Is this the reaction of your child when you talk about Math?
Do you, like millions of concerned parents, spend time reading about improving math for your child? Have you searched for math worksheets and activities? Have you spent time reading articles and looking for 'expert' advice? Do you get nervous when it is results day for your child, even if it's class test? Without being boastful, let me say that I have some great math advice for you. It is something that has worked for thousands of parents who have written to me and is guaranteed to work for you if you follow it sincerely.
Math-o-phobia: Symptoms and its solution
Before I move ahead with the solution, tell me if you identify with one or more of these math-o-phobia symptoms.
- "My son finds math extremely boring, ..."
- "He gets bogged down with all the load ..."
- "She hates math. Is there anything I can do ..."
- "My son knows all the problems but somehow forgets them in tests ..."
Do some of these symptoms sound familiar? If yes, then note that these are just that - Symptoms. The real problem is that the child is not enjoying math. And if we do not enjoy something, there is very little chance we will get better at it. Ever!
Here is how the rest of our conversation looks like
You - "Awesome. That is the most obvious nonsense I have ever heard or read."
Me - "I fully agree to the 'obvious' part. But it is true."
You - "Ok. Even if it is true, would you tell me HOW should I get my child to like math.... notice the HOW written in caps?"
Me - "Look through the image below and then read about the 5 steps to math excellence. Mind you, these are not easy and there is no quick fix. It will take time and effort. But all good things in life do. First, look at the image."
1. Do NOT pass on your fears to your kids
This is the most basic thing that you must do, starting NOW. Many parents I know were themselves afraid of Math and wanted to get rid of it at the earliest. Many of them, in their worry, pass on this fear and prejudices to their kids. Just because I had issues with math does not mean my child will have the same feeling for it. So relax. Do not create an environment for your child where she feeds on ready made opinion. Math is to be enjoyed and pass on the same message to your kids.
2. Get Math off its high pedestal
Another easy step that mostly deals with how you communicate. Over the years, Math has attained a sort of "high position" among parents, students and teachers. Heck, even the US president takes time to talk about it. This makes it sound "important", "difficult" and "beyond reach". This is what gets them afraid of math and once this matho-o-phobia (or fear of math) sets in, it is very difficult to get rid of this. At early age itself, get the kids to touch and feel math. Let them realize it is not something that is beyond them and is just part of daily life and is all around us. A lot of this can be done by good communication and some steps below would help as well.
3. Make Math ACTIVE
Research has proven that when we DO something actively we understand and retain up to 47 times more as against passively (see and hear). Benjamin Franklin's famous quote says that "Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn". Science tells us that when we DO things, we build stories and events around it and this helps me remember. I remember that it was a sunny day. I remember the color the walls, the empty glue bottle and the empty ice cream cup. This creates a scene and thus helps build recall. Get the kids to DO math and they will build stories that will help them recall. Involve cut, paste, color and draw.
4. Make Math engaging
Remember, we are dealing with kids. They love frantic activity, they love colors, they love games and they love competition. Trust me, it is not very difficult to combine math with fun and make it engaging for students. You will need to put in a little thought. Also, there are tools and aids available that do this beautifully. Do your research on math worksheets, activities and games and find tools that bring out the best in math for your kids.
5. Make math meaningful
This is the last step and probably the most important one. Take a pause from reading further and think about it......
More often than not, we learn something because it will be useful. I put effort to pick up a skill because it will be of use someplace. It will help me sometime in the future. I took time to learn driving to improve my mobility and reduce my depandance on others. I learnt faster typing technique to help me quicken my blogging. Now think for a child and see if you can answer these questions for them
- Why is must that I should know algebra? I have never seen my dad use it and he is doing OK?
- Why should I know my multiplication tables? This is the most boring thing in the world. Tell me why should I know the tables from 1 to 15?
- Why should we add whenever there is a '+' sign?
The bottom line is, we are asking kids to learn math without associating any meaning or utility to it. "Do it just because I say so" or at best "It will be useful in life later". So I need to learn something now so that I can find its use 21 years later? Hmm.... too much patience to ask from a 5 year old, dont you think?
Make math meaningful. Find its utility. And trust me, thats not hard at all. Math is important because it is everywhere. You can find math in electricity bills (decimals, percentage), in Olympic swimming pools (volume, length, temperature), fuel pries (division, volume, addition), on the surface of moon (division, multiplication), and even in pizza slices (fractions, decimals, rounding off and roman numbers). Math is used everywhere, we are just limited by our imagination. As parents and teachers, make it your duty to bring out the applications of math. Show them its value and then they will excited about.
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