Building Math Skills With Habit TrackersJun 28, 2022
Summer vacation is here! When my kids were in elementary school, I would always get nervous at the thought of all those endless hours and the laments of, “Mom, there is NOTHING to do!”
Planning Summer Days
I wanted my kids to spend part of each day reading, doing math, doing some chores, helping cook dinner, and exercising. Outside of that time, I expected they would come up with more books to read or art projects to do or games to play in the park or play on the computer. We would also do trips to pick berries, go swimming, explore new areas and take a summer trip. I hoped the summer would feel long and relaxing and be filled with outdoor time.
In order to make sure that some of the required tasks happened, a little bit each day, we used a habit tracker so they could keep track of the reading, math, chores, cooking, and exercise they had done. And yes, I hate to admit it, but there were prizes. One full chart for each kid and we went for ice cream. Three full charts for each kid and we’d go do a special activity.
The external motivation worked! The kids did their jobs each day and still had lots and lots of time to play but if they ever said they were bored, I asked them to look at their chart and see if they had done all their jobs. As they got older the external motivations were not necessary and neither were the charts. It had become a habit to do some reading and some math in the summer. They also pitched in with some of the household chores. My kids moved on to cooking dinner one night a week and getting some exercise every day. We had set up the practice that turned these moves from actions into habits.
Building Atomic Habits
It turns out we were also following James Clear’s advice on building good habits. In his book, Atomic Habits, James Clear explains,
“Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity.”
It can be easy for kids to avoid math, especially in the summer. Many kids didn't enjoy math at school and many parents feel like kids should have a break in the summer. I was determined, however, that my kids would see themselves as “math people.” I already knew they saw themselves as readers but working towards identities as math people took a little more time and intention. We found that building math skills and daily life skills with habit trackers worked well as we marked each small step towards a bigger goal.
Clear notes, “All big things come from small beginnings. The seed of every habit is a single, tiny decision. But as that decision is repeated, a habit sprouts and grows stronger. Roots entrench themselves and branches grow. The task of breaking a bad habit is like uprooting a powerful oak within us. And the task of building a good habit is like cultivating a delicate flower one day at a time.”
We started to practice these habits when the children were young as they didn’t push back much and just came to see these things as the things we did in the summer. My daughter is now in high school. I asked her what she had planned for a summer day, and she said, “Well, of course, I will work on some math. Then I want to read my book…”. Engaging in reading and math are now daily habits for her.
New Habit Trackers
After all my thinking about Atomic Habits, I was super excited when I saw these habit trackers from the American Coaching Academy. There are some premade trackers in lots of different areas but there are also blank trackers you can use for building whatever habits are import for your child right now. Do you want your child to eat a healthier diet? There is a tracker for that. Do you want your child to increase their flexibility or do more cardio exercise? There are trackers for that too. You could use the blank ones for building math and reading skills with habit trackers.
Check out the habit trackers here. Summer is such a great time to take a step back and consider where your child needs to grow. Everyone has a little more time and energy to focus on particular habits that they want to grow. These might just help you have a calmer summer and help your children build some good habits in the process. You might also enjoy this similar post around setting routines.
“You don’t have to be the victim of your environment. You can also be the architect of it.” - James Clear, Atomic Habits