Those who love math–(did you know that this is so for some kids?)–do not love the answers. What they love is the path to find the answer. When a child is really young, the games that they will focus on playing is often only games where they know they will win. However, the games that they will keep playing are ones where it is not clear whether they will win, the games where they must use all their skill to succeed. It is like this with mathematics. It is not the answer that overjoys the student but it is the path to success that made that answer come within their grasp. Below, I present some questions that can help you connect not just to the answer but to the “How” that really matters and will stir their adorable little problem-solving hearts.

# Just the Facts Please

Factual questions are questions that give back a simple response.

What answer did you get?

Did you get the same answer as your sibling?

What is 8+9?

These questions are great when you are first starting a conversation. But don’t stay there! They require the least amount of brain power to answer. We want to work those brains.

This type of question is very useful when you are trying to get dinner on the table and just want to know if he needs to keep working or not. Later, maybe, when you’re eating the delicious meal you cooked, ask some deeper questions.

# Digging Deeper

These questions are still pretty factual, but they use a bit more brain power to answer.

How did you get your answer?

How did your sibling get their answer?

How are the two ways different?

Can you think of another way to solve it?

How did you get 8+9=17?

Bobby got 18, you got 16, can you look at your work and figure out who is correct?

# Extending the Learning

These are questions that connect today’s learning with another lesson.

Can you solve today’s problem using the method we learned yesterday?

Can you use doubles facts to help you solve 8+9?

We can also change the problem slightly to make it more challenging or thought provoking.

If the problem is to share 8 cookies with 4 people. We might say:

Oh no! One of the cookies got stepped on. Now how do we divide up the cookies?

# The Most Important Question to Ask a Math Student

If you are short on time and can only ask one question. The most important question to ask is:

How do you know?

How do you know that’s the right answer? Prove it to me. If you can consistently ask that question, there is no end to the learning that they will be capable of.

And who knows, maybe your child will be the one who loves math.

# For more ideas on how students can love math

100 Activities, Games, and Lessons to Teach Place Value to the Elementary Student

Multi-sensory, multi-age unit on Area and Perimeter

Why I teach math without a curriculum

How I teach math without a curriculum

How do you make sure students are connecting with math? Share in the comments!

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