Give your kids the math bug!
October 14, 2015
If I got a penny for the amount of times I have heard people say “Oh I’m awful at math”, “I hate numbers!” or “I’m not a math person” with a shrug or a smile, I would be a very rich person! It’s so commonplace amongst adults, but you would never hear someone in public admit “I can’t read” or “I’m terrible at writing” – and if you did it would not be said with a smile!
Math, whether we love it or hate it, is a fundamental part of everyday life. It’s a global language. It underpins many essential life skills and yet can also be the key to many of life’s biggest questions. For something so indispensable we should definitely seek to master it, but more importantly have fun with it – from an early age. I believe that math can and should be enjoyed by anyone and everyone!
Improving confidence in math is one of the main reason that children attend Explore tutoring and enrichment centers. Many children that I have met over the years first start out by looking at a sum or approaching a math problem and very quickly say ‘I can’t do it’. I always say in response ‘You can’t do it YET’ and we slowly break down the problem until we have a ‘light bulb’ moment. Those moments of realization, where something falls into place; where the answer to the problem suddenly becomes clear are SO exciting. The magic that a child feels at that moment is incredibly powerful and it’s contagious. We just need to support them to get through the ‘brain ache’ to get to that point.
So how do we get children to move from switching off from math to getting excited about tackling a problem and ultimately loving the subject?
Rule number one is to drop any negativity on the subject – remember that your child is hugely influenced by you so if you are proudly claiming how bad you are at the subject they will do too!
Rule number two is have fun with it! Here are some ideas how:
- Play games – I have always found children respond particularly well to games such as Monopoly. They are learning how to calculate their earnings as well as using logical thinking. They are also a good way to spend some quality time together. Yahtzee is great for developing calculations and strategy without children realising it. Playing cards is also beneficial – I remember learning a lot of math through Cribbage. There are also dedicated math card games such as HOO HA! or Ulti, great games that helps you master multiplication.
- Mix shopping with learning – When you’re on your weekly shop, get the children involved by asking them to recite the prices and add up what’s in the trolley. Playing the ‘guess how much the shopping comes to’ game is a great way of developing estimation skills. The closest guess wins!
- Bake and learn – All cooking requires some element of math. Baking cakes and cookies can easily become an educational game. Test their math skills by asking them to add up or adapt a recipe for different amounts of serving. The wonderful thing about this is that they get to eat the results at the end!
- Games and Apps – We’re lucky to live in a generation where our children are spoilt for choice with the amount of games and apps on offer to keep them entertained. There are so many apps out there and here at Explore we have a free Times Table app to help children while they’re on the move (http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/explore-learning-times-tables/id468427944?mt=8)
Too often the children I meet think that math is all about getting to the answer as quickly as possible. This often means that if the answer is not immediately apparent they get frustrated or completely switch off. We need to encourage our children to enjoy the journey of discovery. Making mistakes is an essential part of learning; especially in math. Encourage your children to give it a go and if it doesn’t work – try, try again.
At Explore we are big fans of having rich problem solving activities that children can spend a long time over. It’s amazing to see children with very low math confidence realize that, given the thinking time, they can solve great problems by using methodical approaches. Time to think and the freedom to experiment is the key factor here; the rewards will always feel greater if a child can get there themselves. See http://nrich.maths.org for some activities you can try at home.
Once you’ve overcome the hurdles and are enjoying math then take it to the next level and join a competition. This month sees the launch of the second annual Explore Horizons Young Mathematicians’ Award. The top 4 mathematicians in 4th to 6th grade, from schools across Dallas/Fort Worth are soon to compete in this collaborative, problem-solving contest designed to stretch the most gifted math brains and identify the mathematicians’ of tomorrow.
By Carey Ann Dodah, Head of Curriculum at Explore Learning, (https://www.explorelearning.co.uk/). Explore Learning is the award-winning, supplementary education provider in the United Kingdom and parent company of Explore Horizons in the U.S. (https://www.explore-horizons.com/)
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