I can’t do it… yet!

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Yes You Can Do It!

I still remember the headteacher at my infant school booming, "There's no such word as can't!"

At the age of 5, one of my classmates told the head that they couldn’t tie up their shoelaces and immediately got short shrift from the headteacher. She boomed so loudly that everyone in the class fell silent. 

"My 12 year old hates maths!"

"I'm no good at big numbers."

These are two comments that I’ve heard in the last couple of days and they are typical of comments that I hear every day when speaking to parents and children about maths. I’m sure you’ve heard your child make a similar comment too.

I'm no good at maths

Maths mindset is so important when your child is learning maths. If they think and/or have been told that something is going to be difficult, then it really will be difficult. Your child is likely to give up quickly, if they manage to start, tell you that it is impossible and lose confidence before they have even started. 

However, by slightly reframing the language, you can change this.

Firstly, instead of using the word ‘difficult’, use words such as challenging. Challenging tells your child that with a bit of effort, they will be able to do it. Challenging tells your child that with some practise, they will get there. Challenging tells your child that it is possible, just not yet. Slowly but surely, their maths mindset will become more positive.

Secondly, talk with your child about something that they used to find difficult. Ask them how they find it now. Discuss with them what happened to make the change from then to now. 

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For example, I’ve had discussions with my tutees about levels on a computer game and how they kept practising until they passed the level.

Another tutee told me about how they couldn’t do their school tie for such a long time but, over time and with practice, it is now really easy and they can do it with their eyes closed!

Your conversations do not have to be about maths but it is good to think about an aspect of maths your child used to find difficult that they can do with ease now. Remind them about it as your child will only be focusing on what they can’t do, not what they can do.

Thirdly, let’s go back to the words, “I can’t!”

Whenever you hear your child say, “I can’t…” add the word ‘yet’ to the end.

This is telling your child that it is fine that they don’t know how to do that aspect of maths at the moment, or that they are finding it challenging and making mistakes. But, it is also saying that in the future, they will be able to do it. 

By listening carefully to what your child is saying and rephrasing their words, you are helping your child develop a more positive maths mindset. As your child’s maths mindset improves, you will notice that they become more confident and willing to try tasks.

If you would like to find out more about how you can help your child, I have created a PDF download with 8 Practical Tips which are easy to implement. 

If you are interested in finding out more about my style of tuition and if I am a good fit for your child, you are welcome to book a 15 minutes appointment with me to find out more. Click the link to the left.

Catherine Rooke

A specialist international maths tutor helping children with maths anxiety, maths difficulties and dyscalculia have positive maths experiences.