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What does your child say?

Another telling clue to successful STEM education: Is your child talking about math and science? Does she bring her enthusiasm home?

One mother we spoke to as part of our project said that her son was thrilled to tell her what he learned about migration when he tallied the number of pigeons in his neighborhood over time as part of a project at the Brooklyn New School. First-graders at Midtown West in Manhattan ask their parents to help them find simple machines at home—a flip-top lid (a.k.a., a lever) and a doorstop (for scientific purposes, a wedge).
 Does your child use words such as “carnivore,” “porous,” “sediment,” “volcanic ash” or “metamorphosis”? Good science instruction builds a child’s vocabulary.

It’s a good sign if kids are thinking about math and not just doing it, according to Mark Saul, Ph.D., director of the Center for Mathematical Talent at New York University. Can your child use a measuring cup to double a recipe while cooking with you? Or figure out how long it will take for Grandma and Grandpa to arrive by looking at the clock and doing the math? How about determine approximate mileage for a family trip by looking at a map? Those are all good signs.

Don’t worry too much if you find your children’s homework confusing— many parents do. And don’t force them to do math the way you did, Dr. Saul says. Instead, be curious about the way your kids are doing it. Ask them questions; don’t dole out answers. Acknowledge them for trying hard and not giving up. Research shows persistence is what counts in the long run— not getting everything right the first time.

If your children are engaged and show curiosity themselves, things are probably okay. If they avoid homework or race through it—if they are bored, anxious, or confused—there may be a problem.

Some schools send home different homework packets depending on a child’s ability. Teachers at PS 59 in Manhattan send home a customized plan for each child including reading levels and math strengths, with games kids and parents may play together to support math concepts and skills they’ve studied in school. They send home pictures of math strategy charts used in class so parents can also reference them at home, and post ideas on a web page.

The specifics of what your child talks about will vary based on his classroom experiences, but rest assured, if he’s engaged and truly learning math and science, he’ll likely be enthusiastic about what he shares.

Read and download our colorful PDF version here.