TVOParents asked mathematician and JUMP Math founder John Mighton to share his top tips for parents who want to help their child enjoy and succeed at math. JUMP Math stands for Junior Undiscovered Math Prodigies and is a program used by thousands of students in classrooms across Ontario, Canada and the world.
The JUMP Math program helps kids master math by breaking it down into smaller pieces and encouraging practice of those math concepts in different ways. A key goal is to shatter the idea that some kids are naturally good at math and others aren't. Preliminary results yet to be published by researchers at the Hospital for Sick Children and the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education show the math knowledge of kids using JUMP math grew at twice the rate of kids using the incumbent math program in their classrooms. The US Department of Education has now given the research team a $2.7 million grant to continue its study.


John Mighton's Top 7 Tips:

  1. Do some confidence-building exercises:

    It’s important to make all kids feel capable in math, Mighton says. Try engaging your child in some confidence building exercises. For instance, have them add together two numbers that are 3 or 4 digits long, but only require regrouping (formerly called ‘carrying’ a number) with the digit in the ‘ones’ column. For example, 1425 + 4265. “Kids universally respond to this,” he says. “They go nuts.” More examples of Mighton's confidence-building exercises can be found here.

  2. Make sure your kids know their ‘number facts':

    It turns out knowing the basics, such as which pairs of numbers add up to 5 and the multiplication tables, is more important than some have thought in recent years. A child who doesn’t remember the basics will always feel overwhelmed and won’t be able to see patterns or make predictions, Mighton says. So spend time making sure your child really understands these basics before moving on to more complex concepts.

  3. Use ‘manipulatives’ to bring math off the page:

    Use household items to help explain concepts, such as using beads to reinforce understanding of grouping in multiplication and division. “Help them to touch and feel the numbers, shapes, all of it,” says Mighton. 

    However, Mighton cautions that math exercises with concrete materials aren’t enough. “They are important,” he says, but kids need to learn their number facts on the page too. 

  4. Get the kids involved in the math of life:

    Give your kids money to pay for things, count out the change, and learn the basics of how money works. Also, get your kids involved in measuring things in the kitchen while cooking, Mighton says. “This is phenomenally important,” he says.

  5. Make math a game whenever possible:

     Play card games with your child. Play the Go Fish card game. Play Snakes and Ladders with your younger child. You can make card games more challenging as the child progresses by doing things like having the child ask for a number from the other player that adds up to ten when put together with a card already in the child’s hand.

  6. Make sure they master each level:

    Make sure your child feels confident at each level of difficulty before moving on to the next step. Feeling a sense of mastery is critical at each stage. If your child has been struggling with math, go back to the level at which he or she last felt confident and work up from there.

  7. Remember all kids can be ‘math prodigies':

    Challenge the idea that some people are good at math and others aren’t. Every child is an untapped math prodigy, says Mighton. When kids think they are not talented at something, their brains turn off, he says.

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