Growing up I was totally one of those kids that read early, talked early, all that jazz — but hated math. I can’t even pretend that I just strongly disliked it, as my feelings were those of straight-up loathing. If I have to place the beginning of this hate-hate relationship, I can safely say it started when I got my first B in sixth grade in algebra.
In retrospect, I wish I hadn’t seen the B as a sign of failure, because as an adult I now get that math is AWESOME. I’ve gone from repeating “you never use math in your real life” as my personal mantra to realizing I use basic math every single day. Maybe algebra and calculus and everything and that comes after are all a little over my head, but the core stuff? It rocks.
As my son gets older (he’s about to turn three, so we have time), I know that both myself and my husband Sean will be concerned about teaching him math regardless of the type of education he’ll have. It’s important to us that we’re able to help with him schoolwork, even if it means brushing up on skills we would otherwise love to bury forever (I’m looking at you, geometry). We’ve been amassing resources pertaining to the topic of helping your kids understand why math is so important… and I figured that today, being Pi Day and all, was as good of a day as any to share one of them.
When I was in middle school and high school I used to talk about how math doesn’t matter because you never really use it so much I’m surprised my mouth didn’t fall off my face. It was basically a defensive mechanism: if I said it often enough, it made it ok if I didn’t try harder in math. It’s not that I couldn’t do it, but it’s that I didn’t want to — and those are hugely different things. Neither of my parents were mathematically inclined, and since I wasn’t really struggling (a B isn’t that bad, y’all), I didn’t reach out to my teachers with my problems and they didn’t reach out to me. I feel like this article does an awesome job of summing up why math actually is important in a way that kids can get:
A person’s success in life depends on how well she can solve problems. No matter what her career or life situation, she’ll find satisfaction and reward by knowing how to tackle challenges head on. And while kids can’t possibly practice every problem they’ll ever have in life, there is a class in school that can help them learn how to think logically: math.
Doing a math problem helps practice the problem-solving steps that apply to everyday situations: define the problem, think of ways to solve it, implement a solution, and evaluate the results.
Why do people go to the gym to ride the stationary bike? It’s not so that they can compete in the stationary bike Olympics, it’s to build up their endurance and strength to make the rest of their lives easier and more enjoyable.
Math is like a gym for your brain. You may never need to use the quadratic equation in your adult life, but the process of learning it boosts your brainpower. By practicing how to solve mathematical problems, you optimize your ability to make complex decisions down the road.
Let’s get nerdy with it! How are you guys talking about math with your kids? In the US especially low scores in math and reading are already problematic — what are you doing to encourage your kids to dig math?