When I was in my teacher training program, so many of my fellow teachers said they hated math growing up. Many adults still fear math. It feels like something foreign, a different language only teachers and mathematicians can understand.
I personally love math. Why? Math is about finding connections, discerning patterns. When kids tell me they aren’t good at math, I tell them they aren’t looking at it in the right way, because kids are natural problem solvers, and therefore, mathematicians. Kids do math everyday, in natural, authentic ways. They estimate which donut has more sprinkles and choose that one from the case, keep score in games, count the stars in the night sky.
Why, when attempted in a school context, does math seem so scary? I think it’s because many teachers divorce math from its authentic contexts. They are pushed to cover so much material so quickly that they don’t have time to teach each child at his or her pace. Many kids need to see math problems in their physical forms before they are ready to move on to equations. This can take a long time. But teachers don’t have a lot of time. They need to cover a myriad of material each week. If some – or most – kids get left behind, at least all of them have been exposed to the concepts.
That is why parents should get over their fear of math and help their kids see math everywhere. Estimation in school is an extremely tough concept to grasp, but if you encourage your kids to estimate everything, from the number of steps from one end of your house to the other, to the number of cheerios in a bowl, they will begin to feel comfortable estimating. What about division? Parents are always splitting things up equally between members of the family. When doing so, be explicit – show your kids your thought process. Have your child hold a grapefruit in one hand and an apple in the other to demonstrate relative weights. Make graphs of your family members’ ages, heights, and anything else you can think of.
Begin to see the world as a mathematical playground, and your kids will, too.
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