There is a large amount of kids who have at one point felt their brains explode when practicing “times tables.” They often wonder Why do we have to learn this stuff? It’s so boring! What they often don’t recognize is that math is used every day in many ordinary situations. Why don’t they recognize math in “action?” Because it doesn’t present itself in the form typically seen in a math class.
For those who are the “engineering or accountant types,” math is obviously a part of their daily existences. But what about the rest of the people? Math is in our lives from the time we wake up in the morning until we go to bed at night. We use math when we look at a clock, check the temperature for the day, buy groceries, count our change, measure ingredients for a recipe, keep score at an athletic event, determine which TV or computer models to purchase or even decide in which container we will store our leftovers. How many times have you asked yourself: “How much tip should I leave?” or “Was I over–charged?” That’s math in action!
If you feel uncomfortable with math, you are not alone. In our technological world, however, math is essential to all of us—men, women and children alike. Furthermore, math is a subject in which everyone has a potential to excel. Traditionally, parents have thought that kids couldn’t handle certain mathematical ideas because they didn’t have the capacity to understand such a complex subject. However, nowadays, algebra and geometry are introduced to children very early—starting in the third and fourth grades. Good math skills are absolutely essential for our children to successfully navigate our complex world.
So how do we help our children learn math without drilling them with flash cards or having them endlessly solving a series of number problems? Here are some ideas:
- Involve your young child in problem–solving by doing some “mental arithmetic.” For example, ask your child, “If I have 2 cups of water and I need a total of 6 cups for the family, how many more cups do I need?” For older children ask, “If I get a 20% discount on this item, how much will I be paying?”
- Encourage your child to estimate calculations. When estimating, always use numbers that make it easier to solve problems quickly in their head. For example, when adding 98 + 43, it is easier to use 100 + 40 to get a close approximation very quickly. Notice that 98 is 2 less than 100, and 43 is 3 more than 40. So now we simply subtract 2 and add 3 to get the exact answer.
- While accuracy is important, always be patient when your child comes up with a wrong answer. You will find that a wrong answer is a way to discover what he/she may not understand. Armed with that knowledge, you can help him/her learn “Number Sense” (more about that in a later article) and the concepts involved.
- Communicate mathematically with your children by explaining how you arrived at an answer, and listen to them explain to you how they solve real–life math problems. Whether the answer is right or wrong, by calmly listening, you help your children become more self–confident. After all, they are just learning. We cannot expect them to be right every time. At the same time, your encouragement will instill in them a positive attitude towards math.
We at MATHNASIUM believe that it is possible to avoid the seemingly endless repetition of addition facts and times tables. Our method focuses first on teaching children the key concepts and skills of math orally (in their heads) and then on transferring this knowledge to the written page. Kids should have the satisfaction of saying, “Ah–ha!” and “That’s neat!” when learning math. We believe that children deserve a learning experience that is effective, encouraging and engaging.
Children don’t hate math. They hate being confused and intimidated by math. With understanding comes passion. And with passion comes growth—a treasure is unlocked.
By Leon Woloski