Your girl’s math superpower is her unique blend of strengths, skills, interests, and inclinations that determine how she learns best.
We often teach math in just one way. When that way doesn’t work for girls, it doesn’t mean she’s bad at math…she just needs to learn it differently.
Her “math superpower” is her way of thinking and making sense of math. It’s how her brain works. When she’s able to learn in a way that works for her, she feels energized & excited. Math feels natural; it just *clicks*.
It may not be possible to totally change her math environment to fit her learning style, but even a few powerful tweaks can make big changes happen.
Let’s take a look at each of the math superpowers–the Mathematical Marvel, the Mighty Meaning Maker, and the Playful Problem Solver–and discover simple things you can do to help your girl thrive in math.
The Mathematical Marvel
The Mathematical Marvel LOVES math and has been good with numbers from day one.
She seems to understand math almost intuitively. Numbers are a language that make sense to her. She loves the predictability, the satisfying simplicity of following a rule and getting the right answer.
Her mind loves doing the mental gymnastics of figuring out a problem, often astounding you with the creative ways she arrives at a correct answer. She’s excited about what she’s learned or accomplished, and cannot wait to tell you about it.
She often astounds you with the creative ways she arrives at a correct answer.
People say she’s “good at math”. Adults call her “gifted”. But this easy relationship with math has a flip side: she starts to think that she HAS to be the fastest & best. She begins to think she’s not supposed to make mistakes.
Perfectionism equals stress, and stress eats away at her joy. She may start to avoid harder math because she is so worried about getting a problem wrong.
She may feel anxious and even believe she’s bad at math when she can’t live up to her own standards of perfection and excellence.
A few tips to help your Mathematical Marvel make the most of her superpower:
- Instead of praising her for being smart, gifted, or good at math, praise her for taking on a challenge, or sticking with a hard problem.
- Tell her to take all the time she needs to do her very best work. Make it clear that speed is not important to you (even if it has been in the past).
- Ditch the speed tests. If she really wants a quiz, call it an “untest”–it’s only for learning and growing; mistakes don’t count.
- Ask, “Was that problem too easy, too hard, or just right?“
- If she’s not making mistakes, she’s not learning. Tell her she is supposed to be making a few mistakes; it’s a sign her brain is growing.
- Play math games together! It’s a great way to bypass anxiety and bring back her joy in math.
The Mighty Meaning Maker
The Meaning Maker loves story, pictures, patterns and connections. She is visual, creative, and imaginative–skills that make her an incredible problem solver and an observant mathematician.
A nonconformist by nature, the Meaning Maker hates having to learn math rules, and finds memorization random and pointless.
She really wants math to make sense. She wants to know WHY. Without that meaning, fact lists and formulas slip right out of her head.
She could memorize all the right things and get straight A’s in math class, but she will still believe she’s bad at math if she doesn’t understand why it works.
Of all the superpowers, the Mighty Meaning Maker is the one most likely to be labeled “bad at math” because traditional math teaching so clearly does not work for her.
She could get all A’s and STILL believe she’s bad at math if she doesn’t understand why it works.
The Meaning Maker needs to think about math in pictures, not simply as numerical symbols, in order for it to make sense. She needs to make connections with the real world and see how different types of math relate to one another.
The Mighty Meaning Maker has an awesome, joyful superpower, and she will thrive in math when she’s able to learn in a way that works for her:
- Instead of telling your daughter, “Mommy’s bad at math,” say, “I’m learning too. We’ll figure this out together.”
- If she says, “I can’t do it,” or “It doesn’t make sense,” add the word yet. “It doesn’t make sense…yet.“
- Draw a picture to explain a math problem.
- Ask, “What do you notice? What do you wonder? What patterns do you see?“
- Play math games together! It’s the fastest way to overcome anxiety, plus she gets to have fun and connect with YOU.
- Be up front and matter of fact about the fact she learns math differently. Let her know you’re on the lookout for games, projects, and pictures that will help her learn math.
The Playful Problem Solver
This girl overflows with exuberant puppy energy–bouncy, silly, and full of fun!
The Playful Problem Solver needs big, open spaces to run and jump, or maybe turn cartwheels. (Sitting still is not one of her stronger points!)
She’s a social kid who loves to talk and play with friends. She HATES to be bored.
Flash cards and memorization are boring. Sitting still, being serious, and keeping quiet for minutes on end? Boring!
Sitting still is not one of her stronger points. 😉
Her relationship with math has very little with whether or not she can do the work. It has way more to do with how it’s taught and how she’s expected to learn it.
She will not magically turn into a serious, studious kid, glued to her chair with her mouth shut while she listens attentively to a math lesson. It’s just not her, and it’s not how she learns best.
Her superpower is energy and enthusiasm, and a boundless sense of fun. When that momentum is channeled into learning math in a way she loves, the transformation is incredible.
Here are some things you can do to make the most of her superpower:
- Play math games together. Dice games, card games, outdoor games…she’ll be up for almost any math learning as long as it happens in a game.
- Be a little silly. Change a word problem to make it funny. Let her draw a happy face after each answer she gets right.
- Give her a 3-minute cartwheel break after working hard for 15 minutes. She’ll get more done and give her body the movement it needs.
- Let her work with a partner and solve problems together. She’ll like math so much more if it’s a social activity.
- Ask how she would make math more fun. You’ll get some impossible ideas, and maybe a few crazy-awesome ones too.
Making the Most of Your Girl’s Math Superpower
Whether your girl is straight-up one of the superpower types, or some creative combo of all of the above, there’s a way of learning math that totally resonates for her and works for her unique math mind.
It may be pictures, projects, or art. It could be puzzles, or games, or movement. Focus on making math meaningful and fun, and you can’t go wrong.
The main thing to remember is that if your daughter isn’t joyfully embracing math, the problem is NOT with her; she just needs to learn math differently.
Have a question? Thoughts about your girl’s superpower? Leave a comment below–I’ll respond in person and would love to hear where she is on her math journey!