Maple Grove resident Brett Bernard has spent more than 20 years as a teacher of 3rd, 4th and 5th graders. So he knows what works during this critical age when it comes to instilling math skills into the minds of young learners.
With a passion for helping kids overcome any fear of math, Bernard has published three books to address anxiety, build a strong foundation, improve teaching strategies and empower parents to know how to help their kids. Throughout, he emphasizes the importance of “experiencing” math. “People remember 90 percent of what they experience,” he explains.
We caught Bernard this summer, before school begins again, for some insight on anxiety, math and abolishing homework.
Q: You know math and you know kids, but why a book?
A: I know what it is like to be that kid in class who fears being called on, the kid who just doesn’t get it. Writing books about this is just one of the ways I share strategies for parents and teachers. I also speak to educators, parents and administrators at schools and events throughout the country.
Q: So, math, speaking AND writing skills?
A: Until this point, I had never written anything more than a report for a class. Once I started writing each of my books, things just flowed. I really focused on sharing some personal stories and specific strategies that both teachers and parents can use to engage kids and help them feel confident in class. I have not seen too many resources on these subjects, so it was important for me to get Math Anxiety and Total Math Engagement published.
Q: And your third book?
A: How to Talk Math, a student workbook for grades 3-6,
was really fun to put together. Math is a universal language and using a whole brain approach is a proven way for kids to learn it and understand it.
Q: When did you decide to bring parents into the equation?
A: I started getting phone calls and emails from parents I had never met, asking for help with getting their kids to like math. Many parents shared stories of 10 minutes of homework turning into an hour or more. Stories of their child hating math, not wanting to go to school. Math anxiety is a feeling of apprehension and/or fear that interferes with math performance and is quite common. The number one thing parents can do is to talk positively about math. When we, well-intentioned adults, talk about math it is too often associated with stories of pain and frustration. Things are too expensive. We don’t have enough money. “That food has too many calories.” “I don’t have enough time.” It is important for adults to make math and numbers fun. Cook as a family. Watch a baseball game and keep score. Play board games.
Q: So, no more math facts?
A: Practicing fact fluency and having that automaticity is an excellent strategy to reduce math anxiety. Fact fluency leads to higher order math. If kids can multiply it makes division easier. It makes finding common denominators in fractions easier. It takes practice, just like a sport, and kids can do it. The goal is to know each basic math fact within 5 seconds—the 5 second rule.
Another strategy is to not give math homework. I suggest work time at home vs. homework. Practice math facts, work on math vocabulary words, keep a math journal, create a cartoon strip, a song or
a dance. Make math fun!
For more info visit the website here.
“Mr. Bernard introduced me to the book at the beginning of the school year.
I like the book because it has you write the definition of the math term and then draw it…it allows me to be creative. It’s kind of like math and art combined.
—Andy Stefonowicz, 5th grader at Scenic Heights Elementary in Minnetonka
I received the book, Math Anxiety, as a gift after mentioning to a friend that my 16-year-old son was struggling in his high school math class. I read it cover to cover in one sitting and have gone back to refresh my memory for a given situation. I liked the information on how, as a parent, I can promote math in a positive light by becoming involved in his “math journey." I could have jumped for joy (I actually did) when he came home and told me he did well on a test and felt relaxed going into it.
Overall, this book is a must read…to help with math anxiety (or to prevent it in the first place).
—Jenny Stukel, parent