Sweaty Mommy Survival Guide: 3 Ways “Math Talk” Can Make Your Workout More Effective
Pep talk: you’ve heard of it. You’re probably pretty good at giving yourself one.
Baby talk: you’ve heard of it. You’re probably really good at it, too.
What about math talk?
“Math talk” is putting mathematical input into your speech. There is research that shows a positive effect between math talk and mathematical knowledge, even as young as preschool age. And I believe even younger, too.
We are trying to raise in children that don’t shy away from hard things. Can you imagine doing a half-hearted pushup during a hard workout because you’re “not a pushup person”? No, when you’re working out, you push yourself to do more and to improve. Why is it different when a child tells their teacher, “I’m not a math person”?
As a parent ready to tackle physical workouts and challenges, there are ways we can simultaneously encourage math talk and understanding. Do you have to speak about tessellations or trapezoids? No. You can add it in to daily life: cooking, measuring, puzzle making, finding patterns, following logic, and more.
3 ways to add math talk with physical activity
Number sense is a math concept. Identify larger and smaller groups on a walk. Count steps, count blocks, count streets. Practice counting up and down (if you know how far you are from home).
“There are more flowers on this side than on that side.”
“How many steps is it from this driveway to the next driveway?”
“We have two blocks left until we are home. Now we have one.”
2. Percentages and fractions.
I often count down what is left of a workout as part of a pep talk. 4 x 200s left out of 5. Or, 1:00 into a 5:00 tabata workout. You can add math talk to your pep talk by sharing:
“I’m 1/5 of the way done! I have 4/5 left to do!”
“20% done. After the next one, I’ll be 40% done.”
3. Creating and finding patterns
Patterns are also a math concept. You can create an activity pattern in the playroom or playground. Any time a workout uses the word “repeat,” you have a great opportunity to describe it as a pattern.
“We are going to walk 5 steps, then hop 5 times, then a wiggle. Then, we walk 5 steps again, and hop 5 times. What comes next?”
“I’ll touch my left toe, and then my right toe. Then my left toe, then my right toe. What is the pattern?”
What other ideas do you have? How do you encourage math talk to yourself and your children?
Julie Baker is a former classroom math teacher, swim coach, and marathon runner, finishing the Boston Marathon in 2014. She now works for a nonprofit out of Portland, Oregon, and lives there with her husband, son Kai, and dog Marvin.