Busting the Math Gene Myth: Making mathematical thinking meaningful

By: Leigh Ann Pernell


It is time to stop perpetuating the myth that some of us were simply born with that mystical “math gene” and some were not. The fact is that math is an integral part of daily life. When we estimate how much money we are going to spend at the grocery store, calculate the driving time from the soccer field to gymnastics, or measure the ingredients for a batch of cookies - we are using our mathematical thinking. Our goal must be to help young learners see themselves as budding mathematicians who can think mathematically, persevere in problem solving, and apply numeracy skills to their everyday lives.

Developing Math Minds

So often we think of math as an isolated area of study - a bunch of sterile theories and boring facts, but math can be exciting and real when we approach it in meaningful ways. Here are a few tactics for building math minds: 

  • Model problem solving strategies. Talk about the process out loud, so that young mathematicians can follow your thinking.
  • Encourage mathematical discourse and ask young learners to explain their thinking. Math is so much more than a quick answer.
  • Show your thinking with pictures, numbers, and words. Modeling with mathematics helps students connect the process to the product and show what they know.
  • Have a daily math challenge. Discuss the strategies that you used to solve the problem of the day and ask if anyone can tackle the task in another way. Help students see that there are often multiple ways to solve the same problem.
  • Promote the process more than the product. It is the reasoning - the trial and error - that truly develops mathematical thinking and deepens understanding.
  • Build students’ awareness of the truth that math is everywhere and that they use it daily. Look for and discuss the many ways you have used math today.
  • Use math talk, develop appropriate vocabulary, and instill in young learners that they are mathematicians.

Busting the Myth

The way we approach math explorations with our young learners can truly make a difference in whether they perceive themselves as mathematicians or not. All children can learn and all can explore, problem solve, and develop deeper understanding of the math that they use daily in the world around them. Genetics is not the only thing responsible for deepening mathematical understanding. Purposeful and meaningful exploration is a powerful means for building mathematical thinking and understanding.

Carson-Dellosa Makes Math Meaningful

At Carson-Dellosa, we have the quality tools to help make math more meaningful for growing mathematicians. Here are just a few of our resources:

STEM Challenges Learning Cards provide fun and creative ways to enhance learning and engage students in mathematical thinking, engineering, technology, and scientific exploration. These hands-on activities inspire problem solving and deepen understanding as students take on each challenge.

The Summer Bridge series is filled with activities to keep developing skills sharp as students transition into the next school year. These activities were designed to keep kids mentally and physically active as they take the next steps forward in deepening their understanding of a variety of concepts.

Math Thinking Mats are a wonderful resource to help reinforce standards-based math skills and improve higher-level thinking skills. With customizable, open-ended practice activities, these game mats are great for independent or small-group learning. Featuring a write-on/wipe-away surface, this resource is designed to make teaching and learning math a successful – and fun – experience.

Calling all budding mathematicians! Let’s explore and build our math minds!