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I’m told our school doesn’t teach handwriting anymore because of the Common Core. I think that’s really dumb. My daughter was looking forward to learning this. What can be done about it?

Don’t blame the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Handwriting instruction began declining 20 years ago. Increased use of technology for assignments and testing, more instructional time given to other subjects, and a growing assumption that cursive was a “horse and buggy” skill in a digital age has led to less emphasis on it in schools.

But many educators and parents think handwriting shouldn’t go the way of the typewriter. Research shows that knowing cursive handwriting can increase a student’s attention span, language fluency, physical coordination and ability to retain information.

Studies also show that the act of writing stimulates creativity in the brain, says handwriting expert Thomas Wasylyk, author of the “Universal Handwriting” series (Universal Publishing, 2014).

“People tend to remember things they write more than things they key in,” he says. “About 90 percent of all writing assignments in grades K through 6 are done with a pencil and paper, so why stop teaching a skill that is used every day, by every student, in every subject?”

Cursive makes it easy to get thoughts on paper quickly, notes Kathleen Wright, product manager for handwriting at Zaner-Bloser (”an educational curricula and digital resources provider”).

Knowing cursive boosts reading power, too. Greta Love, a New York librarian, helps college students hone research skills. She was surprised to discover that many can’t read primary source materials such as historical documents because they’d never learned cursive.

While it’s true that handwriting isn’t part of the Common Core, many states that have adopted the standards continue to offer cursive instruction — among them California, Massachusetts, Florida and North Carolina.

If you think your child should learn cursive, and you can’t get your district to reinstate it, teach it at home, says Sharon Paul, a Massachusetts educator.

“With the right materials to model how to make the strokes properly,” she says, “it’s one subject that’s easy to ‘homeschool.’”

Make it fun and interactive — not drudgery — says Wasylyk.

“Young children can start very early with large writing instruments like crayons on large pieces of unlined paper, or newspaper spread out on the floor or taped to a wall,” he says. “My method of teaching manuscript and cursive handwriting is fun and engaging for the teacher and the students. There is a difference between teaching and assigning. Assigning handwriting, where the student practices the letter 50 times, very seldom has good results. Handwriting is a skill and must be taught using a planned, sequential approach.” (Find Walsylyk’s series at www.upub.net.)

Paul helped her son build faster note-taking skills using the “Handwriting Without Tears” method of instruction (www.hwtears.com). “Our goal was learning simple, basic strokes through 15 minutes a night — never a minute longer,” she says.

Just as kids are proud to read their first book on their own, “a child cannot wait to write his or her name in upper- and lower-case letters,” says Wasylyk. “They can’t wait to reach this milestone in their intellectual development.”

I took my second-grade son to his classroom on the first day of school to explain things about him to his teacher. She waved me off and said she was really looking forward to having him in class and that it would be a good year for him. She suggested I make an appointment to discuss concerns. I felt dissed. Don’t teachers want parental involvement?

Oh, they do! They just can’t engage quite that deeply on the first day of school in a room buzzing with 20 unaccompanied kids looking for their desks and cubbies.

Don’t feel dissed. Your son’s teacher handled you very professionally, says Frederick Lilly, a retired California principal who made strong communication between home and school a priority.

The teacher sent important messages: One, a new year is a fresh start — a time to think “success”; two, she’d done her homework on her incoming class; and three, she said she’d happily work with you when she could give you her full attention.

Perhaps most important, she was also encouraging you to allow your son to make his way on his own. Teaching your second-grader to function independently is an important parental job, says Donna Adkins, an Arkansas educator and greatschools.org adviser.

Adkins suggests establishing daily routines your son can follow. Typical independence goals for second-graders include knowing how to get ready for bed and for school, where to go when entering the school, and what to do when arriving in the classroom.

For more advice from Adkins on second-grade expectations (and grade-level expectations for kindergarten through grade six), go to greatschools.org.

If you want to get off on the right foot with your child’s teacher this school year, ask the $64,000 question: “How can I help you help my child succeed this year?”

Many primary teachers will respond by asking parents to read with their children regularly. “This is essential,” says Massachusetts reading expert Keith Garton. “Young readers need lots of practice to become fluent, and there’s no way to provide kids enough practice time during the school day.”

Parents expect that a child learning a sport or a musical instrument needs to practice. “It’s no different with reading,” says Garton. He began writing “Funny Bone Readers,” humorous stories about character development, in response to parents’ desires to read short, whimsical books with a message with their kids. (Go to redchairpress.com.)

In upper elementary and middle school, teachers may suggest helping your children develop study and organizational skills or limiting TV, gaming or other screen time.

“Whatever the teacher’s response,” says Lilly, “listen and take it to heart. You’ll have learned something about the teacher’s priorities.”

By asking how you can support the teacher’s efforts, you will have signaled early in the school year that you want a good working relationship.

You’ll have opened the door to ongoing communication and set the stage for the first parent conference. And you’ll have launched a partnership that will pay off for your child all year long.

My brother-in-law, an engineer from Poland, argues that good American schools aren’t as good as we think. I believe that the United States does poorly in international rankings because urban districts drag down the scores. He says I’m naive. My kids are in a highly rated school. Should I worry?

Don’t worry, but don’t be complacent either. Your children may be achieving at high levels, and if they are, kudos to them and their teachers. However, international comparisons from the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) show that it’s not just disadvantaged students who rank poorly. American students from educated families lag in international rankings too.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, in discussing the PISA results, calls them a “picture of educational stagnation. … Fifteen-year-olds in the U.S. today are average in science and reading literacy, and below average in mathematics, compared to their counterparts in (other industrialized) countries.”

The PISA results show that educational shortcomings in the United States are everyone’s problem, says Eric Hanushek, senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.

Hanushek, along with Paul Peterson, the director of the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University, and Ludger Woessmann, a professor of economics at the University of Munich, dug deep into data from PISA and the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). They looked at math and science test scores as well as the performance of students from families of low, moderate and high education levels.

Their May 2014 report, “Not Just the Problems of Other People’s Children,” is a wake-up call.

The report focuses on math because, they say, “the U.S. economic strength has been built in large part through its record of invention and innovation, things that themselves depend upon the U.S. historic strength in science, technical, engineering and math fields (STEM).”

These fields depend on “students who have developed advanced skill in math and science in school.”

In an abridged version of the study found online, they write: “When viewed from a global perspective, U.S. schools seem to do as badly teaching those from better-educated families as they do teaching those from less well-educated families.

“Overall, the U.S. proficiency rate in math (35 percent) places the country at the 27th rank among the 34 OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries that participated in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). That ranking is somewhat lower for students from advantaged backgrounds (28th) than for those from disadvantaged ones (20th).”

There are multiple countries with higher math proficiency rates among students from better-educated families. They include Korea (73 percent), Poland (71 percent), Japan (68 percent), Switzerland (65 percent), Germany (64 percent) and Canada (57 percent), compared to 43 percent for U.S. students.

“Many people assume that students coming from families with high education levels are keeping up with their peers abroad,” and there are some bright spots, note the authors. Such students from Massachusetts, Vermont, Minnesota, Colorado, New Jersey and Montana have a proficiency rate of 58 percent or higher.

“But students from these states are a small portion of the U.S. student population, and other states rank much lower down the international list. In many places, students from highly educated families are performing well below the OECD average for similarly advantaged students.”

Find the abridged version of the report at educationnext.org/us-students-educated-families-lag-international-tests, or the full version at hks.harvard.edu/pepg/PDF/Papers/PEPG14_01_NotJust.pdf.

I’m a high school math teacher who did three days of professional development to “prepare kids for STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) careers.” What a waste. The curriculum director droned on and showed videos. Are there programs where teachers can get hands-on experience in STEM jobs?

The STEM education movement asks teachers to get kids ready “to participate in a 21st-century workforce.” Yet professional development rarely connects educators to people in STEM careers.

That’s changing. Innovative partnerships are popping up that make it easier for teachers to connect with STEM professionals who can serve as classroom resources.

The Architectural Foundation of San Francisco created a program called “Designing Student Success.” It offers teachers paid summer externships that place them side by side with working professionals in STEM businesses. AFSF Executive Director Alan Sandler says teachers go back to class eager to show students how STEM subjects are used in real-world projects.

“In our pilot, we learned that the model works well across disciplines and appeals to a wide range of teachers,” says Sandler. “Teachers say that the experience changes how they organize classrooms and design lessons.

“For example, Common Core emphasizes the skill of collaboration. When teachers see how architects work in teams to solve a big design problem, they are better able to put collaboration in context for students.”

Sandler is expanding the program to other cities.

Palm Beach County science teachers can apply for paid summer research internships at Scripps Florida (part of the nonprofit Scripps Research Institute, which conducts studies on biomedical science and technology, among other subjects), funded by the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust. They become part of a team conducting basic biomedical research under the supervision of a Scripps scientist.

Scripps Florida Education Outreach Director Deborah Leach-Scampavia says the program exposes teachers to laboratory procedures, provides insight into biomedical topics and forges ties to working scientists, who can assist with curriculum or become mentors.

“It’s great to see each class of interns take their learning back to school to share with both peers and students,” she says.

Bruce Capron, assistant superintendent of the Honeoye Falls-Lima Central School District in upstate New York, thinks that districts have an obligation to bring teachers together with STEM professionals.

“We have to find ways to hurdle the time and financial constraints,” he says. “We’re working in partnership with the Empire STEM Network to connect our teachers with area STEM professionals, ranging from health researchers and engineers to physicists, geologists and hydrologists. Through workshops, they work together to create rich lessons that are relevant to real-world problems.” (Go to empirestem-fl.org for more information.)

Capron left a successful career in engineering to become a school administrator because he wanted to “help align schooling with the world students will find when they leave it.”

While teachers can find many terrific STEM resources online, Capron says it’s worth the time to set up these partnerships so educators can meet individuals with STEM skills in business and higher education.

“We owe it to teachers to open these doors,” he says. “We’ve found that STEM professionals are eager to work with teachers and students. They want to share their enthusiasm and expertise.”

Our school district is doing Family Day (Sept. 22). The organizer, who wants me to lead our school’s effort, says that kids whose families eat meals together do better in school and are less likely to become obese. Is that true? If so, more families might make the effort.

With many parents working full-time and juggling kids’ after-school schedules, family dinners at home may be going the way of landlines. And that would be a shame, say folks at the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University, the organizers of Family Day.

CASA has tracked family eating patterns for nearly two decades. Its studies suggest that children who eat dinner often with their families are more likely to get better grades, have fewer school absences, be less bored, experience less stress and feel closer to family members than children who share meals with parents infrequently. Teens who have dinner with parents five or more times a week are also less likely to have problems with drugs and alcohol.

There is a nutritional benefit as well, says historian Cody Delistraty. In a recent article in The Atlantic (”The Importance of Eating Together”), he cites research showing that kids who don’t eat dinner with their parents at least twice a week are 40 percent more likely to be overweight compared to those who do.

But Family Day isn’t just about dinner.

“I’m a fan of what Family Day seeks to accomplish because it’s basically about being present in kids’ lives, being there to listen when they want to tell you something,” says California youth counselor Marissa Gehley, founder of KNOW (Kids Need Our Wisdom) Consulting. “Driving your teen to hockey practice, cleaning up the kitchen after dinner, shopping for school supplies or getting your kindergartner ready for bed — all are great casual opportunities to check in with your kids and really hear and respond to what they’re thinking.”

The trick is to be a smart questioner and a patient listener, says Gehley. She suggests that your conversations will bring your kids closer if you try the following:

– Ease into communication. Don’t pepper kids with questions right after school or the minute they get into the car or sit down for supper.

– Avoid questions that elicit a yes or no answer. Instead, try: Why do you think …? … Tell me about … What do you see? … Why do you suppose? … How did this compare with …?

– Ask questions because you’re genuinely excited about their answers. “Kids know when you’re nagging and they’ll clam up,” says Gehley.

– Give kids time to think before responding. “Teachers call this ‘wait time,’” Gehley says, “and while it may be a little frustrating to you, it’s important.”

– Don’t substitute texting for talking. “When you set the dinner table, remember: It’s not fork, knife and cellphone,” says Gehley. “Make the dinner table a tech-free zone. You can’t focus on your kids if you’re listening for the ping of texts and emails arriving on your phone.”

My 5-year old daughter, Illana, has been so excited about starting kindergarten, but suddenly she cries when we talk about it and insists she’s staying home with her sister. She loved preschool, so I don’t get it. How can we get her ready for her first day?

Many children, even those with preschool experience, get last-minute “kindergarten jitters,” says Shirley Harden, a retired Maryland principal who coaches parents on supporting their children’s school success. She offers these tips:

– If possible, visit Illana’s school before classes begin. “Often principals encourage kindergartners to come for a sneak peek to see their classroom, cafeteria and other rooms,” says Harden. “During your walk-through, point out bulletin boards and displays. Even show her the bathrooms, so she’s familiar with the facilities.”

– Probe her worries. Because parents make the first day a big deal, kids may develop unwarranted concerns, says Harden. “Talk through any fears and put them to rest,” she says. “Explain how her day will go and what she will do after school to allay concerns about how she gets home.” Tell her about first-day jitters in your life, such as a new job. Explain that it’s normal to have anxieties about new things.

– Read books about starting kindergarten. “There are some really funny ones,” says Blanche Warner, a library manager in Naples, New York. “Librarians have them ready in August.”

Warner suggests these time-tested titles:

– “A Place Called Kindergarten” (Puffin, 2008) by Jessica Harper. Tommy’s animal friends become alarmed when they learn Tommy has gone to a place called “kindergarten.”

– “Countdown to Kindergarten” (HMH Books for Young Readers; 2006) by Alison McGhee and Harry Bliss. Ten days before school starts, a new kindergartner can’t tie her shoes and fears the worst.

– “Jake Starts School” (Square Fish, 2010) by Michael Wright. A boy worries about staying at school without his parents.

– “Kindergarten Rocks!” (HMH Books for Young Readers, 2008) by Katie Davis. Dexter isn’t scared to start school, but his stuffed dog, Rufus, is terrified!

– “Late for School!” (Carolrhoda Books, 2013) by Stephanie Calmenson and Sachiko Yoshikawa. A teacher oversleeps and is late for the first day.

– “Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come!” (Puffin 2001) by Nancy Carlson. Henry looks forward to kindergarten, but he isn’t sure about staying once he gets there.

– “Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten” (Puffin, 2001) by Joseph Slate and Ashley Wolff. This book introduces the alphabet as Miss Bindergarten and her students get ready for kindergarten.

– “On the Way to Kindergarten” (Puffin, 2008) by Virginia Kroll and Elizabeth Schlossberg. This picture book helps parents show their kindergartner all of her accomplishments in the past five years.

Make a plan to support Illana’s learning all year. Include daily activities such as reading each night, reinforcing social and emotional skills needed in school, and talking about a range of topics to develop oral language and a strong vocabulary. Find ways to connect math and science concepts to daily life by using science and math vocabulary; for example, “Today’s weather brought rain. Let’s measure how much rain we got.” Encourage active play and limit screen time.

Introduce yourself to her teacher and offer your support, says Harden. “That way,” she says, “should a problem arise, you’ll have a working partnership from day one.”

My 8-year-old son’s teacher suggests evaluating him for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder because he is unfocused and distractible. While he’s more fidgety than his sister, he can sit transfixed all day on video games. Could video games cause these inattentive behaviors?

There is no evidence that TV or video games cause ADHD, yet super-fast-paced TV shows and video games have a special appeal for kids who have ADHD, says Dr. Natalie Weder, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at the Child Mind Institute (childmind.org).

“If you think about ‘SpongeBob,’ or a video game, there’s never a second when there’s nothing happening on the screen,” she says. “If you’re playing a video game, you have to immediately respond; otherwise, you lose. You don’t have time to think.

“Kids with ADHD are very drawn to that because it makes them have to pay attention. There are no gaps for them to start thinking about something else.”

When kids are absorbed in video games, they aren’t displaying the kind of attention required by day-to-day tasks, such as getting ready for school or finishing an assignment.

While it may appear your son shows sustained attention in a video game, “the truth is that the task is changing so rapidly, short bursts of attention are all that’s involved,” says Dr. Ron Steingard, also a child psychiatrist at the Child Mind Institute. “These games are constantly shifting focus, and there is instant gratification and reward.”

If your son is “transfixed all day” on games, change your parenting game plan. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than an hour per day of total media screen time for elementary school-age children.

That much screen time means time not spent doing other things more valuable for their development, notes Weder. “It takes time away from doing more creative or more learning-based activities, and from interaction with family and friends that helps them with their social skills.”

If you decide to get him evaluated, know that the process isn’t an exact science. First, talk with his teacher and school specialists to gather more information on why they made the suggestion. Next, do your homework to learn the definition of ADHD. Become familiar with the debate about over-diagnosis and over-prescribing of drugs.

There are reputable websites that describe the evaluation and diagnosis process, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics (healthychildren.org); the Child Mind Institute, (childmind.org); the National Institute of Mental Health, (nimh.nih.gov); and the National Resource Center on AD/HD (help4adhd.org).

Then visit your pediatrician for a screening to rule out any physical conditions, such as hearing problems. If you’re confident that your pediatrician has experience with ADHD, he or she may be able to evaluate your son. If not, ask for a referral to an ADHD specialist — a neurologist, child psychiatrist, child psychologist or licensed counselor who has deep experience and can apply it to your son’s case.

In the meantime, cut back on video games. At an age when developing social skills is critically important, “no kid should spend unlimited time sitting in front of a screen in lieu of playing with other kids,” says Steingard.

Our daughter, Celia, failed sixth-grade math and started summer school. She isn’t motivated and finds it embarrassing. (She’s never had math trouble before.) We’ve threatened to take her cellphone away, but she’s indifferent. She says math is hard and the teacher lacks sympathy. Should we try an online course?

Online programs require motivation for a student to succeed, but it’s an option, “and options are what you should explore right now,” says Jane Bluestein, a New Mexico educator who coaches parents on student motivation.

Research shows that many girls do well in elementary math, but decline in middle school. As math gets more challenging, some girls begin to view it as a “talent,” something you’re either good at or not, while boys tend to view math as a skill to be learned, notes Stanford University psychology professor Carol Dweck.

“If this is the case, be understanding, and help her shift to an ‘I can’ mindset,” says Bluestein. “Here’s the approach: She’s fallen behind. No biggie. We all do. She has a chance to catch up. How does she want to do that? Figure out the options. Let her know that not improving is not an option. She can have her ’summer’ as soon as she passes sixth-grade math.”

Schedule a conference with the teacher, including Celia. The teacher probably has more sympathy than you realize! Find out what Celia needs to be ready for seventh grade. Ask about your daughter’s strengths and weaknesses; identify skills she can practice with a supplemental online course, and what evaluation will prove that she passed. Ask about materials, activities, games and online courses to supplement summer school.

Because the main goal here is improvement, consider a private tutor, such as a retired teacher, college student or a private tutoring company that offers one-on-one attention.

“Unfortunately, many summer programs are punitive in how they’re presented to students. This way, she doesn’t have to deal with what she considers a stigma,” says Bluestein.

“Celia is old enough to control some of the choices about how to improve in math,” says Bluestein. “Ask her how she wants to get caught up and pass whatever evaluation is required to exit sixth grade. Give her two or three choices — staying in summer school being one of them — as well as a list of privileges she can have, or regain, as soon as she starts showing improvement or meets the requirements that will be expected of her when she starts seventh grade.”

Use positive consequences, not threats. When you emphasize positive consequences, you avoid negative reactions and put the responsibility on your daughter, where it belongs, Bluestein urges. Rather than say, “If you won’t go to summer school, we’re canceling your iPhone!” try, “Catch up on the content you need to do well in seventh grade — and you have these options for accomplishing that. As soon as you do, you get your privileges back.”

You might want to add her privileges back little by little as she starts showing improvement and commitment.

There are many local and virtual communities of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) mentors — professionals who volunteer to tutor girls in these subjects and introduce them to STEM careers. Consider connecting Celia to one in the fall, suggests Bluestein, who says, “Seeing how to use math in a cool career can be a big motivator.”

Our son Brian’s second-grade teacher wrote that he did well enough in reading to avoid summer school, but recommended that we “read aloud a lot to him this summer, focusing on nonfiction.” School’s out, so I can’t ask her why. Does that help him with his reading? Why nonfiction?

Yes, reading aloud to your rising third-grader will help him become a better reader. Jim Trelease describes the many benefits of reading aloud to preschool and school-age children in his classic work, “The Read-Aloud Handbook” (Penguin, 2013).

Reading aloud introduces children to vocabulary not found in day-to-day conversation, says Trelease.

“In conversation, we use shorthand, not full sentences,” he says. “The language in books is very rich. When you read books, newspapers and magazines to your child, you introduce him to more sophisticated language. A child introduced to sophisticated words has a giant advantage over a child who hasn’t heard those words. Reading aloud also teaches a child to focus.” (See trelease-on-reading.com.)

Research shows that as little as 15 minutes of reading aloud to your son each day can greatly increase his reading power. If you choose a book that’s on or just above his reading level, encourage him to follow along with the text, so he sees new words and hears your pronunciation.

Why nonfiction? Much of what we read in life is nonfiction. The new Common Core State Standards emphasize it. Sometimes referred to as “informational text,” it helps us learn about real people, places and events. Nonfiction requires different comprehension skills than fiction, such as deriving meaning from photos with captions, comprehending data in a chart and using footnotes and glossaries.

Brian’s teacher may also recommend it because nonfiction is a great way to get boys into reading. The text is often more accessible than fiction, more descriptive and straightforward, with photos, illustrations, maps and charts.

Plan your summer reading around topics that interest your son, recommends Jonathan Rosenbloom, founding editor of the nonfiction Time for Kids Big Book series.

“If he loves sports,” Rosenbloom says, “find biographies or autobiographies of players; go to sports sites or newspaper sports pages and magazines such as Sports Illustrated for Kids. Nonfiction helps kids learn about the world by leaps and bounds.

“How better to find answers to his questions about deep-sea divers, how fast turtles swim, or how to take care of a new pet goldfish than to read about the topic with you?”

Ask your local librarian to help you gather print and online resources to read to Brian. Check out grade level-appropriate books for him to read to you.

It’s good news that Brian doesn’t have to go to summer school. But his second-grade teacher raised a red flag. Read every day with him this summer and encourage him to read independently, too. Plan to meet with Brian’s new teacher in the fall. Third grade is a critical year to diagnose any reading problems and nip them in the bud.

Our son starts kindergarten this fall. The school sent readiness suggestions about reading, socialization and the importance of “math talk.” What’s that and why is it important?

Math talk is incorporating math concepts into everyday conversations. “Children benefit when parents verbalize and show kids the math in basic household tasks,” says Antoinette Noel, a mom and math teacher in Polk County, Florida.

Noel offers an example: “Let’s cut the whole pizza into eight slices. First, in half. That makes two big pieces. Now let’s cut those two pieces in half. That makes four smaller pieces. If we cut each of those in half, we get eight slices — one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.”

Simply being able to count to 10 on the first day of school no longer qualifies as the pinnacle of math preparedness for kindergarteners. To see why math talk is important, review math learning at each grade level at the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics website (nctm.org), or check your state’s math standards at greatschools.org.

“Preschoolers can count the number of utensils, placemats and cups needed to set the table or count out juice boxes for the refrigerator,” says Noel. “Talk about fractions when you are sharing — here’s half an orange for you, half for me. Have kids add ingredients while cooking to learn measurement: cups, teaspoons, tablespoons, quarts and so on.”

Find non-kitchen opportunities too, says Noel. “I have my son, a budding engineer, count off sections of our tiled floor to stage his projects. That leads to a conversation about square footage. I have him measure dimensions of our carry-on suitcase before traveling to ensure it meets overhead-bin size requirements. When we painted a room, we measured walls to figure out how much paint we’d need. One of his favorite toys is a tape measure.”

Once you get going, it’s easy and natural to talk math, says Noel. “Don’t dumb it down. Hearing the vocabulary of math is important, even if they don’t understand it. Use big words such as estimation, probability, calculate, explaining as you go, but keep the dialogue moving. When you say and show, ‘If you have three pennies, and you subtract one, you’re left with two. That’s subtraction!’ you’re helping build powerful vocabulary.”

Keep math talk exciting, too, “because math is fun and beautiful, and kids should look forward to algebra, geometry and so on as they grow older,” advises Noel. “Never infer that you didn’t like math or think it’s hard.”

Math talk shouldn’t stop after kindergarten, Noel believes. “Keep it up as your child grows in understanding.”

Children need to know that math is all about trial and error, about experimenting, says Jordan Ellenberg, the author of “How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking” (Penguin, 2014). While not a beach book, it’s worth a spot on your summer reading list!

Want to brush up on your skills? Go to Khan Academy (khanacademy.org), an education website, where you can register for free.

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