Happy New Year! And just like that, we are just about out of holiday mode and back to work. I hope you’re refreshed and ready to jump back in. Of course, with it being January 2nd, all the talk right now is about resolutions and goals. In my book, anytime is a good time to try and improve, so there’s nothing wrong with looking around, seeing what you want to improve this year and going for it!


One of the unique positions we are in as educators is that of being people who can help our students with their own goals. Goals are a great way to measure progress, but if not done well, they can also be discouraging. The SMART goal setting strategy is one that can help new goal-setters get started right. It says that to be truly effective, a goal needs to be:


  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable/Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-Bound


You can read more about that framework and what it means here. But I wanted to share with you what a math-related goal might be for a Saxon student, so that you can help your kid(s) with theirs.

Let’s say you have a kid who wants to improve their math grade. A kid might say, “I want to get better at math.” That could mean a lot of things! To help them set a SMART goal, find out what specifically they want to improve upon. Faster mental math times? Better test scores? Making it into the 30-5 Club? Getting more answers right on mixed practice sheets? That takes care of both the S and the M part of the SMART framework.


Now, figure out what’s attainable, realistic, and time-bound. This might involve using an incremental measure (say, improving mental math times by 10% in one month) or something more specific: Say, score 10% higher on tests for the month of February. That gives a deadline and an attainable goal, and working in percentage-based increments can help keep things realistic.


I also can’t say enough about adding in REWARDS. Not just for achieving the end goal, but also marking steps on the way to the goal. There are lots of options for how to reward students, and you know your own better than me. But we all love rewards and especially to a child’s brain, a goal that’s even a month away can seem like a long time, so reward them along the way. Reward them for the effort. Reward them for sticking to it. Reward them when fears of failure start to creep in. These encouragements can really help them stick to a goal and start to see the benefit of making them.


Do you have any tips for setting goals with young students? I’d love to hear them. We’ll be talking more about goals all month, and I hope you and your student(s) are encouraged to make 2020 a great one! Happy New Year!


Talk to you soon,

Nicole the Math Lady