I love Maths. I remember a time when I won first place in a Maths challenge despite being younger than the other participants. I was so proud of myself for counting faster than the other kids. It was always easy to get good scores in elementary school. Then came secondary school. Maths got harder but it was still fun and challenging. Good scores were more difficult to achieve but I was fascinated with algebra. I played with trigonometry. I was still having fun. Unfortunately, I stumbled with calculus. Following this block, my interest in Maths waned. In retrospect, if I had persisted or found a Maths teacher who could get through that time with me, Maths would have been my favorite subject instead of English.
As a mother now, I want to get my child interested in Maths. However, how should I go about it?
According to a research, how we approach the topic of Maths would rub off on our children and affect their performance in the long run. Hence, innocent statements like “I’ve never liked this subject”, “This is difficult” or “We don’t really need to know this in our everyday life” would do lasting harm.
In a study done in 2015, it was found out that kids from Maths-averse parents (who frequently helped their children) learnt significantly less Maths by the end of the school year than kids whose parents didn’t express an aversion to Mathematics.
“The idea that you could make it worse by trying to help seems so diabolical.” ~Jennifer McCray, Principal Investigator of Erikson Institute’s Early Math Collaborative, United States
According to McCray, “Statements from parents are extremely powerful in terms of helping a child decide ‘Who am I going to be relative to maths? How should I feel about maths?’ ”
Below are tips she is giving to parents on how to introduce Mathematics to young children.
Look for Maths in Our Daily Lives
Pick up and count toys strewn all over the floor with your child. Turn it into a game. Whoever picks up the most number of toys wins. You have a clean room and he learns Maths. Win-win. Count steps aloud as you climb up together. You exercise and learn together. Win-win. Talk about numbers and measurements – when you’re baking, buying groceries, queuing at bus stops – to reinforce how often numeracy is woven into your daily lives.
Play Maths Games Together
“Games that involve maths are a really powerful, positive way for parents and kids to have fun mathematics interactions,” McCray said. She suggested card games such as capture (also known as war) and dice games such as Yahtzee or Farkle. Adding to that list, Sudoku or Snakes & Ladders are fun too. And if your child likes to play with Lego blocks, there is a huge range of mathematical concepts from sorting and matching, to counting and measuring that can be used with them.
Be Positive About Maths
Avoid saying “I hate Maths”, “I’m lousy at Maths” or other Maths-bashing phrases aloud. This sends the message to your child that “If my Mum hates Maths, then it must be OK for me to hate it too.”
Ask for Help
Finally, if you hit a roadblock, call for back up. Show your child what you can do to solve the block: talk to a teacher, go for extra classes, have a group study, etc.
Maths is around us. We cannot escape from it. One of the things we use daily — money — is the cornerstone of our existence. We might as well embrace it.