New Year's Goal Setting and Math Add Up to Higher Grades for Students

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"Teaching math is one of the greatest ways to instill valuable goal-setting skills while ensuring academic success," says Susan Jarema of Googol Learning. "Math provides the perfect opportunity for goal-setting lessons: its aims are realistic, obtainable, measurable and can be broken down into smaller goals or tasks." Developing goal-setting skills will help students learn how to manage their time, make better decisions and take ownership of their own academic progress. You want your child's first serious goal-setting experience to be a successful one. Understanding the factors that contribute to goal achievement will help you ensure that success.

"Teaching math is one of the greatest ways to instill valuable goal-setting skills while ensuring academic success," says Susan Jarema of Googol Learning. "Math provides the perfect opportunity for goal-setting lessons: its aims are realistic, obtainable, measurable and can be broken down into smaller goals or tasks." Developing goal-setting skills will help students learn how to manage their time, make better decisions and take ownership of their own academic progress.

Unfortunately, most students never learn goal-setting techniques until after they have left school. But this need not be the case. Young children can start off by setting small goals to learn simple math facts, just as they learned their ABCs. For many students, their first daunting academic goal might be memorizing the times tables. Older students can set goals to improve their grades, learn new concepts or even go back to strengthen mental math skills.

You want your child's first serious goal-setting experience to be a successful one. Understanding the factors that contribute to goal achievement will help you ensure that success.

Well Defined Goals + Action Plan + Motivation + Commitment + Effort = SUCCESS

A well-defined goal is realistic, obtainable and has a time target for completion. You begin by specifying exactly what the goal is. For example, I want to memorize the times tables from 0-12 by the end of the month. If your goal is something broader, such as I'm going to get one grade higher on my next report card in March, you will need to break it down into smaller goals for each individual test and assignment.

The action plan is the steps you will take to achieve your goal. These are actions that you can control. For example, I'm going to practice math facts 15 minutes a day with Dad, or I'm going to complete the workbook from my multiplication program or I'm going to sing along to my times tables songs in the car every day.

Motivation comes from within. It stems from your beliefs, values and desires - what is important to you. If you really believe that a goal is important, you are going to work hard to attain it. Here is where the problem most often lies: math just doesn't seem that important to most children. A parent or teacher needs to demonstrate that learning math is truly useful to them. Often we need to lend a hand by offering an external motivator - some sort of incentive. What would we do without stickers and certificates? But though acknowledgment is nice, over time they must learn to be self-motivated as well.

Another key component of motivation is believing in yourself. Have you every noticed that people who are successful continue to be successful? They believe they CAN DO IT - that nothing is impossible. Conversely, once you get down on yourself it's hard to get back on track. I see this all the time with children learning math. "I'm no good at math; I'll never be able to get it." This is when a teacher or parent can help reverse the downward spiral. You need to be there to encourage them, provide support, help them break down the goal into manageable tasks that they CAN achieve. "Look, you've learned the three times tables already. Boy, that was quick! Hey, the sixes are just double that - do you want to try a couple?"

Commitment comes from being motivated and knowing exactly what you need to accomplish. For many children the most important factor for success is their commitment to learning. They need to take ownership of the goal - it just does not work as well if Mom says they have to. "It may be Mom's goal for me to get an A in math, but it's not mine!" said one child Jarema met at a Discovery Multiplication workshop. "I soon discovered that this girl loved music," said Jarema. "We talked about how math is part of music, and how many musicians are mathematical. We talked about fractions and rhythm, pitch and the frequency of notes. We even played Pi on the piano." Math suddenly became a little more relevant to her own interests. The internal motivation this provided, combined with the external motivation of getting to go to a movie after studying a certain amount, allowed her to make a real effort with math.

Effort is the time and work you commit to your goal. Make sure your child has the time and tools to do the tasks outlined in the action plan. Designate a quiet workplace with minimal distractions. These days, we tend to overbook our children with so many activities that there is little room in their busy lives to fit in a new priority. Now is a good time to re-evaluate those priorities.

Googol Learning has provided a full listing of goal setting tips at http://www.googolpower.com/content/media/articles/new-years-goal-setting to ensure that your children will achieve their math goals. Join Googol Learning's Math Facts Challenge to commit to your goal.

Take some MATHemACTION this New Year by helping your child set a math goal. Make it fun, and they will learn. Math truly can be fun. At home you have a chance to share through puzzles and games the logic and beauty of mathematics. You will find working with your children on this to be a wonderful opportunity to spend time together and assess their number sense. As a parent, you have the chance to discover more about your child's learning style and to help make learning enjoyable.

Susan Jarema is the founder of Googol Learning and the Crazy 4 Math Contest. The Learning with Googol Power Website has many free resources to inspire mathematics and family learning in your home through music, games, stories and layered learning. Visit http://www.googolpower.com for more ideas on goal setting, exciting ways to inspire math and for more information on workshops, presentations, the award-winning Googol Power Math Series and Discovery Multiplication Goal-Setting Program.

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SUSAN JAREMA
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