5 Ways To Score Full Marks On a Math Test…Without Actual Grades!



Okay, we all know that math is a major cause of panic and near-meltdowns these days and that kids and parents alike are starting to question how to combat the often negative messaging kids get at school about their math abilities. Research has shown that by the age of 6, many kids have already decided that they can’t do math! One of the biggest flaws with the way we look at math is that we judge ability solely on the grades our kids get. However, to cultivate an attitude of ability, we need to look at so much more than that! Here are 5 ways we can celebrate mathematical successes, that don’t involve simply looking at the numbers!

Celebrate Progress Over Perfection

We have a tendency to decide that we’re aiming for a specific mark, and unless we get that mark, we’re not happy. Instead, try to focus on simply doing better! If your child got 60% on their last test, scoring 61% on their next test is worth celebrating!

High Fives for Problem Solving

We are so focused on the technical aspects of math in school that we often forget that the most valuable skill that math has to offer is a unique and creative approach to problem solving! If your child loses marks on a test for “not doing things the right way,” forget about it! Instead, focus on the fact that they tried to creatively solve a problem and that they showed the initiative to think outside of a box they may have felt trapped in. Encouraging kids to think creatively even when they feel unsure is a greater predictor of confidence and success later in life than rule-following and getting the “right” answer!

Get Excited About Mistakes

We all know this but it’s hard to remember in the moment: mistakes are our greatest teachers! Instead of sweating your kid’s mistakes, get them excited about them. Go through your child’s test with them and have them explain to you where they went wrong and how they plan on learning from their errors. Getting your kids pumped about their mistakes helps them feel less intimidated about test-taking in general, and more importantly, encourages them to try even if they don’t know the answers right away!

Get Better At Something Instead of Everything

Sometimes it can be overwhelming to look at a bad mark and feel like your kid is doing EVERYTHING wrong! The truth is, upon closer examination, there are usually a few concepts that your child maybe mucked up over and over again. Pick one of those things (maybe it’s confusion over BEDMAS, or forgetting to flip the second fraction when they divided, or one of many little teeny tiny things) and get your child pumped about being an expert on that ONE thing! Baby steps lead to giant leaps of faith!

Reward Mindset Shifts

One thing I always ask my students after I get an “ummm well I did okay on my test but didn’t get the grade I wanted” response is: “Were you calm? Did you freak out a little less than your last test? Did you avoid a meltdown?” If the answer is “yes,” that deserves a major high five! Part of nailing math is developing a confident, relaxed mindset. If your child panics less than they normally do, or feels less defeatist about not getting an A+ than they usually feel, well that’s a victory worth celebrating!

About the Author: Vanessa is the founder and director of The Math Guru, a super cool boutique math & science tutoring studio in Toronto. She is also the author of Math Hacks, a new book that totally makes math fun, stress-free and relatable for young kids and parents AND she is the host of a new podcast called Math Therapy, where Vanessa helps guests work through their math trauma, one problem at a time! Her #goals are to be Lady-Gaga-famous and to totally change math culture so that STEM is finally as cool and accessible as basically every single Taylor Swift song ever. She failed Grade 11 math twice, which was the best thing that ever happened to her. Sidenote but totally relevant: Vanessa is a founding member of Toronto indie-rock band Goodnight, Sunrise. Mindy Kaling is her idol and Vanessa believes that she should be yours too.  

Connect with Vanessa: @themathguru or vanessa@themathguru.ca. Find out more at www.themathguru.ca.

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