much change will we get back?
    • Which item costs more at the store?
    • Can you save 10% of your allowance each month?


Jo Boaler: Setting up Positive Norms in Math Class

Dr. Lynda Colgan: Making Math Children Will Love

Katie Kormanik: A greater role in math education for parents

Judy Willis: “I Hate Math” – Ways to Instill a Love of Math in Kids

University of Reading: Improve primary maths skills through storytelling

Rina Zazkis and Peter Liljedahl: Teaching Mathematics as Storytelling