Becoming Proficient in Math

To become proficient in math is a process. Students are not naturally good at math or inherently bad at it. Our minds are constantly growing and by incorporating an approach that allows students to immerse themselves in mathematics they become more proficient. A student who is proficient in math has been given the time, opportunity and experience to understand. Kilpatrick et al. summed up what it takes to become math proficient in simple terms. According to Kilpatrick et al., “Students need enough time to engage in activities around a specific mathematical topic if they are to become proficient with it. When they are provided with only one or two examples to illustrate why a procedure works or what a concept means and then move on to practice in carrying out the procedure or identifying the concept, they may easily fail to learn. To become proficient, they need to spend sustained periods of time doing mathematics—solving problems, reasoning, developing understanding, practicing skills—and building connections between their previous knowledge and new knowledge” (Jeremy Kilpatrick et al., 2001: page 135).

Each year builds on the previous years’ knowledge. It allows for students to further develop their understanding of concepts. But most importantly, it needs to give them the opportunity and time to experience the math so they can see it as relevant to the real world. When math is abstract, it is hard for students to grasp. Through understanding and connecting the math to their previous knowledge and experiences they are able to better understand it.

In order for students to learn and become proficient in math, effective math instruction is required that focuses on the following:

  • making sense of math
  • problem solving and investigation
  • utilization of students prior knowledge and understanding of a topic
  • the active participation of students
  • discussion
  • involving everyone
  • ongoing assessment and reflection.

So, how can you help your child become more proficient in math? The best thing you can do is help them to see math in the real world. Integrate math and math talks into your daily routine.

It can be as simple as…

  • Is it likely or unlikely to snow today? (asking in June)
  • If this costs ____ about how much change would I get?
  • What shape does this _____ look like?
  • If we are repainting this _____ how much area do we need to cover?
  • Let’s skip count on our way to school, our walk, etc.
  • If we have 12 pieces of pizza how many does each person get?

By implementing math into the daily routine, children can see the importance of what they are learning and how it applies to them. It gives them extra practice and time to better understand the concepts. It is through this practice and application of these concepts that children become math proficient.

For more information:

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2001. Adding It Up: Helping Children Learn Mathematics. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/9822.