Son with Great Potential in STEM

Updated on October 16, 2013
L.R. asks from Georgetown, MA
10 answers

Hi- This probably sounds like a strange question. I've taught mathematics to older students for several years now. So, I feel like I should know how to motivate my 6 year old in this area. The fact is that quite the opposite is true. My son has been testing poorly in math and well in other subjects academically. However, he is very talented at building, especially with legos. He comes up with his own ideas for inventions, puts some simple machines together and can wire a simple circuit. As most kids in this day and age, he's also quite competent at using technology and shows a great interest in it and has taken science classes after school. Science is a subject he really enjoys when doing simple experiments and reading books on various aspects of it. I guess my question is if anyone had any good suggestions on boosting his math skills. I've been working with him on some extra worksheets that he'll do, but I don't want to make it seem like drudgery. We also have a few simple games, but he doesn't show an interest in playing them that often. I'd just like to boost his skills, seeing that he has real potential in the other areas. He already has big dreams of inventing something someday and I want him to be able to pursue it, but without the math, he would have difficulty in these areas.

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So What Happened?

FYI: STEM -science, technology, engineering and mathematics

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answers from Seattle on

Try using money, start with coins and have him count, add, subtract etc. It is an easy visual and kids seem to like it.

4 moms found this helpful

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answers from Boston on

Nurture what you have! Science and technology/engineering fun can be found everywhere. Let him tinker with the parts of anything that's not electronic. Go to the local dump and if it's acceptable, get broken bikes, OLD phones, anything with wheels, gears, etc. and let him experiment. Give him his own tools (screwdriver, hammer, tape measurer, etc.) and teach him how to use them. Fill your garage with construction materials, all sorts of left-overs from packaging. Think pulleys, balances, weights, balloons, tubes, funnels, chains, etc. For his computer curiosity, ask for cast-offs from friends. After safety lessons (that you never, ever, open up a computer or electrical device) let him put several computers in a row. Have friends over, and let them all play. They will find games, find different ways to make different computers do the same thing. No lessons necessary. It's the experimenting that's great.

As for the math, you have excellent suggestions below. Keep it fun. And it it's not fun, don't do it! It means either he's not ready or you have not found the right approach yet for him. I think that if you look at math as a deficit area to fill, much time will be spent in vain. Rather nurture what you have!

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Six-year-old kids are not, for the most part, mentally equipped to jump into math concepts, and you can't teach things a child is not yet equipped to master. They can learn simple calculations and gradually build from there, but you're right; most kids will find worksheets drudgery, and that can actually cause his interest in math to decline. But math is everywhere in modern life, so watch for the many opportunities you'll have to demonstrate how useful, interesting, and even fun it can be.

Try some of the things homeschoolers do to teach math. Have him work with you on dividing or doubling a recipe, or help figure out how much those shoes will cost at 20% off. Build things with him that require measurement. Look up math puzzles and jokes online. Play board games that include math – my 7yo grandson loves Monopoly, and we let him do his own addition and subtraction. Math is everywhere, every day, and if they aren't forced into it as "work," most kids grow into it as they become able.

My curriculum-developer husband and I have also published a couple of programs for pre-K to 4th grade students that use a kinesthetic approach to learning math functions, pouring, comparing, and measuring lentils. We even sneak basic algebraic concepts in. These systems get great feedback from teachers, parents and students who have used them:, and

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

Our son is 9 and tests very high at school...yet he does not enjoy doing math. He tests way above his peers but he still does not like it. I think he does not like having to work. School comes easy to him. Math takes practice. Have you tried Kahn Academy online? It is free and our son enjoys it. He has learned computer programming with it (simple programming). He had to do it each week with this GATE program but he often just did it on his own for fun too. We have found that Soduku puzzles are fun for him. Perhaps try different types of math puzzles for your son? They make puzzle books in different levels, so you could start with the easy ones. I struggle with the same question you have. Our son does not want to practice math him it is drudgery. Our neighbors have two boys and the dad makes them do math homework daily all year long....even in the summer. He's very strict about it. I'd say it seems too harsh, but now the two boys are very proud of their math skills. The youngest is in 3rd grade and does high school level math! Crazy.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

I haven't read your responses yet, so pardon if I repeat.
Get him involved in musical instruction. He is old enough for beginning piano, or violin, or even guitar.
It is proven that music skills enhance math skills. You have to be able to do math to read/play written music. It's just a fact. You might not call it "math" but that is what it is. Quarter notes. Eighth notes. Half Notes. Sixteenth Notes. Rests. 3/4 or 4/4 or 2/2 time.
Music = Math.

Get him started.

btw: my daughter is 12. She started piano in 2nd grade at age 7. She had a long period of an only so-so teacher but now is back with a fabulous teacher. She is labeled "gifted" and always scores well on science and math. She doesn't care for math, but loves science and MUSIC. She plays the organ for our church services every week. I have no doubt that playing piano (and now the clarinet as well) has helped her with math concepts that she might have otherwise struggled with. I have spent VERY little time on math homework with her. It just isn't necessary.
And she LOVES music! She likes to play faster and faster and it is fun. Not drudgery.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Have you considered that he is now focused on these activities now and will then be interested in math later. We cannot do everything at once. He's only 6. He's building a good foundation. Math will enter the picture in time.

By the way. I don't know what STEM stands for and so cannot respond to that part of question. I wish all of us used the whole name.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

Don't do worksheets. He's into spacial stuff, not pieces of paper. Use manipulatives and computer programs.

You are used to working with teens who have gotten past the need for manipulatives. Seek out an excellent first grade teacher who has several years of teaching experience, (not a new teacher and not one who has taught for 30 years) and get her to sit down with you and show you how to help your son.

You really want to foster the spacial talents your son has. He could be a good engineer or architect. But without the math, he won't be able to get the degree. It's going to be your task to turn the lightbulb on for him by presenting math in a way that he can grasp. And worksheets just won't cut it.

Also, bring math into everything you do at home and outside. Make everything into a word problem. Group things so that he learns to think in groups. Introduce lots of concepts early on using real life ways of doing things. Introduce science and math together by cooking. Measuring is math AND science. You can teach properties of chemistry along with the cooking. Look into math and physics for children and see how to bring that to life for him.

You can do this. You just have to figure out the difference in children and teens.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Buy books in the I love math series. They are an old time life series that are fabulously fun. My daughter brings them to bed every night.

There are also two hs curriculums that are anti- curriculum: life of Fred and horrible math. These might be a great way to dive into math outside of worksheets.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Cleveland on

please ignore if it doesn't fit, but high functioning autistic kids can be amazing in some areas and deficient in others.

but to your question, a lot of card games and board games involve math, he needs a solid foundation in the basics, so anything that offers drills in addition and subtraction facts would be good and the motivation to play it with you and daddy would be high I would think.

make up a work sheet of problems and have him solve them by using legos as counters. he can make up some for you.

what about computer games that drill facts?

Money and using math at the store might work, he can add up the cost of dream lego sets and how long it would take if he used is allowance of $2 a week to s ave up and buy it.

That's all I got, I hate math.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

I wouldn't be worried about picking out his career path at age 6. And, don't make math about worksheets, please. Let him grow into his talents.

At first and second grade my daughter excelled at math and enjoyed science, and could barely read. Now she's 11 and is reading adult books (constantly reading, I should say) and is still doing well at math/science.

Kids' brains develop unevenly and their talents, skills, and interests sometimes develop unevenly also. Encourage, support, and don't push.

1 mom found this helpful
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