Grounding Yourself in Mathematics

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tips to ground yourself in mathematicsTips to Ground Yourself in Mathematics

By Karen Branch

There’s that moment in every comedy where the befuddled comic relief character says, “Wait a second…” as he notices something like his house was slowly emptied of all its possessions while he was distracted by the clever antagonist.

As parents and teachers, we are hoping to instill that moment of pause that something could be wrong in our math students as they solve problems and come across mistakes.  For this purpose, we ask our students, starting in elementary, to round and to estimate.

Building Math Skills

When the students have an idea of what the answer should be, they have a much better chance at catching a small mistake in their work and getting back on the right track.  Parents and teachers, please dedicate quality time to rounding and estimating with your students.  You’ll see that effort pay off as your child progresses through their math levels.

Estimating in Math

Building on the skill of estimation, I like to show my students how to be confident in the steps they take to solve complicated problems by having them ground themselves in a simple example.  I’ll demonstrate this with a topic all math students dread…fractions.

Imagine a cookie that was broken in half.  You are given half a sugar cookie and your faithful dog Buster has come begging at your feet for a bite of it.  You break your half in half and give it to him.  What actually went into your mouth was one fourth of a cookie.  Mathematically:  half of half is one fourth.  Let’s see that played out:


How did we get from our question to our answer?


We can see that the numerator multiplied times itself all the way across (one times one equals one).


We can see that the denominator multiplied times itself all the way across too (two times two equals four).


Ergo, to multiply fractions, multiply straight across the numerator and straight across the denominator.


Now when your student is facing something like this and can’t remember how to solve it…


…they can ground themselves with the example with the cookie halves and solve with confidence.


Just one simple trick, grounding themselves in an example they know is true, and students go from intimidated to determined with their practice problems.


Try this technique the next time your student is stumped.  Show him that he has the tools to break the problem down and fight for his answer.  When he has earned the answer for himself, his confidence will soar and he’ll be excited for whatever challenge comes next.


To learn more please visit to learn more about how to ground yourself in mathematics.

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