How to get your child interested in math

Focus on number sense and you’ll help your child add math skills to their toolkit.

Prisma Staff
• 
January 10, 2023


If you have a kid who doesn’t like math, it can feel like a black hole that sucks away all the joy of school. Even as they’re happily writing stories, building 3d models, or observing changes in the natural world, there’s that nagging voice (maybe yours) saying, “Don’t forget your math worksheets.”

It’s not just the kids. For many homeschool-curious parents, math will present that seemingly insurmountable obstacle: Parents who feel good about teaching elementary school math can’t imagine how they can guide their child through high-school level mathematical concepts.

Those who don’t gravitate towards numbers tell themselves a lot of narratives to justify why: “I’m just not a ‘math person’”, “I don’t find it relevant”, “it’s too confusing”, or “I have better things to do.”

Your child likely has their own version of this narrative swirling around their brain. Whether they’re bored of answering endless streams of straightforward math questions, unclear about “when are we ever gonna use this?” or panicked by isosceles triangles, start by figuring out why they aren’t interested in math.

Here are some of the most common attitudes towards math — and steps to take to incorporate a hands-on math education into your homeschool routine.

What is number sense?

Before diving into understanding your child’s relationship to math, think for a minute about your own impressions. If math conjures up images of that crowded blackboard in A Beautiful Mind, it might help to reframe it in a more down-to-earth way: number sense,
“a person’s ability to understand, relate, and connect numbers.”

Number sense is all about how numbers are part of everyday life: activities like estimating, doing mental calculations, visualizing numbers, and breaking larger numbers down into smaller ones.

Building number sense in young children can be as simple as having them draw pictures of numbers, divide up ten Legos into groups, or estimate how long it will take for water to boil. But there’s no reason why you can’t incorporate similar activities with older children as well, especially with those who feel that they are “bad” at math.

For an outdoorsy kid, a fun way to build number sense can be identifying geometric shapes in nature. For siblings worried about fairness, learning division can happen every time there’s a treat to share or a dishwasher to empty.

When we think in terms of number sense, math concepts become less intimidating, and more like foundational skills such as literacy, creativity or critical thinking. It becomes easier to incorporate math into other learning experiences, whether you’re doing subtraction at the grocery store or estimating jelly beans for a friendly neighborhood competition.

Why is my child not interested in math?

To get your child on the road to developing a healthy relationship to math, you’ll want to drill down a little deeper into where the problem lies.

The first thing to confirm is that they’re at an appropriate level, neither being pushed ahead beyond their competence or not being challenged enough. Flexibility is one of the greatest advantages of homeschooling, so figure out the last level where your child felt comfortable (we like the MAP assessment) — and don’t worry about whether that corresponds to where they “should” be for their age.

Even if they are behind their supposed grade right now, we find students are more likely to experience leaps in knowledge when they go at their own pace, rather than marching along with the school calendar.

Once you know your child’s level, you can peel back a layer of the onion to understand how they are feeling specifically about math and why.

Are they getting the kind of math activities they need?

The next piece to this puzzle is understanding what kind of learner your child is, when it comes to math.

Some kids want direct instruction on mathematical skills with step-by-step examples; they feel a need to practice on worksheets or drill with flashcards before they’d even want to play math games.

Some kids will be more inclined to roll up their sleeves if they’re presented with opportunities to solve real world math problems.

And other kids want to get their hands on physical materials, like manipulatives, to learn abstract concepts kinesthetically.

While we always view our math learning through a real-world lens, at Prisma we offer our learners different kinds of instruction, including problem-solving workshops and direct math instruction.

One thing we do see across the board, however, is that kids benefit from the camaraderie of learning math with their peers — both in terms of the added brain-power and new perspectives that their friends bring, and in terms of the support they get from one another when they encounter (and overcome!) obstacles. Try signing up for a local math club or reach out to other homeschool families to see if you can pool your math efforts.

Are they scared of math?

Although researchers haven’t determined whether poor performance in math causes math anxiety or vice versa, the phenomenon is real — with physiological responses running alongside the mental reaction. You can’t do logical thinking if your brain is hijacked by anxiety, so for these kids, take the pressure off completely. Make math fun with board games Monopoly, the strategy game mancala, or a classic tile-based game of dominoes.

Are they frustrated by math?

If smoke starts coming out of your child’s ears the minute the numbers don’t seem to add up, math can easily turn into the dreaded moment of the day. For these kids, math can be a great opportunity to practice a growth mindset: progress not perfection. This starts from teaching multiple strategies to solve any problem — when they grasp that there are countless roads to every solution, they can think of their math skills as a toolkit to which they continuously add.

Are they more interested in something else?

If your child is so passionate about another activity that they don’t seem to have a minute to spare for math, that’s when an interdisciplinary, project-based approach can open up a backdoor. Help them access relevant mathematical concepts through their interests, whether it’s understanding fractions and ratios for cooking or developing budgeting skills as they launch their business.

In our math checkpoints at the end of every math mission (essentially a “unit”), Prisma learners complete a performance task — such as using geometry to plan a garden bed — that helps them understand how the math they just learned is applicable in real professions and/or in real life.

Being “interested” in math can mean so many things: but the first step is making sure that their “disinterest” doesn’t get in the way of their passions. Then, once they get a foothold, they can venture farther afield into less familiar areas of number sense.

When math is accessible, relevant and just the right amount of challenging, the chances a kid will develop an interest (if not a full-blossomed love of math) increase exponentially.


More from our blog

How to incorporate educational family trips into homeschooling

From national parks to beach vacations, design an in-the-field learning experience the whole family will enjoy

Prisma Staff
• 
February 2, 2023

How to switch to online school

Online learning takes many forms. Decide why you want to go remote — and the rest will fall into place.

Prisma Staff
• 
January 31, 2023

What are the benefits of homeschooling with ADHD?

Here’s how parents of ADHD children can set themselves up for successful learning at home.

Prisma Staff
• 
January 26, 2023

How to stay focused during online school

Online learning doesn’t have to be distracting. These tips can prime your child to thrive at home.

Prisma Staff
• 
January 24, 2023

Learning activities for gifted children

From early childhood through high school, homeschooling provides the ideal setting to facilitate a gifted child’s learning. Here’s how.

Prisma Staff
• 
January 20, 2023

What challenges do students with learning disabilities face?

And how can you support them in the classroom?

Prisma Staff
• 
January 17, 2023

What are the benefits of child-led learning?

From fostering a love of learning to developing problem-solving skills, child-initiated learning is a pillar of a successful homeschooling journey. Here’s how to get started.

Prisma Staff
• 
January 12, 2023

How to keep kids healthy & active during remote learning

Combine fun with a pinch of self-discipline, and you’ll be well on your way to a wellness routine your child wants to follow.

Prisma Staff
• 
January 5, 2023

How to get your child to open up

Kids need to develop their own world as they mature. But the stereotype of the zip-lipped pre-teen doesn’t have to be your reality.

Prisma Staff
• 
January 3, 2023

How to homeschool and work from home

It’s not easy to juggle full-time work and homeschooling — but it is possible. Here’s what we’ve learned about how to thrive.

• 
December 29, 2022

What language should my child learn?

Learning languages opens doors, offers connections and inspires new ways of thinking. Here’s some advice about which one(s) to pick.

Prisma Staff
• 
December 27, 2022

How to teach your child to be a critical thinker

Critical thinking matters for academics, work and relationships. Here’s how to lay the foundations at home.

Prisma Staff
• 
December 22, 2022

Life of a Prisma learner: Aaron

Read about the hands-on learning opportunities one Prisma high schooler tackled in the Secrets of the Biosphere theme

Emily Veno
• 
December 22, 2022

How to help your kids be more creative

Creative thinking is the key to problem-solving. Here’s how to foster creativity at home.

Prisma Staff
• 
December 20, 2022

Considering alternatives to college?

Traditional four-year college is only one option. Here’s how to inform your decision.

Prisma Staff
• 
December 15, 2022

What does Montessori homeschooling look like?

The Montessori approach focuses on early childhood. Here’s how the popular pedagogical method can lend itself to home-based learning for all ages.

Prisma Staff
• 
December 13, 2022

Is Roblox educational?

Here’s what parents need to know about the popular social media network.

Prisma Staff
• 
December 9, 2022

Don’t develop healthy habits for kids — do it with them.

Here’s what every parent should know about facilitating a routine that works for the whole family.

Prisma Staff
• 
December 5, 2022

‘Learning styles’ are a myth (part 3) — What is a kinesthetic learner?

Hands-on learning benefits all students. Here’s how to incorporate it into your homeschooling.

Prisma Staff
• 
December 1, 2022

‘Learning styles’ are a myth (part 2) — characteristics of an auditory learner.

There’s no evidence to confirm the validity of these popular labels. But here’s how auditory learning strategies can benefit everyone.

Prisma Staff
• 
November 29, 2022

‘Learning styles’ are a myth (part 1) — characteristics of a visual learner.

Although no studies link these popular labels to academic achievement, here’s how visual learning helps everyone.

Prisma Staff
• 
November 24, 2022

Is Discord safe for kids?

Here’s what parents need to know about the free, popular chat app.

Prisma Staff
• 
November 22, 2022

Reading is the Gateway to Learning: Here’s how to get your child interested in reading.

Incorporate these reading tips into your routine, and you’ll be on your way to fostering a love of reading in your child.

Prisma Staff
• 
November 18, 2022

Holiday, winter and Christmas art projects for kids

Ready to Deck the Halls? Here are projects to engage kids of all ages—and tackle your seasonal shopping with DIY keepsakes.

Prisma Staff
• 
November 16, 2022

What is the Socratic Method for Kids?

More than just asking questions in the classroom, the Socratic Method helps learners test their own ideas in a real-life context.

Prisma Staff
• 
November 10, 2022

What is the best homeschool curriculum?

Here are some guidelines to help sift through the infinite options.

Prisma Staff
• 
November 8, 2022

What is self-directed learning — and what are the benefits?

When students set the conditions of their learning experience, they show more creativity, passion and sticktuitiveness.

Prisma Staff
• 
November 3, 2022

How is Minecraft Educational?

With built-in lesson plans, educational tools, and endless problem-solving opportunities, Minecraft: Education Edition can help motivate kids in coding, science, language arts, and more.

Prisma Staff
• 
November 1, 2022

Stuffed with stuffing? Step away from the casserole and try these Thanksgiving art projects for kids of all ages.

Get into the spirit of gratitude with these easy Thanksgiving crafts for kids.

Prisma Staff
• 
October 27, 2022

Gratitude is one of the prime ingredients of happiness. Here’s how to teach kids to be grateful.

Teach children gratitude and they’ll experience better mental health, well being and social connection.

Prisma Staff
• 
October 25, 2022

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder can make reading comprehension a struggle. Here’s how to help a child with ADHD learn to read.

8 tips to ensure learning disabilities don’t get in the way of building reading skills.

Prisma Staff
• 
October 20, 2022

Bored Students Don’t Thrive. Here’s How to Get Your Child Interested in School.

Why does your child dread Mondays? Once you know, take these steps to help them (re)discover their spark.

Prisma Staff
• 
October 18, 2022

Here’s how to prevent bullying in school - and what to do if it happens.

To stop bullying behavior, educate yourselves and your children.

Prisma Staff
• 
October 13, 2022

Why do kids get bullied at school — and why do kids bully others?

Bullying is about a power dynamic between peers. To interrupt it, first understand why it happens.

Prisma Staff
• 
October 11, 2022

How to build confidence in kids

Children’s Mental Health is in Crisis. Here’s How to Help Develop Your Child’s Self-Esteem.

Prisma Staff
• 
October 6, 2022

What is twice exceptional - and how can homeschooling help?

To reach their high potential, twice-exceptional children benefit from a flexible learning environment.

Prisma Staff
• 
October 4, 2022

Halloween art projects for kids

The holiday season is the time to get your hands dirty with these Halloween craft ideas - candy corn optional.

Prisma Staff
• 
September 29, 2022

How to help a child with dyslexia at home

Dyslexic kids often lose their love of learning. Here’s how parents can help them rediscover it.

Prisma Staff
• 
September 27, 2022

How to support your LGBTQ child

The challenges of adolescence can be magnified for LGBTQ kids. Here’s how to help them thrive.

Prisma Staff
• 
September 22, 2022

What challenges do LGBTQ students face?

From bullying to finding a safe bathroom, LGBTQ students navigate a tough landscape at school.

Prisma Staff
• 
September 20, 2022

How to Make Learning Fun

What we know about the relationship between ‘hard fun’ and learning. (Hint: It’s not about playing games in between worksheets.)

Prisma Staff
• 
September 15, 2022

Want to raise successful kids?

Here’s what we mean by ‘success’ at Prisma - and how we use it to help kids thrive.

Prisma Staff
• 
September 13, 2022

Homeschooling Socialization Guide

What parents need to know about socialization in—and out of—the classroom to help your homeschooler thrive.

Prisma Staff
• 
August 16, 2022

How to start your own business as a kid

Child entrepreneurship is trending. Here are three steps to developing an innovative business that stands out from the crowd.

Prisma staff
• 
August 4, 2022

What is project based learning?

A hands-on approach to develop real-world skills, resiliency and a love of learning — here’s how we practice it at Prisma.

Prisma Staff
• 
August 2, 2022

Writer + Programmer = Calliope Ghostwriting

A Shared Name and Diverse Strengths Led Two Bens to Build an AI Writing Business.

Prisma staff
• 
July 7, 2022

Alternatives to School

When traditional public school isn’t the best option, consider these alternatives.

Prisma Staff
• 
July 1, 2022

How to Develop a Growth Mindset for Kids

Five ways parents can help their kids see themselves as a work in progress.

• 
June 22, 2022

Top 7 tips how to recover from gifted kid burnout

Gifted kids face unique challenges when it comes to burnout. Here’s how parents can help.

Prisma staff
• 
June 21, 2022

What is worldschooling?

For travel-hungry families dreaming of school vacation, there’s much to celebrate about shifts in the way we live, work and educate our children.

Prisma staff
• 
June 16, 2022

How to start homeschooling

To create a customized education for your child takes more than a checklist. This three-stage framework can help you get started.

• 
June 14, 2022

Pros and cons of homeschooling

If you’re homeschool-curious, here’s what 100 families have to say about the biggest advantages and disadvantages of homeschooling.

Prisma staff
• 
June 10, 2022

How does Homeschooling Work in the Modern Era?

With homeschooling, the sky’s the limit – and there’s a lot on your plate. Learn about how to make this growing trend work for your family.

Prisma Staff
• 
June 9, 2022

Building healthy screen time habits: What Prisma kids say

Learning how to use the internet safely, smartly, and creatively is one of the most essential skills for success in our hyper-connected world. Prisma learners just wrapped up their Cyber Citizens learning

• 
April 2, 2021

Introducing Prisma LIVE

A live learning platform purpose-built for kids. It's a new, fun and engaging way for kids to learn and collaborate together virtually.

• 
March 19, 2021

Connected learning for a connected age

Technology has completely revolutionized how we shop, communicate, entertain ourselves, and even how we work, but no such revolution has happened in education.

• 
March 5, 2021

Prisma: a first retrospective

We’ve officially wrapped up our first ever fall session at Prisma and are excited to share our learnings and observations with you.

Victoria Ransom
• 
December 17, 2020

Meet Claire Cummings

Claire Cummings is one of our new Learning Coaches joining us for Winter Session starting in January 2021. Claire is based in Detroit, Michigan!

• 
December 7, 2020

Meet Leena Williams

In our Meet the Team blog series, you’ll get to read more about the innovative thinkers behind Prisma.Next up is Leena Williams, the Founding Learning Coach for Prisma based in Tampa, Florida.

• 
July 28, 2020

Join Prisma from anywhere in the USA this fall

Starting today, families can apply to join Prisma from anywhere in the USA. Here’s how it will work. You can still apply to any of our five founding cohort hubs (Chicago, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, or Tampa) if you live nearby.

• 
July 27, 2020

Meet Emily Veno

In our Meet the Team blog series, you’ll get to read more about the innovative thinkers behind Prisma. Next up is Emily Veno, one of two founding learning experience designers for Prisma.

• 
July 23, 2020

A Stress-free switch to learning from home this fall

Over the past week, as millions of parents have realized that traditional in-person schooling may not be safe or available come September, a new twist on an old phenomenon has emerged.

• 
July 22, 2020

Meet Kristen Shroff

We're kicking off a "Meet the team" blog series. First up is Kristen Shroff, one of two Founding Learning Experience Designers at Prisma. As a Learning Experience Designer, Kristen has been working on dreaming up the Prisma calendar and schedule, developing the curriculum for Knowledge and Worldview Badges, and hiring our first group of learning coaches.

• 
July 22, 2020

Be a founding family!

We're excited to announce the rollout of Prisma cohorts in 5 US cities: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Tampa and Salt Lake City.

• 
July 17, 2020

Introducing Prisma

We’re Prisma, and today we’re announcing the world’s first Connected Learning Network, a whole new category in education. We’re not a school in the conventional sense; we’re a locally-rooted, globally connected at-home learning network that gives kids the tools to live their optimal life, starting today.

Victoria Ransom & Alain Chuard
• 
June 24, 2020

Prismarian Asher Nelson Rhymes His Way to Victory

First-time Poet Wins “Games for Change Student Challenge” with “Poem of PvZ”.

•