A little over three years ago, when our daughter was just three years old, we picked her up from school and she cried in the backseat, “No one in my class has curly hair except for me.” That was the last day I straightened my hair.
I felt an incredible amount of guilt that my daughter had this gorgeous head of curly hair that I wanted her to love, but I had been smoothing out my own frizzy curls to fit into societal views of what beautiful hair should like. So, I decided to set the example I wanted my daughter to follow – be confident with myself and embrace what you have. I researched how to care for and style curly hair properly and found the Curly Girl Method, which has taught me so much about the care that curly hair needs. Now I rock my curls and so does she!
What does this have to do with math?
I’d like to draw a parallel now to our attitudes toward math as parents. Imagine the common scenario that takes place in many North American homes: your child comes home from school and says something synonymous to “I can’t do math.”
How do you react?
If you grew up struggling with math yourself, it would be temping to reassure your distraught child that you also had trouble with math in the same way that I could have told my daughter that I also hated my own curly hair because the world loves long, smooth locks. Instead, what if we, as parents, go outside our comfort zone and offer to learn the math together? Envision, now, the learning that could happen and the culture that we could build within our homes. This would send a message that, regardless of how we feel about something, if we put in meaningful work, we can overcome barriers and make progress. And our children will see that we are also life-long learners.
Here are some examples of how we can rephrase our thoughts for more productive progress instead of helping our children create barriers to their learning:
Children will believe something if they see it, so we must lead by example – not just with our attitudes about math, but in all aspects of our lives.
Keep spreading the math love <3