Does your child have nightmares about division and addition signs? Does he tremble at the sight of math homework? Here's how you can help him get over that fear!
By Lakshmi Saravanan
The essence of mathematics is not to make simple things complicated, but to make complicated things simple. - Mathematician S. Gudder
"Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty – a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture,” says famous Mathematician and historian Bertrand Arthur William Russell. However, this supreme beauty is feared or dispelled by most people. This series focuses on how to remove this fear in both children and parents, and gives examples of some simple Math that can be done at home to make learning an enjoyable experience.
Most adults did not like Math when they were in school and many still don’t. Sometimes, this negative attitude is passed on to the child. Your child’s fear and anxiety can be wiped out by building a strong foundation in Math.
Children generally do not like Math because they think that it is complex, monotonous and boring due to repeated practice. Using hands-on material to teach a concept helps break the monotony and makes the topic exciting. Children will actually enjoy learning Math.
Math concepts need to be relevant to the everyday life of children and they should be able to see its practical purpose. Optimum learning is achieved only when children are able to apply what they have learned.
Math is retained longer when it is infused with fun elements. Games like Yahtzee, Life, Tangrams and other card games aid memory retention.
For Math, time management is very important. Whether it is finishing the homework or preparing for tests, saving up work for the last minute results in poor performance. The focus should be on understanding the concept, rather than just completing the work. Teaching children to apply Math in everyday life can be started early on. Here are some ideas for parents based on their child’s age:
For toddlers: Count the number of cookies or candies you give them. Tell them, “Let’s count the cookies together, one cookie plus one more makes two cookies.” Then hand them one more and finish off with “so you have 3 cookies in total.” This helps them to get used to numbers.
For pre-school children: While playing, have them count the number of toys, or the number of spoons or cups the girls have in their toy kitchen. Ask them to check if they have all the pieces. This teaches them how to count the number of items they are playing with and are responsible for. Now your children are learning Math and responsibility at the same time – wow!
For elementary school children: Have them count the different kinds of animals they see on the road while travelling. After reaching the destination, have them tell you how many more of one animal they saw compared to the others. This teaches them how to compare using more than and less than. For upper elementary school children, you could have them express the numbers as a fraction, and then compare.
For middle school children: When you go shopping, have them mentally estimate the sale price after the discount. This teaches them the concept of percentage. When in a grocery store, based on the price per kg, have them calculate the amount for the quantity you are purchasing. Introduce your children to banking, have them keep track of the deposits and withdrawals, and teach them to write a cheque.
For high school children: Play a ‘make-believe’ carpentry game, and ask them to give an estimate of the material needed to build a TV cabinet or a book shelf. Chalk out a design, have them do the calculations, and let them know that they cannot go wrong. You could also make them calculate the amount of paint needed to paint your car or house.
Lakshmi Saravanan is a Maths teacher from the US, currently teaching in the American International School, Chennai.
See also: 10 Tips to Overcome the Fear of Maths
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