In everyday interactions with children, there are many things that parents can do—and do without lecturing or applying pressure—to help children learn to solve problems, to communicate mathematically and to demonstrate reasoning abilities. These skills are fundamental to learning mathematics.
Let’s look closely at what it means to be a problem solver, to communicate mathematically and to demonstrate mathematical reasoning ability.
A problem solver is someone who questions, finds, investigates and explores solutions to problems; demonstrates the ability to stick with a problem to find a solution; understands that there may be different ways to arrive at an answer; and applies math successfully to everyday situations. You can encourage your child to be a good problem solver by including him in routine activities that involve math—for example, measuring, weighing, figuring costs and comparing prices of things he wants to buy.
To communicate mathematically means to use mathematical language, numbers, charts or symbols to explain things and to explain the reasoning for solving a problem in a certain way, rather than just giving the answer. It also means careful listening to understand others’ ways of thinking and reasoning. You can help your child learn to communicate mathematically by asking her to explain what she must do to solve a math problem or how she arrived at her answer. You could ask your child to draw a picture or diagram to show how she arrived at the answer.
Mathematical reasoning ability means thinking logically, being able to see similarities and differences in objects or problems, making choices based on those differences and thinking about relationships among things. You can encourage your child’s mathematical reasoning ability by talking frequently with him about these thought processes.