I’m no math super genius but I know a thing or two about a thing or two. I also know that I had hangups about it when I was younger. My mother was an academic and did very well but she always groaned about math. That made me groan about math. And I will continue to groan and make my kids groan. JK. The buck stops here.
I ended up liking math a lot in college. Working hard and doing well helped but I had a few great teachers that helped. They made it fun and interesting. I’m making it my mission to make sure not only that my children do well at math but enjoy it. Below are a few techniques I have picked up.
Make Math Part of Life
Get a broom and strike them with it every day and have them count each time they are hit. Not really. I don’t hit my children.
So anyway I would tell my kids the story of the big bang as a bed time story and all about anatomy and physiology till the day is long but struggled to figure out how to incorporate math into the upbringing of my toddlers. I tried to teach them simple arithmetic but it didn’t work. My friend Brian who teaches children suggested I start with grouping things together and asking which group had more objects and which had less. I would take whatever toys we were playing with and make groups. This was easy enough of a concept for the kids and they caught on quick.
Another great way to integrate math into life are card games. War was one of my favorite games growing up. This is a game that has variants for your children as they get older. Addition war is played by each person drawing two cards each round which are added together. Multiplication war would be the same except the winner of the round would have the highest product. and then exponent war and then….you get the idea. One of the beautiful things about this is you’ll teach children to do the math quickly in their heads which is almost seen as a superpower in the present day.
Get Them Used to Symbols
I started with pi. I’m not sure how much they grasped the concept of pi but I got them used to seeing symbols. I told them the value of pi – 3.14 but I also told them that pi is a relationship of parts of a circle. It is the circumference divided by the diameter. I used string to measure both. I would also make them sandwiches and cut out circles or the pi symbol. I used the the lid of a jar to cut out the circle and the symbol pi was a bit trickier but it was worth it. It also helped them get excited about eating. Because eating interrupts playtime apparently. And they’ll have none of that.
I decided to show them pi for two reasons:
1. Pi is a magical number
2. People are intimidated by symbols in math
I think part of the reason people are intimidated by symbols in math due to unfamiliarity. The earlier we are exposed to things the more comfortable we are with those things. The next logical step is to show them unknowns in basic algebra. Another trick I’ve used to make symbols in algebra less scary is to use a question mark instead of the infamous x and y.
Just Do It
Don’t be afraid about how well they understand things. Kids are much more capable than many of us give them credit for. Another thing I’ve realized is how well do I understand things? The answer is better than 5 years ago, which was better than 10 years ago and …. My understanding of math / science etc. has grown and continues to grow. So just teach them the best you can and their understanding will grow too.
The Khan Academy is a great resource for kids of all ages. It saved my skin in college but it has bite size chunks of information that are easy to understand and they have all levels of teaching – including those for kids.
Whatever route you take will be the right route. Its all about exposing them to math and making them comfortable with it. Its important. Children need a solid foundation so that they are set up for the most success when they are older. They are the future. The fate of humanity depends on it. No pressure.