# Encouraging children to think mathematically: the power of playing dumb

November 01, 2016

### Jennie Pennant from GrowLearning has a great tip for encouraging children to think mathematically: playing dumb! She explains just how it works…

I wonder how you feel about mathematics? Whenever I’m at a social gathering and people ask me what I do I always find I get a strong positive or negative emotional response when I declare that I coach adults to release their potential as maths teachers or tutors. School days have left many of us feeling ‘unfriendly’ towards mathematics. It may have often seemed a shadowy world that we couldn’t quite understand.  Not surprisingly, the fear of making a mistake or being slow to get the correct answer may have inhibited us from exploring and asking questions to support our understanding. Alternatively, we may have been in the ‘smart’ group who were quick to grasp the concepts and easily able to replicate them. Whichever group we were in, today’s learners need us to engage creatively with them. They need our help to become confident mathematical thinkers who enjoy the subject and relish the host of mental challenges that it offers. I wonder how many of us enjoy the satisfaction of completing a Sudoku, for example? Let’s aim for many more in the future.

See how Explore Learning helps children develop a passion for maths

Another great idea is to ask the children for a silly answer when you are starting a calculation. For example, let’s take the calculation 46 + 27. Silly answers could be 2, 2 million, 0.5 or even square! Every child can give a silly answer without the fear of being wrong. The child who gives the silly answer, or another child, can then be invited to explain why a particular answer is silly.  And here comes another opportunity for you to play dumb. When the child gives their explanation you may choose to say, ‘I am not sure I followed that. Can you explain that again please?’. This will help them refine their explanation and, hopefully, make it clearer.

Have fun, enjoy playing dumb and see how it helps the children to gain confidence in their mathematical thinking!

Jennie Pennant is a professional development coach, consultant and trainer who is passionate about empowering professional learning communities to support children to develop as confident, competent and enthusiastic young mathematicians who are fluent and flexible problem solvers with a set of skills designed for the challenges of the 21st century.

## Discover more interesting posts from our blog

### Welcome to Willesden

December 15, 2017

We had a fantastic time launching our 133rd maths and English tuition centre in Willesden Green last month! We were delighted that local Mayor Cllr Chonan could join us...

### Get ready for year 1!

August 10, 2018

Is year 1 really that different to reception? Hayley Garland, a reception teacher in Surrey, explains why the answer is ‘yes’! Find out how you can get your child...